Dyeing with Horse chestnut husks

Best sign of autumn in London is when my daughter starts coming home from school with conkers in her pockets. I told her that as they dry they omit a chemical that moths apparently dislike (and spriders too) so I love to collect them for my wool cupboads. We were wandering around on the park and as she picked conkers, she asked if I could dye with them. I decided to try the husks for the dyepot. I couldn’t find any information about them as a dye, but I vaguely remember a friend testing chestnut husks for tannins. Horse chestnuts husks have toxins that are dangerous if consumed so just in case, I dyed with them with all the windows open and extractor fan on full.

Freshly picked husks in the dyepot

All the husks were recently fallen and bright green. I simmered them slowly for two hours and left them to sit in the saucepan for two days before straining away the husks. I added in my fibres; some Finn sheep wool, silk and a piece of cotton, all premordanted with alum (cotton with alum acetate). These was simmered for an hour and left to cool in the dye pot.

After an hour of simmering
Fibres added in immediatly started showing colour
Cotton fabric, wool and silk thread all dyed with horse chestnut husks

The results were very suprising and lovely with shades of peach and pink on each of the fibre. I’ve dyed with spruce cones in the past with similar results. It was a generally unpleasant experience with the fibres full of sap! These colours were obtained with less fuss and with an easily accessible dye material. I do wonder where this colour as the insides of the husks remind me of avocados, which also As with all new dye plant experiments I now need to do some light fastness tests with these samples and maybe drag my kid to the park for some more husks.


4 thoughts on “Dyeing with Horse chestnut husks

  1. Hello Emma,
    Just discovered your lovely blog. I’ve been dreaming about natural dyeing for an age but never worked up the confidence. Having four kiddos does perhaps give me less time but I really want to dive in. May I ask how much allum you used for the silk yarn? I’m a weaver so would love yo learn how to dye my own yarn. Many thanks and all the best, Shelley


  2. Hei Emma! Thank you for sharing, this was an awesome find you made – I’ve been thinking of going on an avocado binge to get the seeds, but these would be so much easier to stock up on. And I doubt anyone would complain if I cleaned the Espoo sidewalks a bit 😀 Have you tested the colour fastness yet? I just found some alder cones today that I gathered, inspired by your gallery 🙂


    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I have chestnut husk yarns currently in the window as I like to do light tests when its the sunniest it summer. I will update the blog post when I have some results 🙂


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