textiles · exploration · misadventure

Lichen More


closeups on olive and brown lungwort lichensDyeing with lichens was delightful.

I think these are Lungwort species, gathered parsimoniously from my friend’s apple trees in Humboldt county.

Yarns were mordanted for three days, then left to cure for a few more. In the meantime, I cut up this lichen and boiled it for an hour to release its dyes.

After three days in the dye bath the yarns were very light, so I heated them in hopes of increasing saturation. Each mordanted sample stayed in its own glass jar, which I placed in a double boiler surrounded by water, gently simmered for an hour, then left outside to cool and steep a day or two.

Closeups on tiny, lichen-dyed samples of wool and cotton. Colors range from ecru, to honey, bronze, and maple.

Left: alum and brass mordants
Center: copper, iron, gelatin and soy mordants
Right: glimpse of gelatin at top, then soy and urine mordants

The fabrics aren’t much to speak of, but I absolutely adore the wool results. They make me pant and drool with lust. They range from a delicate ecru, to shades of honey, maple, and bronze. It’s hard to tell in these photos, but the color is deep and complex. The yarns practically glow. I am as happy with these as I am with my final bougainvillea yarns.

Lined journal with seven small yarn and fabric samples ranging from ecru, to honey, bronze, and maple.

From top to bottom, mordants are alum, brass, copper, iron, gelatin, soy, and… pee.

I used only tiny samples, so I have enough lichens left to dye a decent amount of yarn. I’m going to spin some fine silk and wool, purpose-made for the job.

I think these lichen dyes would be glorious combined with rust-dyed fabric, but I’m currently mordanting on a more stringent program I read about here, in hopes of getting a permanent, vibrant bougainvillea on cotton. It’ll take about ten days. I’ll let you know what happens!

8 thoughts on “Lichen More

  1. I’ve never heard of using lichen to dye yarn before, but seeing your results I may have to look into it! Those colors are so gorgeous and earthy.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’d never heard of harvesting lichen either. I do know that many species are endangered.
    Another learning lesson. Beautiful photos.

    Liked by 1 person

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