Long before the invention of modern neon colors for our clothes, people used natural ingredients to create fabric dyes. Many different parts of plants can be cooked into dye for clothing and basket-making materials. One of the most popular dyes is from the black walnut hull. This dark brown dye won't wash out and won't fade in the sunlight like many other dyes will without special treatments. Black walnut brown is such a sure dye that you must be careful not to spill it on anything not being dyed, because it will stain anything from countertops to fingertips.
Collect about 15 black walnuts in September or October, while they are still in the green hull. Wear protective gloves now and throughout this process to keep from dying your hands brown for weeks.
Remove the green husks from the walnuts. You may be able to tear them off with your hands, or you may want to crush them slightly with a rock or hammer to begin the removal process.
Tear the husks into small pieces about the size of a nickel.
Place one gallon of water into a stainless steel pot. Bring the water to a full boil. Add the pieces of black walnut hull and turn down the heat until the water is just at a simmer. Simmer the water and walnut hull pieces for one hour.
Strain the dye liquid into a glass container if you are not going to dye with it immediately.