silk dyeing

i dyed some silk todaywalnut dyed silk 4 - rita summersrecently a friend gave me some unhusked walnuts from her tree

i had mentioned that they would probably make a good source of dye for fabric, particularly silk

so, this morning i put a stainless steel pot on the stove with about 10 walnuts thrown into some cold water

then i wrapped and layered some more walnuts between 3 pieces of silk and added the resulting bundle to the pan with some water

i folded another silk piece roughly lengthwise, and accordian-pleated a second one, before tying them in 2 or 3 knots

i dropped them into the pan along with about half a cup of white vinegar and a bit more water to make sure the bundles were just covered

once the water was boiling, i turned the heat down until it was just simmering and let everything cook gently for about 3 hours

every now and again i turned the bundles over with some tongs

once i was happy with the colour density i took the lid off the pan and set it outside to cool

i then rinsed and untied the fabrics before putting them through the washing machine on a gentle cycle and hanging them out to dry

i was very happy with the results – my first attempt at dyeing fabric with walnuts!

[note – the light ‘splotches’ are sunlight, just in case you were wondering …]

23 thoughts on “silk dyeing

  1. Rita – how permanent is this walnut dyeing? I’ve been curious about it but too lazy to research it. (?) Oh yes. Too busy! πŸ˜‰ But direct experience from the experimenter is honest info. Have you tried washing these fabrics again or have they been exposed to long period of intense light since the dyeing?


    • I think walnut would be pretty permanent – it was even made into ink for writing centuries ago! I always use a mordant, even if it’s just the aluminium in the pan I use, and I usually heat set it with an iron also (protecting the cloth with baking paper). Any fabric, commercial or hand dyed, is best not left in direct sunlight. Hope this extra info helps! =)


      • Thanks Rita. I was interested in your opinion. Certainly true about the effects of SUN. We have black walnut trees so maybe this year I’ll get around to trying it. I’ll use your process as a guide. You make it sound so easy. I have some walnut ink but have been hesitant about using it, too, as I have not found a light fastness rating. I better just go ahead and try both.


  2. Pingback: timelines | gonerustic

  3. Have you read ‘2666’ by Roberto Bolarno? There is an episode in it where a character hangs pages of a book on a line outside… I know you’ve hung up fabric, but it just put me in mind of the book!


  4. Really beautiful! If you haven’t seen the work of Anna Hergert, a Canadian Textile Artist, you should check out her wordpress blog. I think you’d both be inspired by one another.


    • It’s not hard to do! I don’t follow recipes; I just play, and there’s no pressure that way. Glad you like how they turned out (I took the photos with my phone) … =D


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