Natural Dyeing

Natural Dyeing with Black Walnuts Husks

black walnuts natural dyeing

Natural Dyeing can be quite an adventure.


One of the main rules with dyeing is to always wear gloves. To be honest, it is a rule I never followed. For one, I’m stubborn. Also, I never really worked with any dyes (such as indigo) that would dye my hands for a long period of time. I knew black walnuts would easily stain my hands so I decided to push my stubborn ways to the side and use gloves during this dyeing process. So happy I did. As I started to take the husk off I discovered this:

black walnuts maggots

They?are Walnut Husk Flies and their maggots. Long story short: they like to breed into almost mature walnuts and proceed to freak me the F*CK out! They aren’t able to penetrate the nut and meat due to the hardness of the shell. I wasn’t plan on eating these nuts so that wasn’t an issue to me. The first few walnuts didn’t have any so when I did see this, ugh, I still get goosebumps. Some had none, others had a few, and some had a whole damn lot. If it was too disgusting (for my taste), I just threw them out. On the other ones I brushed them off.

This task turned into a one woman show with me screaming and flailing my arms around. I had to catch myself mid-scream just in case one flew into my mouth.

Once I was finished with that step I placed all the walnuts in a large bin filled with water and a little cleaning solution (just in case there was any little maggots hanging around).

My original plan was to crack open the walnuts and use the meat inside to make the dye but once I saw how dark the water was turning from just a short soak I decided to change it up and use the hull of the walnuts.

Besides, this was getting old very quickly.

opening black walnuts for dyeing with hammer


I emptied out the old water and washed off the walnuts.

I placed them in a pot and added some water. Once the water started to boil I lowered the temperature to allow for it to simmer. I wanted to do a test run so I added a piece of unbleached cotton I had.


unbleached cotton dyed with black walnuts hull


Stretch knit cotton. Mordanted with vinegar and copper mix.

stretch knit cotton dyed with black walnut hull


Cotton scarf. Originally dyed with a madder root/acorn mix. I dipped the ends in the black walnuts dye.


naturally dyed scarf


It was quickly snatched up by this happy customer this weekend at Soda City!

happy customer


Since I had so many walnuts I froze half of them. The other half if soaking in a jar filled with water.

I do plan to eventually use the walnut and the meat. I will share that process in another post.

Living in Columbia, South Carolina and using this blog as my space to share a little insight into my life in what I'm making on the sewing machine, knitting needles, crochet hooks, in the kitchen, and elsewhere.

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