Dyeing with lichen differs from the ”normal way” of plant dyeing. It’s kind of like making a trifle. I have tried dyeing with lichen before, but I used the kind you find in trees and I found that the results where pale and more greenish. Using lichen from the rocks is a different story, I really loved the colour. Now I’m must say that I’m really bad at identifying different kind of lichen. I just collected “a lichen cocktail” from all the different kinds of lichen I could find. I think in dyeing the most commonly used lichen is called kiventierra in Finnish. If anyone can tell me how these following lichen are called, either in Finnish or English, I would be very interested to know!
Useful tip for collecting lichen from rocks (or from trees): It’s best to do it on wet weather, preferably when it has just rained. Dry lichen does not want to let go of the rock. You can also create fake rain by using spray bottle and that will make collecting easier.
As I said the dyeing technique is like making a trifle. Take a pot and make the first layer with lichen then add a layer of yarn, then lichen and so on. In the end the yarn should be completely covered in lichen and in direct contact with it. Then add enough water so that the water almost covers the top layer.
I brought the water to a boil and after that lowered the temperature. You don’t want to keep temperature too hot because the wool yarn might get damaged. I dyed the yarn for two hours. I’m not going to lie – the smell was interesting and I was happy I was working outside, but the result was beautiful. The difficult part is to clean up all the rubbish from the yarn. The last part is to rinse the yarn in cold water.
As I said the result was a beautiful reddish brown colour. In fact I got so excited about my first try that I collected some more lichen and used a bit bigger 10 litre pot.
On the left you can see the colour I got from my second try. I saved the colour liquid from that batch and coloured the yarn on the right as normal by boiling the yarn in the colour liquid for one hour. The yarns I used here where wool yarns I had pre mordanted with alum. You can read my post about mordanting here.