Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Yarn Dyeing with Lichen - Dyeing Handspun with Cladonia Mitis

Having read numerous 'how-tos' on the process of natural yarn dyeing utilising lichen, I felt the urge to experiment with a local variety of lichen and a small swatch sample of handspun.

Lichen on Apple Tree (West Kent, UK) 

Before investigating natural dyes, I was aware of the existence of lichen and their particular properties as fungi. Yet, I had no idea of the longstanding history of fabric dyeing with these mysterious organisms. And even though lichen are omnipresent in everyday life, I hardly took any notice of them. I subsequently had my first conscious encounter with a particularly impressive variety in an old orchard in West Kent (UK) back in August 2014. More on  this is available here. Shortly thereafter I came across several articles and selected blogs on lichen dyes and was naturally cursing myself for not having taken a small sample on the day to experiment.


Lichen on Apple Tree, West Kent (UK)

During a recent trip across Kent - this time to the Kent / Sussex border - I once again came up close and personal with another variety of lichen. This time I not only collected a very small sample (just enough to dye a swatch of homespun), I was also able to identify the variety: Cladonia Mitis. 

What follows is a brief description of my lichen dye experiment with 


You will require: 



  • 1 small swatch sample of undyed homespun yarn 12cm x 6cm (as pictured below)
  • 1 small sample of lichen (as pictured below)
  • 1 jam jar (to soak the lichen for one to two nights prior to simmering it together with the handspun swatch sample)
  • 1 saucepan

Homespun Swatch Sample

Cladonia Mitis


 Dyeing Process: Boil Water Method 

Start by soaking the lichen in the closed jam jar for up to two nights. Add the soaked lichen together with the water and the swatch sample to the saucepan and proceed to simmer for an hour, adding water as you go along to ensure that the liquid doesn't evaporate. Once completed, leave the swatch sample soaking in the liquid overnight. 



Lichen Soaking 



The colour I achieved with the help of Cladonia Mitis is a yellowish brown, which is traditionally associated with lichen dyes. The vibrancy of the colour can be enhanced by prolonging the time the yarn is soaked in the liquid or by increasing the amount of lichen used. 



Swatch Sample after Dyeing (Boil Water Method)



Swatch Sample after dyeing with Cladonia Mitis Lichen Sample

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