Lichens and Lichen Dyeing

Nancy Wigley, well known on Cape Cod for her field walks and her interest in lichens, gave a talk last Sunday at the monthly meeting of  the Botany Club of Cape Cod and the Islands (BCCCI).   A booklet entitled “Looking at Lichens” by BCCCI member Nancy Wigley with photographs by Susan W. Carr has been published by the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History and is now available in the Museum’s gift shop. This is a fine introductory booklet on the biology, natural history and identification of many of the lichens commonly found on Cape Cod.  Nancy’s talk was an introduction to Cape Cod Lichens with illustrations to go along with her talk.   Here’s a photo of Nancy taken before the Botany Club field walk to Flume Pond last spring; She’s holding the just published book as well as her earlier book, “Trailside Treasures” which is about Cape Cod trailside plants.



Nancy talked a bit about lichens used for various purposes, including dyeing.  One of the lichens she talked about, rock tripe or Umbilicaria, is a dye lichen that I have used to dye hand spun wool.  I collect small quantities of the lichen from the abundant colonies on huge granite boulders near our cottage in northern VT.  I digest the lichen in gallon jars with a solution of ammonia and water for several months.  At the end of that time the lichen is strained out and the remaining solution containing the dye can be heated with wool yarn for several hours, resulting in beautiful purple to pink shades (the latter as the dye bath is exhausted).  I’ve also used other lichens from northern VT and NH (Usea sp. and Evernia sp.) to dye wool; these lichens can be heated immediately in a pot of water with the yarn to be dyed.  They usually produce shades of light to darker yellow.  Here are photos of the rock tripe growing on granite boulders:

Rock Tripe 2

Rock Tripe

Finally, here are examples of hand spun yarn and knitted garments (again knitted from hand spun) that are dyed with lichens!

Lichen Dyed Woolens-_DSC7771 wek copy



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