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Black Walnut Basket Dye
Resources, instructions, recipes and uses of walnut hulls for basket dye

Hickory leaves - hickory.gif (672 bytes)Black walnut (Juglans nigra), Pecan (Carya illinoensis), or Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata Mill.) nut hulls can be used to make a dye to color your baskets or splint materials. Walnut and hickory dyes to a brown color, pecan a red/orange.

If you have access to a nut tree, gather the large nuts in the fall, usually in September to mid-October. The dye is made from the husks, not the nuts themselves. You can save the nuts to process and use for other purposes if you like, but that does require extra effort. Remove the husks by cutting or crushing them off. If you have no need for the nutmeats, the whole nuts can be soaked to render the dye. Wear rubber gloves and protect surfaces to avoid splatters, as the dye will stain permanently if it comes into contact with something you didn't intend to dye.

There are many variations of the instructions to make this dye, but they all involve soaking the nut hulls in water to create a dye liquor. This is one variation of the instructions. Others are linked at the bottom of the article. Try several variations to work out a recipe that works for you.Black Walnut leaves - walnut.gif (1322 bytes)

Put the husks in a fabric bag or nylon stocking that will act as a strainer. Add just enough water to cover the husks and soak 3 days. Boil the husks for an hour or two, remove them from the heat and let them soak overnight. The next day, drain the liquid from the husks into another container and throw the husks away or store the stocking with husks in a plastic bag in the freezer to be used again. Strain the liquid to remove any solids. When you are ready to dye your materials, dampen them in clear water and then immerse them into the warm dyebath. Stir the pot frequently. Allow the material to steep until the color is deep enough. When you are finished, decant the dye into glass storage containers. The dye liquor is strong enough to eat through plastic containers if stored long term. Stain can be poured into a spray bottle and sprayed or painted onto a finished basket. The liquid can sometimes get moldy. Vinegar can be added to the dye to inhibit mold growth. Keep the dye in the freezer to eliminate the problem of mold, if possible.

Black walnut - blwalnut.gif (2304 bytes)If you do not have access to fresh nuts or simply want to avoid the mess and work of extracting the dye from the husks you can purchase dried walnut hull powder or concentrated dye extract in liquid or paste. Follow supplier's instructions for reconstituting the powder or concentrate for a dye bath.




Search for black walnut.

Recipes for using the nutmeats

Grow Your Own Nut Trees

Identify Nut Trees


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