I love the effects of walnut dye on paper and have used it often as a background in my mixed-media works. This past week I decided to try making my own dye.
A little urban foraging with the dogs in the neighborhood yielded what I figured I would need to make a smallish batch of dye - about 12 freshly-fallen green-husked black walnuts. There are several black walnut trees in my neighborhood so the nuts are not hard to find. The real trick was finding ones the squirrels haven't gotten to first.
I poked around on the internet a bit and found some basic tips and guidance. Mostly the various sources advised wearing gloves while handling the nuts. I did not heed this advice and I suffered no unbearable consequences, only slightly tinted brown fingers. But, I would be remiss to not at least mention the brown fingers. Consider yourself warned.
I used a rock on a stump in the garden to crack the husks. It is the outer green husk that produces the rich brown dyes. I divided the bits of husk into two quart sized canning jars filled with warm water and put them out to steep on the front porch. The Internet suggests they should brew for 10 - 14 days. I check them each day-shaking the jars, holding them up to light, and smelling the contents. I'm not sure what I'm checking for, but I'm pretty sure there will be signs should something go awry.
My intent is to use the dye on various fibers for a new series of collages I'm working on. I will post more on the progress as the experiment continues...