Unexpected Harvest

October 20, 2008

I was traveling today to pick up some raw materials for a Green Halloween celebration.  I stopped into the Dharma Trading Co. in downtown San Rafael, to pick up some un-dyed silk.  While in their small parking lot, surrounded by empty cardboard boxes, trash, and broken concrete, I spied seven crows, dancing around the remains of a brown walnut husk.  Above this crow dance, in the corner of the degraded concrete lot, was a black walnut tree poking through the cement.  It had dropped hundreds of the biggest black walnuts I’ve ever seen.  No exaggeration.  I’ve been scouring my neighborhood for months picking up bits and pieces of husk- crumbs left from the squirrels and crows. Only a fraction of what I needed to create those deep browns.  Now I have enough to dye several pounds of wool.


Nature always puts the antidote in the most needed and obvious places.  The store parking lot where this tree has made its home, is the exact location where hundreds of pounds of synthetic petroleum based dyes are sold, just feet from the base of this grand harvest.  Black Walnut husks create the strongest, most colorfast chestnut browns.  No need for petroleum, or its toxic distillation and extraction process.

Black Walnut skeins are sitting at the base of pile, they are soft brown.  Mixed together with Coyote Brush yellow, orange toyon, and green coffeeberry.

Black Walnut Recipe:  (there are many recipes, this is only one method)

2 1/2 Gallons of Fresh Black Walnuts with Green Husk on.

15 oz. wool (mordanted)  

Water to cover Walnuts

Boil Walnuts with husks on for two hours, soak overnight.  Add water if needed to give enough room for the yarn.  Add pre-soaked yarn. Simmer two hours, let sit for two days.  Simmer another hour.  Cool a few hours. Rinse.  Dry in the shade.

2 Responses to “Unexpected Harvest”

  1. Robyn Says:

    Gorgeous photos in this post! At the moment I’m experimenting with walnut ink dyed wood.

  2. siri Says:

    how utterly fabulous that the d.t. co’s parking lot is filled with black walnuts. perfection!

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