Nature · Spinning

Lichen

Last fall I was fortunate enough to attend a natural dye workshop called “Earth’s Palette: Natural Colors for Fiber.”
It was held at the NM Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces, NM.  One of the presenters was Glenna Dean, who is a natural dyer from northern New Mexico.  She gave a very informative and inspiring lecture on dying with Lichen.

Fast forward to May in Colorado.  I decided to take my girls for a hike just north of Vallecito Reservoir.  There is a trail which supposedly has good specimens of quartz the girls could collect.  My junior rock hounds were excited.  As we started walking the trail the first thing I noticed were clumps of lichen which had been blown out of the trees.  I started picking some up, very soon, I had taken over the bag we brought for rocks and had filled it with two different types of lichen:

Usnea (beard lichen)
Usnea (beard lichen)
Pseudevernia (antler lichen)
Pseudevernia (antler lichen)

For the next month or so they sat in a bag and I could hear them saying please make us into a dye….  However, I have 3 children and a very busy schedule… so there they have sat until today!!!  The unfortunate thing is that dyeing with lichen is a very slow process.  I have two pots on the stove doing the simmer, cool, simmer method which Glenna suggested in her lecture.  According to what she said this could take a day or so.  In the mean time I have fiber scouring in anticipation of the dye bath.  I also created two ammonia fermentation baths per Glenna’s directions.  This process takes over a month to complete. The Usnea Lichen supposedly give color ranging from lavender to a rosy beige.  The Pseudevernia will give colors from plum to brown and tan… I am hoping for the plum.

ammonia fermentation method
ammonia fermentation method
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