Black Walnuts – to dye for:

They were right under my nose. Since I have started vegetable dyeing I have seen my garden in a new way. Up until last year I had two Black Walnut trees in my yard. We had one taken down because of its condition. The wood is beautiful. Other than that, I never had an affinity for the trees. They leaf out so late, you end up asking yourself if it made it through the winter. Without the leaves it reminds me of a tree in a painting I remember of the wild west. I didn’t much like that painting. But now I hold the fruit of the tree in much higher esteem, black walnuts.

You need to wear disposable gloves to harvest them from the ground. They ripen from a spring green color into a brown corrugated nut with a browish-green, semi-soft outer covering in the fall. Left on the ground the nuts start to degrade (if the squirrels leave any) and become gooey. Don’t worry, they will work.


Black Walnut at 5 minutes

Black Walnut at 5 minutes


Black Walnut after 24 hours in water

Black Walnut after 24 hours in water

 As you can see from the photo:

I put four husks in water. Within 5 minutes the dye started  to dissolve in the water. Within 24 hours see how dark the water became. I let it sit for a few days to ferment even further. I placed the fiber into water with a glub of vinegar for 30 minutes. Then I took the fiber (white, mixed with black, merino wool with a small amount of mohair), squeezed out the water mix, gently, and placed it in a microwaveable container. I covered the wool in dye. I then covered the top with plastic wrap.

I micro-waved the container for 2 minutes, then let it cool for two minutes. Then repeated this step. I let it cool overnight. I then gently squeezed out the excess dye and set the wool to air dry. When it was dry, I washed it in cool water with dish soap and again let it dry. Pre soaking in a water/ vinegar bath is not necessary, as black walnut does not require a mordant. Mordant means “to bite” (a word of French origin), vinegar would act as the mordant. Though the fiber needs to be soaked in water prior to dyeing. I will try another time to simmer the fiber in the dye, on the stove, for a darker more intense color. This is the way I dyed my fiber…and I like what turned out.


fiber prior to dyeing

fiber prior to dyeing


Spun - dyed with black walnut

Spun - dyed with black walnut



My results:

My plan is to make the yarn into a 2 ply and possibly knit some socks. Does anyone have a toe-up pattern. I have always worked the sock from the calf to the toe.


2 Responses

  1. ooo nice! love the color variation

  2. I will take all your extra black walnuts and use them in my baking. They are delicious.

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