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How to Make Natural Dye With Black Walnuts

By Robin Coe ; Updated September 21, 2017

Walnut trees have provided food since 7000 B.C. In Rome they were considered food for the Gods. The nuts of walnut trees don't just provide food, however. They can be used to create colorfast and lightfast natural dyes. A dye is created when juglone oxidizes in the husks to make a dark brown color. Dyes can be created from many types of nuts, flowers or roots. Use your homemade dye to color T-shirts, crafts or yarn.

Begin to gather fallen black walnuts in the fall. Make sure you wear gloves while collecting them or you may dye your hands, which will be difficult to clean.

Collect about 15 black walnuts still in their husks. Remove the husks from your walnuts by crushing them with a hammer until they are broken into pea-sized pieces.

Place your walnut husk pieces in a nylon stocking to strain them. Put the stocking with the walnut husks in a large pot and pour double the amount of water over them. Reduce the heat to a simmer for an hour.

Add a mixture of four parts water to one part vinegar to another large pot. Put enough of the mixture in the pot to cover your fabric or yarn. Simmer your fabric in the liquid for one hour.

Rinse your fabric or yarn under cool water and squeeze out the vinegar mixture and any dirt.

Strain out and remove the walnut husk from the dye. Add your fabric and let it soak while simmering until the color is a shade darker than you desire. You can soak the material overnight if you want a deeper color.

Rinse your fabric under running water until the color runs clear. This will prevent the dye from running when washed later. Wash your materials in a separate cycle in cold water to ensure the color sets and doesn't affect other garments.

Pour your leftover dye into a glass jar and add 1 tbsp. of vinegar per gallon to prevent mold. You can use your dye for crafts or to dye other fabrics.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Gloves
  • 15 black walnuts
  • 2 large pots
  • Vinegar
  • Fabric or yarn
  • Glass jar

About the Author

 

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for more than 15 years. Coe has worked on environmental health and safety issues in communities across Ohio and Michigan. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University. She has also received training and experience as a nurse aide.