Homemade Butternut Dye

Though the Confederate uniform was gray and Southern soldiers were called “graybacks,” most of them wore clothes dyed tan (called “butternut”) because this dye could be made cheaply from acorns or walnuts.

Adult Supervision Is Recommended

What you need

  • Nutcracker
  • 36 walnuts in their shells
  • Plastic bag (you can use an old bread bag)
  • Cutting board
  • Hammer
  • Pot
  • 8 cups of water
  • Stove
  • Strainer
  • Large Bowl
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • Wooden spoon
  • White T-shirt or an old white shirt

Use the nutcracker to crack the walnuts and then remove the nutmeats (save for another use or eat as you work). Place the walnut shells in the plastic bag and knot the end. Working on top of the cutting board, use the hamer to crush the shells into small pieces. Remove the shells from the bag and place them in the pot with the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for one hour. Turn off the heat and let cool on the stove-top for one hour. Pour the dye through the strainer into the bowl, then pour the liquid back into the pot. Heat it up again, then add the vinegar. Remove from the heat and, using a wooden spoon, stir the shirt into the dye. Let it soak for one hour. Rinse the shirt under cold water, wring it out, and hang it up to dry.

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