Dyeing with walnuts

Last Christmas I saved all the shells from the seasonal walnuts with a view to trying them out for dyeing. However, I’d forgotten about them until I came across the box of shells the other day. So I thought it was high time to have a go. I boiled up the batch of walnut shells for an hour, then left overnight to steep. The following day I strained off the water, boiled it up again and added various pieces of material and threads. I left it all to steep for 24 hours, then rinsed everything and hung it up to dry. Here are the results:Results of dyeing with walnuts

The vegetable-based materials are always less likely to take up natural dye colour well, and this is no exception to that general rule. The silk takes up the colour best, but the wool is also good. I’ve wound the two-ply lambswool onto the black card in the centre; this has been very successful. Right at the bottom is the sock lace (a mixture of merino and silk) which is a beautiful yarn and which has dyed beautifully. I like these muted browns very much. I’m struck by the thought that perhaps I’m, at last,┬ácoming round to brown. The school I went to between ages 11 and 18 had a brown school uniform. Everything was brown: blazer, skirt, socks, hockey socks, even knickers. Even if you’d started your school career liking brown, it was pretty unlikely that you’d still like it by the time you got to stop wearing it. I’ve never been able to countenance wearing it since. Even brown shoes. So much for early conditioning.

Perhaps I’d have got deeper colours if I’d boiled the shells for longer. Or left the materials in the dye for longer. I just don’t know. Does anyone reading this have any experience of using walnut shells for dyeing? Please let me know if you have. Christmas will soon be on us again, with another opportunity to save some shells.

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