creating beautiful journals and books

Black Walnut Ink

It has been too hot here recently for cooking up plants to make ink so now I am experimenting with inks I can make without boiling. Because it’s harvest time in New South Wales, I’m beginning with walnut husks from the walnut tree Juglans nigra and some welcome encouragement from Vicki Woolley, President of the Canberra Craft Bookbinders Guild.

It is the outer husk (green) that is the source of the dye. So it is best to use them when freshly fallen and not when they have dried up on the ground. If not ready to dye it says to put them in the freezer.”

Vicki says:

Using a supply of fresh walnuts from my friend Lily’s farm, I cut the husks off the nuts into an old saucepan, covered them with water and I will leave them covered in the sun for several weeks to break down. The other option is to boil the husks for up to 12 hours. The soaking advice comes as an energy saving step from Jason Logan in his book Make Ink. Jason also suggests this method may add new subtleties to the colour. He also recommends eating the nuts after roasting them in the oven and cracking them open between two cast iron pans!

Vicki continues:

“I dyed paper with leaves inserted in between the sheets and to get a good print, tied firmly so there was contact with the leaves. I also dyed a piece of woollen blanket, handmade felt and linen thread for stitching books. I ended up with lots of different shades of brown and when I wrapped paper around a tin very dark almost black prints nothing like a bit of iron to darken up the dye.

 Tip – It is a fast dye, so wear old clothes or an apron. No mordant required.

Plenty of information on Google about dyeing with walnut hulls. I haven’t tried to get ink suitable for mark marking/calligraphy.”

Thanks Vicki. You are a wonder.

While I am waiting for the walnut husks to ret (or decompose) I can lose myself in Babs Behan’s exciting and enticing new book titled Botanical Inks: Plant-To-Print Dyes, Techniques and Projects (pub Quadrille 2018). Using Babs’ recipe for woodblock printing inks, I can now prepare to make my own black walnut block printing ink.


One comment on “Black Walnut Ink

  1. sandyaureli
    April 15, 2019

    Just saw on YouTube that avocadoes (skins and seeds) dye things pink. Have you tried them for ink? XX S

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