1. Collect black walnuts and separate the husks from the nuts. I put them in a plastic bag and stepped on them, rolling them around with my foot to loosen the husks. Be sure to wear rubber gloves when handling them or you will also dye your hands.
2. Fill a pot with the husks and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil for 20-30 minutes.
3. Strain through an old t-shirt that is fastened to a 5 gallon bucket with twine and then pour the dye you have just made back into the pot.
4. You will need a mordant that helps the dye adhere to the fabric. I used vinegar and salt. The acetic acid in the vinegar will help condition the fabric so that the dye fixes. Fill a pot with one part vinegar to 3 parts water and add a lot of salt but not so much that it will not dissolve.
5. Add 100% cotton t-shirts to the mordant (vinegar, salt, and water) and bring to a boil for 20-30 minutes.
6. Use tongs to take t-shirts from the mordant and place them into the dye and boil. You decide how long you want to leave them in the dye for how dark you want the shirts to be, a few minutes for a lighter brown and up to 30 minutes for a deep rich brown. Use your tongs to stir the pot and make sure that the t-shirts stay submerged.
7. Remove the t-shirts from the dye and rinse thoroughly, squeeze them and rinse them until all the dye is removed. Make sure you wear rubber gloves if you don't want to have brown hands for a week.
8. Launder and dry them immediately.
9. I recommend washing any t-shirts you have dyed separately after you wear them the first time. Add a clean white t-shirt to your wash to see if it gets any color from your dyed shirts before you start washing them with the rest your laundry.
I have heard there is a method of using acorns as the mordant. The tannins from the acorns are supposed to be what makes it work. I'm going to try this method next and I assume it will affect the finished colors.
Read about what others have done with other plants for natural dyes online and then experiment with it! Try tie-dying with natural dyes. I recommend staying away from chemical mordants. Keep it natural!
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