Thursday, October 15, 2015

walnut dye

Walnuts are the oldest tree food known to humankind, dating back to 7000BC. The eastern Black Walnut produces something called Juglone, which is toxic to many plants and other trees, but also keeps them resistant to most diseases and pests. This must account for their ability to survive and grow so tall and majestic. Our land is surrounded and filled with ancient Black Walnuts and their descendants, which we've watched grown from saplings to young sturdy trees over the years. This walnut forest has been both a blessing and a curse, as they've dictated where we can plant our vegetable garden(only one spot throughout acres of land is safe) and wreaked havoc on any fruit trees we've attempted to plant. But their beauty and strength is something I never tire of. And their walnuts make a wonderful natural dye.

From August through late October we hear the frequent and familiar thump of one walnut after another hitting the ground. There is also daily thunder as they strike the tin roof on our little barn. So, as you can imagine, I have a huge source for creating a walnut dye.

Here's some shots from this weekend's project and last night's dye bath. I give my step by step approach after the pics. NOTE: I wear plastic gloves for every part of the process and caution you to do the same or your hands will be stained for at least a week!

  1. Collect green walnuts.
  2. Squish off the outer hulls and separate from the nuts. (see video here)
  3. Place hulls in a 5 gallon bucket and cover with water.
  4. Soak for several days.
  5. Strain (I use an old t-shirt) enough liquid to fill 3/4 of a stainless steel pot.
  6. Boil liquid for an hour or two. 
  7. Add rope and/or fabric to pot and boil for at least an hour. (Let it sit over night for a stronger and darker color.) I used cotton for both.
  8. Remove material from liquid dye and rinse until water runs clear.
  9. Wash in machine on cold cycle and tumble dry to set color.

Isn't it gorgeous? I'm loving the soft brown/grey/khaki of this batch and can't wait to get into my studio to make something with it all!

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  1. gorgeous brown textures there...

  2. That natural dye looks wonderful. I like the darkest batch most of all - very walnuty!!! :-)