natural dyeing with black walnut hulls

Posted by Melanie Hasan on

Fall is my favorite season. It is the season of comfort, warmth, cozy activities, and of course black walnuts. I had the pleasure of finding a black walnut tree while I was out with my son, and oh-boy was I ecstatic. I harvested close to thirty hulls between two trees. Its minty and citrus like aroma made harvesting a true joy on a warm afternoon.


Black walnuts are fun and super easy to dye with. The hulls have tannin in them, therefore a mordant is not necessary. Black walnuts create a lovely earth tone brown, and can be shifted to a darker brown with an iron modifier. Deep browns develop when exposed to oxygen. Its color is derived from juglone that creates reddish- browns (found in hair dyes), and other pigments of the fruit.

Time to collect

In the past, I dyed with black walnut powder because the squirrels would get to the trees before I did. Now, I prefer the fruit (hull). The best time to harvest or collect black walnuts is when the hull is green. Hulls that have dried from the tree and fallen to the ground are another option, but the color will not be as bright. It is best to collect them and store them in the freezer. Dried walnut shells can be crushed and stored as well.

Dyeing with black walnuts

In a small stockpot, cover black walnut hulls or dried shells with water and cover with a lid. Simmer with a low flame for about 1.5-2 hours until color begins to extract. Add water as necessary and stir. Once color has fully extracted, pour the dark brown liquid through a colander to collect any broken shells. Make sure you have a clean stockpot underneath the colander to collect the filtered dye bath.

Next, fill the dye bath with water so your fibers move freely and stir. Add your wet fiber and stir. Warm the dye bath and hold temperature for about 30 minutes and then to a light boil for another 30 minutes. Stir occasionally for even dyeing.

When you are finished dyeing your fiber, carefully rinse with lukewarm water until the water runs clear and gently wash with PH neutral detergent. Dry in a shady area or avoid direct sunlight.

Exhausted dye baths

If color still remains in your dye pot, feel free to exhaust the bath with other fibers and natural materials. Frequently, I’ll use the residue to create paint pigments or to over-dye with it.

Fall is here

Now that fall is officially here use this season to connect with nature and dye something beautiful :)

With peace & flowers,


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