Monday, October 1, 2012

Hulling walnuts for dye

I've been thinking about using walnut hulls to dye with because I recently saw a picture of a gorgeous brown gotten from them. I happened to drive by a house the other day which had a walnut tree in the yard close to the street. There were lots of nuts-in-the-hull lying about. I returned later with a bag and knocked on the door to ask permission to collect some of the nuts. No one was home, so I collected only what had fallen into the street.
I took them home and hulled the nuts, readying them for the dye process. I used a paring knife to slice into the hulls:

Slicing into the hulls is easy to do. Note that I'm wearing gloves. The hulls are juicy and full of tannins which will dry out your skin and turn it yellow/brown. The gloves are leather, but even so, some of the fingertips became soaked with juice and the fingertips underneath are now stained (I hope it doesn't last too long, but it looks very durable, even after showering):

Most of the hull sections could merely be pulled off without much effort at all. Occasionally I had to coax some off with the knife:

Here are a bunch of hulled nuts. If I wanted to eat them, I'd let them dry out until I could brush the remaining hull stuff off, and then I'd have walnuts in the shell. Instead, I spread these around my yard in strategic locations, hoping that squirrels will find them:

Here are some of the hulls in a bag:

After hulling all of the nuts, I had four pounds of hulls. I think this will dye about three ounces of fiber or so. I've placed the hulls in a large bucket, covered them with water until they float, and put a loose lid over it. These will sit for a while. One of my books says to let it all sit for 24 hours. Another book says to let it sit for two to three weeks, giving the hulls time to ferment in order to deepen the color. I'll see how it goes, but I'm thinking more like a one-to-two-week period.

I'll post more when I do the actual dyeing.

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