Dyeing with Black Walnuts

Here I am cracking black walnuts this weekend. A tedious job to be sure but great when conversing with a friend or watching the news! The top picture shows the color that can be obtained from dyeing with Black Walnut. My cousin gave me loads of them; enough to dye at least 30 pounds of fiber! So now I will let the nuts dry, crack off the hulls and store them for future use. Here is my recipe for dyeing protein fibers (wool & silk) with black walnut hulls. I mordant with alum sulfate first to better accept the dye to the fiber, although many say mordanting first when dyeing with Black Walnut is not necessary.

Use fresh or dry hulls from Black Walnut trees. They fall to the ground in early fall. The hull is bright green with a spongy, dark inner area when fresh, and dark brown when dried. With a knife, split the hull away from the inner nut. I let the hulls dry out first. Use 100% dried hulls to the weight of fiber, i.e. 1 pound of fiber, 1# of walnut hulls. Simmer the dried hulls with water (3:1 ratio; 3 gals water to 1# walnut hulls) until the dye liquor is dark, maybe an hour or so at 200%. Strain off the dye liquor, and throw out the hulls and residue. Add the fiber to the dyebath, rotating the goods continually for the first 30 minutes, bringing temperature up from 100 to 200 degrees. Maintain 200 degrees for another 45-60 minutes. Let fibers cool in the bath and remove to rinse. Enjoy!

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