Walnut Shell Dye Activity

3.8 based on 5 ratings
Updated on Jun 25, 2013

There's no need to buy harsh, expensive dyes for your family's crafts! This enjoyable activity teaches you and you child to make an all-natural, deep, yellow-brown dye, using just walnut shells and water. Combine this project with your child's studies on pioneers or Native Americans, and she'll be able to do some hands-on learning in the style of the times she's exploring. This remarkable dye has been used throughout history—and almost everywhere walnuts grow—to complement various textiles, art, and woodworking projects.

What You Need:

  • 2–3 cups walnut shells
  • 4 cups of water
  • Stainless steel pot
  • Stove
  • Strainer
  • Disposable container for holding the dye
  • Material for dyeing

What You Do:

  1. Help your child place the walnut shells and water in a stainless steel pot. Let them soak for at least twelve hours.
  2. Boil the shells for about two hours. Have your child cover the pot, and check on it often, to make sure the water doesn't boil away.
  3. When the liquid turns a deep, almost opaque brown, it's ready to be used as dye! Help him pour it into a disposable container, straining the walnut shells out in the process. Be careful during this step, or you may end up dyeing something you don’t actually intend to stain!
  4. Finally, encourage him to soak a material in the dye. If you don’t have a specific project planned for your dye, cotton balls are an easy, disposable material to use. But the dye will color virtually anything. You can use it on unstained wood, homemade clothing, or even hair!


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