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Full-Color Friday

A bunch of us have been collecting walnuts this fall. There has been an unusual abundance of them this year. We have talked about making dye for cloth, pigment for  paper, ink for drawing and how it might be possible to make oil based ink for printing. Has anyone had any experience with using black walnuts?  We would love some input!

A sampling of this years black walnut bonanza

A sampling of this years black walnut bonanza


  1. wrote on November 7th, 2009 at 12:53 pm


    Hello WSWalnut Collectors,

    I gathered a bunch last year and rendered them by soaking the whole nuts in water for 2+ weeks and simmering the liquid (with some pieces of the hulls) for long stretches.

    You can add vinegar and gum arabic to improve the color and viscosity of the ink/stain, but I did not experiment very much with that. I also began using the dried black husks as drawing implements: they draw a little bit like charcoal.

    I did not try printing with the liquid, but I think you could reduce the blackened hulls to a fine powder which could be suspended in trans base or gum tragacanth. (Here’s a link on that process: http://thenaturalsurface.blogspot.com/2009/05/making-gum-tragacanth-binder.html)

    Here’s an image of my bottled ink:http://www.flickr.com/photos/kt_ries/3419890862/

    I look forward to seeing what you all make.

  2. wrote on November 10th, 2009 at 2:28 pm


    Thanks for the tip! I particularly like the idea of drawing with the dried husks- we have so many of them and that would be a good way to us ’em up. The roads of Ulster county are stained with crushed black walnut husks.

  3. wrote on November 27th, 2009 at 10:23 pm


    hey y’all,

    glad to see someone else is picking up those walnuts :)

    I made a dye by simmering the hulls all day and then soaking all night, straining in the morning. Then I beat some cotton linter for 30 min – 1 hr, strained the water so it would absorb the color, and added to the dyebath. Simmer for 1 hour and let soak overnight. Strain and reserve the dye, and rinse the pulp until it runs clear. This turned out a yummy chocolate brown.

    The same process would work with fabric, just make sure its wet before you add it to the dyebath to minimize streaking. The tannic acid in the walnut act as a natural mordant, making it pretty darn permanent. woohoo!

  4. wrote on February 6th, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Katie Vota

    I’ve done a lot of natural dye walnut dying. The recepie I use goes as follows:

    Mordant fabric with Alum (aluminum sulfate) by disolving the alum into water and cooking the fabric in the water 45min. Rinse fabric thoroughly. This causes the color to stick to the fabric.

    Soak walnuts overnight or up to 1 week, skim off any mold that forms. Boil walnuts in a large turkey pot with enough water to cover your fabric for 2 hours, strain out liquid from walnuts (if you squeeze the water out of the walnuts, you get more color from them). Add mordanted fabric to the dye water and cook 45 minutes. You can do two more baths after this for 45 minutes each, each bath getting lighter as it goes. For one plastic grocery bag of walnuts you can do about 1/2lb to 3/4 lb of material at a time for all 3 baths.

    Please note, natural dyes seem to work better on Protein fibers (animal fibers). Wool or silk is better than cotton. Cotton, which is more pertinate to paper making, will give you tans, greys, beige, kinds of colors.

    Walnuts are fairly light-fast. I’ve had no real trouble.

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