No Thanks

I live in the Midwest where black walnuts are in abundance this time of year. I felt super lucky when a friend of mine connected me with someone who has a black walnut tree in their yard and wanted to put them to good use. I gladly accepted as many as could fit in my freezer, politely declining the extra wheelbarrow full of them, and got to dyeing.

Black Walnuts for dyeing
To get a full, rich color, we dye the whole nut, hulls included. When dyeing with black walnuts, it's really important to use a dye-only pot as it can be unsafe to ingest the hulls once they start to decompose.
To make the dye stock, I add a bunch of walnuts to my pot. Since this is for fun and I don't have to reproduce the color, I'm being generous and uncalculating about the ratio of black walnut to weight of fabric. Suffice to say, I'll get a whole lot of great dye batches from this stock.
Black walnuts in dye pot

I fill the black walnut pot with warm water, then put it on high heat. I let the pot cook for about an hour then remove it from the heat. I then leave the walnut solution to soak overnight in order to extract as much color as possible.

The next day, I remove the hulls from the stock solution and get to dyeing! For this project, I'm color testing raw silk, one of my absolute favorite fabrics to dye. Raw silk has such a beautiful feel, and the uneven texture bounces light in a way that showcases the depth, and range of natural color. The silk has already been pre-mordanted with alum.

black walnut dye concentrate

The dye bath is a stunning nutty brown color and it smells so fresh. I cook my silk in the dye bath for about 40 minutes, but you can give it more or less time depending on your final color goals.

black walnut final results on silk

I love the rich, earthy brown that we get from black walnuts, and I can't wait to play with the rest of the batch in my freezer!


  • Hi Max!

    There are a variety of ways and reasons our dye baths grow mold, but basically, they grow mold for the same reasons that food grows mold.

    Our dye baths are essentially botanical “teas”, supplying exposed mold spores ideal living conditions including humidity and warm temperatures.

    In order to preserve them for longer, I like to keep my leftover dye baths refrigerated in a sealed container.

    Ms Amy Taylor

  • Why is my dye bath getting mold?


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