Husking Black Walnuts to Make an Organic Brown Dye for a Brain Tanned Leather Bag

Husking Black Walnuts for Organic Brown DyeRobin was husking this second batch of blackened walnut hulls from their nutshells fairly quickly with a knife. The outer hulls will be simmered for a deep brown dye. This organic black walnut dye will be used on a  special brain tanned leather bag in the works. The first batch of walnuts, if you’re wondering, was naturally husked by red squirrels. The squirrels were enthusiastic.

Popular Methods for Husking Black Walnuts

I thought it would be harder! The most popular methods for husking large batches of black walnuts are:

  • Fill your driveway with walnuts and run them over with your vehicle for weeks 
  • Build a walnut husking machine – usually a cement mixer with water and hull-busting rocks in the mix (the hulls and water become a sludge)

I’m relieved this is a simple project. Fortunately, getting the meat out of their unyielding shells is not a requirement for dye. 

Husking Black Walnuts for Organic Brown Dye

Black Walnut Warnings

A precaution: Some people may get contact dermatitis from handling the hulls, especially with prolonged exposure. To the least, black walnut hulls will stain your hands for weeks, and whatever else you get it on will be stained.

It’s advisable to wear non-disposable, chemical resistant gloves or heavy-duty latex gloves as a precaution. 

Another warning that comes with husking black walnuts is to be careful how you dispose of the hulls/sludge. It’s toxic to plants and animals.

Making Black Walnut Dye

Robin is now simmering the hulls over a fire pit until the desired color is reached. Crock pots (if you’re okay with your crock getting stained) are also handy for this. 1 Tsp of iron or vinegar per cup will darken the dye. But a mordant is not required due to high tannin content. 

Black Walnut Dye Test