jude hill spirit cloth

As it is

There is a sneaky kind of chaos that breeds in worry.

The kind of clutter that comes with holding on to too many Yesterdays. And Tomorrows. I was thinking it might become a kind of hoarding.

Indigo dipped scrap

February's Mandala

Yesterday's black walnuts do not worry, they let go and move on.

On the porch this morning, I guess frozen for a good while, gloriously brewing in their own demise. And out there somewhere, continuing. I just pick them up off the ground in the fall and cover them with water. Sometimes just use the remnant of another dye po(e)t.  I add a bit of vinegar now and then to discourage mold.  Leave them, covered. All winter. I learned about black walnut dyeing in Girl Scouts.  Way before the natural dyeing craze.  Black Walnuts have a long history. Way older than me.

These smell so good as they break down, and especially when heated for dyeing.  There is an unidentifiable spicy odor. Maybe I just love them.

I am trying to clean up the categories for blog posts scattered through this site over the past couple of years, don't worry about it, it will just be a bit more focused, useful, soon. Eventually.


  1. Well, if the black walnuts are the ones that the squirrels forget to unplant and grow (and grow fast!) in my vegetable garden, flower beds, flower pots and just about everywhere else, we have them here in Salem, but I have never seen a walnut except those I accidently dig out, hulless, usually sprouting. I guess our squirrels are very efficient at gathering and burying them despite not at remembering to retrieve them all.
    We had a single tree in our backyard when I was growing up (there were probably more in other peoples yards), and they were always there in season, fresh off the tree. I didn’t know or care about dyeing cloth back then. The boys liked to throw them (usually at each other) and I remember sometimes making a “fake tan” with them. I think I tried to make ink, too. Mom scolded us all for getting stained. She also cut that tree down frequently. It didn’t seem to bother the tree. It always grew back.

  2. we had huge walnut trees in Williamsburg … from which the walnuts fell and dented the hell out of our cars … when we moved to Texas and eventually bought new vehicles, the dealers dropped the trade in value due to “hail damage” … “nope, walnuts” we said … “same difference” they replied

    I loved the interiors of those walnuts … like owl faces or hearts … still have some that I saved somewhere around here … I hope I can remember to gather some when we return to Virginia for Logan’s high school graduation in June

  3. Dakotah

    I didn’t gather walnuts last fall and feel sad I didn’t. I usually enjoy it but remember feeling under the weather. I still have bags of dried hulls though and some ink. Harvesting even one season can yield lots of dye material.
    I also wish I had picked some for eating. I usually enjoy them. Wah 😩

  4. deemallon

    We have two black walnut trees. I can understand some ambivalence towards them, not in account of their mess but on account of how many shrubs and perennials will not grow under them.

    This year when K pulled down his ski boots from the garage attic (when we still thought we were going to the Rockies for a family trip), both boots were full of nuts. Quite the surprise. Industrious squirrels!

  5. Miriam in KS

    When I was growing up, we had a black walnut tree near where we chose to park our cars, when we weren’t parking on other parts of the property. We utilized brick from said property to lay a parking spot of sorts under the tree. When the walnuts fell off the tree, we drove on them to loosen the husks so we could crack the walnuts and eat them. So the bricks and tires were stained.
    Black Walnuts were mother’s favorite type of walnut.
    I’m sad we didn’t experiment with making a dye pot out of the hulls.

  6. Mary Jo Fisher

    I love following the conversation here. Inspired to look more deeply into walnut dyeing this next year.
    I’m not a very social person, and the last few years haven’t done me any favors. I’m so grateful for thoughtful conversations—I thirst for them! Thank you, Jude, and thank you, community!

  7. I think that I unhealthily hoard hope for impossible things to change, causing disappointment over and over. I love the ancient black walnut across the street, it’s beautiful and usually generous. The neighbors underneath it are too, gathering the fallen nuts around their yard and leaving them on my porch each fall.

  8. Marilee

    Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, my mother loved black walnuts. When they moved to California in the 1930s they could not find them in any stores. It was almost a national tragedy, but someone must have sent her some because every now and then she made a spice cake with black walnuts in the frosting. One of my favorites. They are still hard to find in the west but thank goodness for Amazon. Regular English walnuts are a poor substitute.

  9. jeri

    I can let go of yesterdays but it’s the tomorrows that are getting to me currently. Interesting to call it a form of hoarding… I can relate. All the worries piling up until there’s no room for joy. When you think of it this way it really gives you pause for thought.
    I can’t wait for April 15th, I spend the summer at my campground where there’s lots of trees and time for dyeing!

  10. Jana

    Girl Scouts … 12 years … cultivated ingenuity, integrity, love of being in nature … together. My heart gives thanks each morning for your posts.

  11. Walnuts and weather and clearing clutter of all sorts…good stuff here this morning Jude. I’ve thought about cleaning up the tags on my blog, there’s too many, but have yet to spend that kind of time. Perhaps just choosing which tags to keep would be a start. 🙂 Stay warm.

  12. Velma Bolyard

    i love cooking black walnuts. we dye similarly–i had a years (over 10 less than 25) old pot of black walnut dye that i kept adding to and using, must have been heated up dozens of times. and i lust love this: “gloriously brewing in their own demise”. i’d like to be that

  13. Amy

    Out of all my fabric, the pieces dyed with black walnuts are by far my favorites. I couldn’t believe how easy it is to dye with them.

  14. Jen

    I am struggling with that kind of “clutter” as well, Jude. Spending time in Nature is what calms the chaos…but I don’t get any stitching done that way, ha!

    • jude

      I haven’t been getting to it either, making space in my mind and enjoying a break from the cold, but the snow will return in a big way tonight, a few indoor days to enjoy the place I have managed to build in my head.

  15. Kirsten

    I just pulled some cloths from a jar of black walnut dye this morning!
    I’m dumping this jar as it has mold in it but now know how to avoid that. Thank you for the tip of vinegar!
    Here in KS we have lots of black walnut trees so I had gathered fresh ones and put them in the freezer during the fall. Sometimes if I think I have too many I will pull some out, let them defrost and leave them for the squirrels. They certainly know how to collect them here leaving them in the street for cars to do the cracking.
    My Girl Scout troop didn’t do natural dyeing but we did a lot of camping. I even remember we made caramel apples on one trip.

    • jude

      My girl scout leader was from Idaho. She was just great and real. We did a lot of primitive camping. I think it shaped me, those trips in the forest. And her great sense of humor, in spite of, what I learned in later years, an abusive husband.

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