Dyeing Wool with Black Walnuts

I’m still working on my natural dye project. So far I’ve done Madder Root, Log Wood, Cochineal, Goldenrod and Goldenrod with Iron.

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Today I want to show you the process of dyeing with Black Walnuts. I will be using 100% Superwash Merino Roving and a skein of fingering weight Merino. I’ve made a chain out of the roving to keep it from getting all messed up in the dye pot.

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First thing obviously, is to gather the nuts. You’ll want the old brown hulls. Pick up the nuts that didn’t get eaten, and the bits of hulls left on the ground. I’m lucky, I have a friend that collects them for me from her tree.

Be careful when handling them. They WILL stain your hands.

Fill a bucket 2/3 full with the nuts and hulls. Set it in an out of the way spot in your garage or on the side of your house. Then cover it with water and walk away. Leave them to rot for around 3 weeks.

The water should turn very dark. They will begin to smell…this is why the side of the house is sometimes a better choice. That’s how you’ll know they are ready.

The fermenting process releases the Tannic Acid. If I was better at chemistry, I would know why this is important. But what I do know is that, because of it, we don’t need to mordent the wool.

Pour the fluid into a large stainless steel pot through a fine mesh to remove all the debris.

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Place it on the stove or an electric burner outside (if the odor bothers you). Gently push the fiber into the pot, making sure it’s fully submerged. Slowly bring the dye to a simmer and maintain it for 1/2 hour. Stir occasionally to ensure even take up of color. Be careful not to felt your wool with too much agitation.

Allow it to cool in the pot, then rinse it and hang it out to dry.

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This is my absolute favorite brown! So rich – I just want to eat it!

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But luckily, she gave me some nice ripe walnuts too. I’ll eat those instead!

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Once the hull is removed…

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Yum!

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