Lichen dyeing

While walking in the park a couple weeks ago, the green of a clump of lichen on the ground caught my attention. I’d never noticed anything like it before. Had it been blown there during the wind? The next day at the Yarn n Yak group I showed the women pictures I’d taken in the hopes that one of them would recognize the type of lichen. Sure enough, Kathleen is an avid dyer who immediately identified it as Lungwort.

A google search of Lungwort brought up only flowers. No lichen in sight. So I queried my FB friends – last year the local spinning guild held a lichen dyeing workshop so someone was bound to know. Several names were given, but it was Oak Rag that lead me to the scientific name of Lobaria pulmonaria Bingo!

The next time my neighbor and I walked through the park we intently looked for more Tree Lungwort and gathered a bag full. It’s funny how we don’t notice something at our feet until we really see it then we realize that we just hadn’t paid attention before.

A few days later I finished spinning the 112 grams of Romeldale/CVM wool for the ACHG rare breed wool spin. It’s a beautiful grey color but I was eager to use the Lungwort for dyeing.
Impatient to dye I plyed the two turtles (one spun with my Phoenix, the other with an Egret) with my Victoria wheel.

Once again it was Yarn n Yak day. I took  a piece of the Tree Lungwort and was delighted that Kathleen brought her Tree Lungwort dyeing samples.  The  darkest  yarn  had soaked in the dye bath for eight hours, the other four were submerged for shorter periods of time.
Wednesday I brought a pot of water to a low simmer then lined the bottom with a layer of lichen, then the yarn on top, followed by another thick layer of lichen and pressed it all down so it was submerged in the hot bath where it rested for the next 8 hours.

The result:
I’m thrilled with the depth of the colors and the fact that there are variations. The dye bath was still very dark brown so the next day I rummaged through my stash and found the very long term project. About a year after I began spinning I embarked on what I call The Walking Sweater Project. Over the years I’ve spun about a pound of BFL with my spindles while walking. When two turtles are spun they’re plyed and stashed until that day when I’ve spun enough for a sweater.
I selected two skeins. The first bathed in the dye pot for 6.5 hours, the second skein was added half way through the day for a three hour duration.
I’m chuffed with the outcome!
There’s still a great deal of dark brown in the water so after I got home from church this afternoon I added yet another Walking Spindle skein. It will stay overnight on the wood stove. I’ll add another oak log and close the damper enough that it should keep going most of the night.

I think I’ve been bitten by the dyeing bug.

Feeling very thankful for the amazing creation that we live in!

And tickled by today’s date of 02-02-2020!


Author: Wanda J

I never dreamed my life would be entangled with fiber and the tools used to produce fibery items. When I bought a boat shuttle used in weaving Ed looked at it, decided to make a better one and the rest is history. For a decade he made shuttles, crochet hooks, knitting needles, until his spindles became so popular that he had to devote his time to making them, as well as Walking Wheels. Free time is spent reading, trying to coax food from the ground, and playing in the creek near our place. I love long walks and camping far from crowds. Playing a fiddle beside a stream or with good friends brings sweetness to my soul. Sundays are set aside for worshiping God with our small, Scotts Mills Friends Meeting where I am the preacher. A challenge that God uses to stretch me beyond what I think is possible!

4 thoughts on “Lichen dyeing”

  1. Wanda. The dyeing results are beautiful! Did you use any mordant in the bath? Have you tried any roving?

  2. So beautiful! I, too, appreciate and am grateful for all of the bounty the earth offers. Did you have to keep the water warming the whole time the yarn soaks? Or do you just let it slowly cool during the dye bath?
    (PS Love the date, too – it was my birthday, even, which made it more fun!)

    1. What a special birthday date! A belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Jocelyn! May this year of 2020 be one that is filled with goodness and joy for you! I kept the pot on a thick trivet on the wood stove that is our main source of heat. After removing the yarn from the just-below-simmering water I rinsed it off in cold water.

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