Fresh Walnut Hulls

I suspect I am not alone in sometimes finding it difficult to achieve a really deep brown from walnut hulls. However, one solution to this problem is to use fresh green walnut hulls, rather than dried brown ones. This Autumn I was lucky enough to harvest some walnuts and, after eating the nuts, I saved the green hulls to use for dyeing. I left the hulls until they had started to become brown before I simmered them until the liquid was deep brown in colour. I then strained off the liquid, added some unmordanted wool skeins and simmered them for about an hour. I left them to steep in the cooling dyebath overnight before rinsing and washing them.

As can be seen from the first two skeins in the photo below, this dyebath gave a rich deep brown and the exhaust dyebath gave a paler shade. Now I just have to find a reliable source of fresh walnuts each year. However, I should be able to use these hulls for a year or two, as I always save the used hulls, plus their liquid, to use again and again. Don’t worry if mould forms as time passes – this will only improve the dye.

I also made a dyebath from fresh walnut leaves, which gave paler browns. (See the last two skeins in the photo below.)
Fresh green walnuts

Fresh green walnuts

Walnut leaves

Walnut leaves

The walnut hulls simmering to make the dyebath

The walnut hulls simmering to make the dyebath

Skeins dyed in the walnut dyebath

From the left, skeins 1 and 2 were dyed using fresh walnut hulls and skeins 3 and 4 were dyed using fresh walnut leaves

10 replies
  1. Ladka
    Ladka says:

    Are you another lover of deep browns from walnuts? I have been dyeing wildly with fresh (mostly green) walnut hulls this autumn to obtain several kilograms of various browns, including the beautiful deep brown from the first two dyeings.
    I usually cut the hulls to foster colour extraction. I only strain the hulls once and use this first bath, then return the hulls, simmer or just raise the temperature for several hours, allow to cool overnight and then add the skeins on top of the hulls. This does entail some more cleaning and rinsing, but it is rewarding: significantly deeper colours are obtained, and the bath goes on and on and on. I even had ten dyeings of 100 grams of wool yarn in one dyeing bath before I got tired of it, and especially of its smell. Unfortunately I haven’t posted it yet on my blog 🙁

  2. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Someone gave me a big bucket of green walnut hulls on Nov 13th…I haven’t dyed with them before..Now it is Dec 14th…I was out of town and just looked at them. They are all black…have some mold on them and smell. (I left them outside in the bucket as I haven’t room in my little apartment!) You’ve dyed with the dried and the green shells but have you ever tried the ‘wet’ blackened shells that are a little moldy?

    • Jenny Dean
      Jenny Dean says:

      Mouldy black hulls are fine to use. I always save my used green/black hulls plus their liquid to use again & sometimes I continue to use them for several years. Good luck with your hulls – they should give good colours.

  3. Maggie Stearn
    Maggie Stearn says:

    Dark chocolate and truffles!!!!!
    What wonderful colours. I must get to the 2 local owners of mature walnut trees before they clear their ‘debris’ next year. What! a new year resolution already!!!!!

  4. mjm
    mjm says:

    I dyed with walnuts for the first time this year; only a few of the walnuts were still green – most were brown and a few even had little white worms in the hulls. but I filled a 5 gallon bucket half way and then poured boiling water over the top and let the whole mess sit for a while. Then I dyed some fabric and 15 skeins of yarn and got some beautiful browns. The bucket is sealed up under my laundry sink and I hope to use it again soon.

  5. arlee
    arlee says:

    I too fell in love with walnuts this fall and have had marvellous colourings and patternings on silk habotai and charmeuse, just gorgeous. Mine went moldy too, but i put them outside to freeze (i’m in Calgary Alberta 🙂 ) and boiled them up anyways.

  6. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    A few weeks back my son gathered some green hulls from our neighbors black walnut tree. The colors I achieved on wool were just beautiful. I told everyone thanks to those skeins of yarn brown is now my new favorite color! I reused them several times but discarded them once they began to break up quite a bit. Now I am wishing I had saved them!

  7. Katya Goubsky
    Katya Goubsky says:

    How nice to find this info. I usually visit south west France in September and come across loads of walnuts. How stable is this dye? Do I need a fixative?

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