In the autumn I can hear the plunk, plunk, plunk of walnuts falling from the trees. You sure don't want to be standing under the trees on a windy day! Little green globes fill the grass. Left unnoticed and untouched they will slowly disappear. Not dissolving...but carried away by squirrels to be buried in my gardens. Yes, most will be dug up by the squirrels to have a feast when times are tough, but many will sprout and grow to be little walnut trees---pulled out by me as soon as I find them.
What treasure lies within these nuts! Not only tasty nutmeats to make cookies and cakes, but the color of the earth is easily transferred to yarn, fabric, or basket making materials.
Walnut dyes have been used for centuries. The process is fairly simple..just takes some time and patience... and a walnut tree.
I dyed basket reed, 100% cotton fabric, and handspun wool yarn.
Step 1: Making the Dye
1. Gather walnuts when they fall from the trees. I went out every day to pick a few up, gathering about half a 5-gallon bucket.
2. I used the whole nuts, as I was not going to process them for the nutmeats. If you want to use the nutmeats put on rubber gloves and remove the hulls from the nuts.
3. Place the hulls/walnuts in a cooking pot (one you only use for dyes--never to be used for cooking again) and cover with water.
4. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for an hour to two. I did this on a small butane burner outside, as it is rather smelly. Take off the heat and let the nuts soak over night.
5. Strain the liquid into another container.
6. Do not put the nuts or hulls in the compost pile, as the toxins will interfere with the growth of certain plants (mainly in the nightshade family--tomatoes, peppers, etc.)