Who is Orange Sink?

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Rice Lake, WI, United States
My home town is Rice Lake, a small town in northern Wisconsin. I own Red House Wool Studio~ an in-home wool and rug hooking business. I enjoy collecting and decorating with antiques and primitives. Orange Sink Blog is a journal of my interests and ramblings about life. Cathy Greschner

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Going Nuts!

I know I've been absent from the blogging scene lately.  You see things have been going a little nutty here in more ways than one!   I have been having thyroid issues again.   The good Doc is trying to get me straightened out and has set me up to go see an Endocrinologist.  I guess I knew this would be my ultimate fate.  The medication I'm on works for awhile and then my symptoms which are severe fatigue, severe aching in my legs, and general feelings of depression come back.
To make a long story short I have been feeling like crap. Some days it's a struggle to put one foot in front of the other.  As of last weekend the medication adjustment must be helping a little as I actually felt like doing something today!
So guess what I did! 
Well, Lauren over at Rugs and Pugs was kind enough to send me a box full of Black Walnuts. I've always been curious about them as it seems we don't have many Black Walnut trees growing around here. I've always wondered about making dye for wool out of them.   So sweet Lauren gathered up some nuts to send and while she was at it tucked in one of her awesome 'Rug Hooker' silver spoon necklaces she makes!  Now how's that for being sweet!?  The necklace is sweet as can be and is a permanent part of my studio decor when I'm not wearing it!  Thank-you Lauren!  
So those nuts sat around here for a few days with me looking at them and wondering how the heck do I make dye from them? 

Reading whatever I could get my eyes on about preparing them for dye I realized I had to get the hulls off first.


EWWEEEE!  Ugly little suckers aren't they!!  Wear gloves if you ever attempt to do this or your hands will be forever a bright yellow!  Good for Halloween maybe!


I'm using an old tin snips but a heavy pair of scissors would work too.



Judging by the brown color I see on the paper towels where the nuts are drying after hulling I think the dye should be a beautiful brown shade.


They look a lot better after the hulls are off!  Actually they are real pretty.


After hulling I decided to boil a few of them with some of that icky brown stuff still left on to see what would happen.  I threw in some vinegar and let it simmer.

Then I got the brainy idea to put the hulls in a crock pot and let them simmer with some salt and vinegar. Use an old crock pot that you don't intend to use for food again.   I use this one for dying wool and don't use it for food we are going to eat!


I decided to freeze some of the fresh hulls for use later on. Use jars as I read that the acid over time would eat through plastic.  Sounds scary so I just used glass jars.  Be sure and label them so hubby doesn't think it's beef jerky or something!  


I couldn't resist throwing a small piece of white wool in the pot simmering on the stove. Boy, it took up so fast that I didn't leave it in there long!  Remember.... this is only experimental on my part.  I'll have to let you know how it turns out after it simmers for awhile.  I think the brown color is quite attractive!   I just checked the crock pot which I put out in the garage to let it cook as I also heard they can be smelly.  Well the garage smells like boiling walnuts, a smell I haven't experienced until today.  Not bad at all!  Just kind of earthy. Like you would expect from some kind of nut I guess. 

More later...... oh and in case some of you are wondering about my beginning rug hooking class it didn't get off the ground this time for lack of students.  Probably just as well as I started feeling so poorly just as the class would have started.  There's always an upside to the downside!  
Plan B is in full swing and I'll tell you more about that later too!

Cathy G


  1. I can so sympathize with the thyroid issues. I actually fall between the two dosage types. If I take one, I get the symptoms you have...the other, then pounding heart and anxiety. I am seeing a new PC this month and will get a referral for an endocrinologist as well. I hope you are feeling better soon!

    I love the walnut dyeing tutorial. I can't wait to see the finished wool. Sorry about the class. You may get more action during the winter when folks need a "little something"! Keep the faith!
    Hugs to you!

  2. Cathy, I so hope the doc is able to help you! Feeling like crap is no fun and then nothing fun gets done....
    Now for those walnuts...that looks like a fun mess! OLM

  3. Black walnuts are common here in PA. They are used in cakes and cookies but they are NOT a favorite flavor of mine. Way too strong! But a lot of people put them in their driveway and run over them with the car to get the hulls off!!!

    Your dying experiment is interesting. Even though we have a tree, I've never tried to dye wool with the nuts. Just too lazy!

    Hope you get to feeling better. I have a lot of the up and down (more of those!) days and it's NO FUN!
    Hope a specialist can help.

  4. Well Cathy, your experiment with the black walnuts is quite interesting but it does look like a lot of work to take the hulls off.

    Pat has an excellent idea to run the car over. I think that I'll stick with Cushing dye and marrying wool. The best rich orangy brown I got was from a piece of dark chocolate brown wool I married with recycled wool.

    I sure hope that your thyroid problem gets resolved soon. So sorry you have been feeling down and tired and achy. I've been less than productive myself lately too. The change of seasons always gets me out of sort.
    Your wool is on its way. The get Well card is in the mail box and will go tomorrow. Hugs. JB

  5. I hope the Dr. gets you under control. I know how that pesky thyroid can mess you up. (I'm knocking on wood right now because mine has been ok lately). But when it goes off, it's ugly.

  6. Cathy ~
    I'm so sorry to hear about all your thyroid issues. That sucks! I hope the doc can get you the right meds quickly!
    I should have told you how I make my dye. I put the nuts hull and all in a pot of boing water and just simmer for hours, adding water as needed. Then strain with cheesecloth to get the yucky pieces parts out of the dye mixture. A lot less work than what you are doing. The piece of wool you dyed looks wonderful.
    Pug hugs :)

  7. Such an interesting post about black walnuts! Loved it. Thanks. Sending healing thoughts for you to get back to your old self soon!

  8. I so appreciate seeing this post, Cathy - I, too, have been so, so, curious about black walnut dye...I hook, and also punch and cross-stitch and would love to use if for distressing/antiquing. We don't have black walnut trees either - but my niece said she thinks she has one and collected a few nuts for me, but I have no idea what to do with them if/when I get them!! Love the piece you dyed up!!!

    Hope you get to feeling better...my dr keeps thinking I have a thyroid issue given my symptoms and history, but tests say no....guess I'm lucky. Hope you find resolution soon....

    Smiles & Hugs ~ Robin

  9. Wondered where you'd been lately. Hope you feel better soon!! I LOVE the color that wool came out, really warm and yummy.

  10. Oh Cathy... sure hope you get your meds adjusted so that you can feel good for a long time! The wool experiment looks wonderful! Beautiful antique brown! Happy autumn to you! :-)

  11. *****a couple of things concerning natures dyes:
    1) they, unlike the commercial dyes, take a long
    time to cook in order for the proper strength
    to be obtained.
    2) walnut juice is very strong and should be
    used rather "sparingly" when overdyeing or
    dulling down fabric. go slowly, just as in
    commercial dyes, because once it goes in...
    just like regular cooking, you can't take it
    3) when cooking your fabric with these types of
    dyes, plan on a longer period of time in the
    pot for the material to properly absorbe the
    4) these colors fade very quickly if placed in
    a sunny room. the same is true for plant and
    vegetable dyes. these colors do not have the
    same properties as the commercial dyes, so
    therefore they are that long lasting if not
    properly cared for.
    5) have fun with the experiments...and look for
    the country rugs book by pat hornafius on
    either ebay or amazon. she was incredible
    with walnut shells and plant dyes.
    6) you can use just the shells and not the
    nutmeat in the center.
    7) no need to freeze this stuff...a simple
    glass jar with a label will suffice. when
    you want to use the dye, just clear off the
    offending "gunk" from the top and all will
    work well.
    there are also old early american life magazine
    issues where pat was featured about vegetable
    dyes. i'll try and look them up, but the years
    would be around 1984/1985. good luck.

  12. Cathy, so sorry to hear your Thyroid has been out of whack. Miserable feeling.
    But so happy you are feeling like playing with the walnuts. The brown wool is a wonderful color.
    Patty at the shop has also dyed with onion skins.
    Have fun, dying wool is exciting I think.

  13. Sorry honey your having so much Thyroid trouble. I am thinking that could be some of my problems too.
    You really had a challenge with those walnuts. I think it so interesting dying wool.
    Have a great week and feel better

  14. Cathy,
    So sorry to hear that you haven't been well. This aging is for the birds! The colour of the dyed wool is warm, rich and so much in season. The Autumn Trio is coming along. I decided to rip out the pumpkin face as it was too garish...and stick with your design. Won't be long and it will be finished and I will post.

    Healthy, warm vibes being sent your way, from your far away friend.


  15. Looks like a mess that turns into beauty!!!
    So worth it~ love the color

  16. I've missed your blog. Hope you get squared around soon. And sorry about your class, i enjoyed reading about the last one. If I lived nearby I would join! a reader from Maine

  17. Cathy: Glad you're feeling better, what you've been going through sounds really awful. Fun pics of the dyeing experiment, love the wool color.

  18. Cathy - so hoping the doc finds a fix that works for you and everything starts to level out - so hard I know. Love what youa re doing iwth the black walnut dyes - I just buy the crystals and make it up - never tried this - heard it was so stinky and messy! LOL I did find even with my black walnut dye mixed up from the dried cyrstals - it would get moldy if i didn't keep it at an even temp (Like i left it out in the shed so it was up and down temps and it got a little moldy. Hope you have a great week! joanne

  19. Sounds like you had fun! And the brown is lovely!
    I sure hope that you are rocketing towards feeling totally fine!!! I am sending lots of warm and fuzzy thoughts!!
    hugs - dag

  20. I have missed you!! I'm so glad you are feeling better and feeling energized to get back into some projects. You know I'm jealous of your talent and that's why I love to come and visit with you. What a treat I get to read today about the walnuts; amazing. Love the color the wool took from the walnuts. Oh please, don't let the hubby get the wrong jar!!

  21. wow great comments. I see an edrocinologist sp? One a year I to have thyroid issues and more. I hope they can find the right dose for you. I dyed with acorns one year and simmered the hell out of it. I got a golden yellow pretty but thought I would get brown. Good luck with your experiments.

  22. Cathy, just getting around to catching up on some of the blogs. I am so sorry about the thyroid. I was diagnosed 32 years ago with an underactive thyroid. So I can totally relate and understand every symptom you are feeling. Just this past year, my doctor and I discussed changing my medicine to the all natural Armour Thyroid. It took a bit of adjusting, as with synthroid, etc, but I have to say that I feel wonderful (and that just means normal lol). Just had my checkup a couple weeks ago, and I'm good now for another 6 months! Will be praying you can find a doctor who will listen to you and you can work well with. I know where my numbers should be from having this for so long. I don't listen to them when they tell me "i'm in range". Glad I found a doctor who "hears" me.
    Love the experimenting with the black walnuts. I cooked them in my house one time and swore I would never do it again lol. Talk about stink! lol

  23. Cathy, the first Anonymous is right. Just boil up the walnuts, hulls and all. Saves all that messy hulling. This is the old pioneer way. We've dyed with walnuts for years. Sometimes I don't use a mordant. When we did it was always alum with a bit of cream of tartar. You should be able to find the proportions online, if not can provide them to you.
    Enjoy your adventurous spirit with the walnuts.
    Hoping all will be well soon with your thyroid problems. JAK

  24. Hope your feeling better with each new day! Looks like the walnuts make a great dye for your wool....love how you are doing all the experimenting!


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