How to Dye Yarn Naturally With Black Walnuts

Introduction: How to Dye Yarn Naturally With Black Walnuts

A FiberArtsy Yarn Dyeing Tutorial

Since a billion black walnuts came crashing down this year I thought, maybe it’s time to try dyeing yarn with them. Walnuts are easy to use since they stain and dye everything (EVERYTHING). Plus, they are rich in tannin so you don’t have to use a separate mordant to set the dye.

Unlike other natural dyes, Black Walnut dyed yarn or fabric is wash fast. Once the excess dye is rinsed out, it will not continue to bleed.

Here are my other Natural Dyeing tutorials:

Dyeing Yarn with Dandelions

How to Dye Yarn with Black Beans

Step 1: Dyeing Supplies:

-Protein Yarn s.a. Sheep Wool or Alpaca Fiber

-Whole Black Walnuts (check your Farmer’s Market or local farms)

-Mesh laundry bag or muslin


-Old Pot or Roasting Pan (non-reactive)

-Protective clothing and gloves

-Hammer or big rock

Step 2: Make the Black Walnut Dye:

First you put on old clothes and gloves since they stain EVERYTHING!! Next, using your hammer or rock, you want to smash the hulls to open them. It’s not necessary to crack the walnuts, altho you can do that as well.

Put the nuts and hulls in a mesh bag, place in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Simmer this for about an hour, remove the mesh bag and let the dyebath cool.

When I did this experiment the first time, I used about 20 black walnuts and dyed 6 skeins of yarn. That was WAY more dye than I needed! 6-8 walnuts should be plenty.

Once the dyebath has cooled, strain the dye with either muslin or a coffee filter to remove as much of the debris as possible. This will make your yarn easier to rinse.

Step 3: Dyeing the Yarn:

Meanwhile, soak your yarn in hot water (vinegar is optional). Once the dyebath and the yarn water have cooled, add your yarn to the dyebath.

Simmer for 30 minutes up to an hour. Let cool.

Remove the yarn from the dyebath and gently rinse out the excess dye using water that is the same temperature as the yarn. Try not to move the yarn around too much. Agitation and dramatic temperature fluctuation cause felting.

Keep rinsing! Unbelievable the amount of dye left in the yarn!

Black Walnuts produce a beautiful, warm deep brown. The color will be much darker and deeper if you use the nuts without the hulls.

Hang your freshly dyed yarn to dry. The leftover dyebath can be reused again and again, as long as there is still color in the liquid. The subsequent dyes will be lighter in color but should produce a lovely, soft and warm brown just the same.

Have fun experimenting with dyeing your yarn! If anything is unclear or you need more information, please feel free to ask.


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