The Lichen Sweater

That’s what I’m calling it, because a number of the yarns that I used to assemble and knit this sweater are dyed with lichens.  The background pale green that ties the sweater together was dyed with lichens collected in Averill, VT and the striking gold yarn at the top of the sweater was dyed with lichens collected around Dan Hole Pond in the Ossipee Mountains of NH.  That that makes the sweater extra special.  It was also a wonderful way to use up small amounts of handspun yarn, too special to throw away, and not enough by themselves for a project.  I wasn’t sure as I knitted along whether the colored stripes were going to be coordinated enough to achieve a sweater that looked right, but I’m happy with the result.

Striped sweater joining

Circular sweater ready for joining at the underarms.

Striped Sweater finished

Completed sweater


Using up Odds and Ends

My idea for a striped sweater is taking shape.  And the biggest plus is that I’m using up small amounts of left over handspun yarn that is just too nice to throw away (but not enough for a big project).  Of course, small amounts get used up when I knit hats, but this project is a way to feature some lovely leftovers!

Several of the yarns in the sweater are lichen dyed, so I wanted to do something special with them.  I’m almost  to the join point for the yoke on this circular sweater.  I will knit the arms in the light green (lichen dyed) background color with just a couple of colored bands at the wrist.  Then for the yoke I will continue the various colored bands.  It’s fun seeing how these colors play off of each other in the sweater.

Striped Sweater

                                                             Body of the circular sweater


Behind the Barn at Bourne Farm

Bourne Farm painting completed this week. I feature it here because of all the lichens covering the rocks. Most of these are good dye lichens.

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


Baby Surprise Jacket finished!

I love Elizabeth Zimmermann patterns.  They always stretch your understanding of how increases, decreases, short rows and other techniques create texture from your knitting.    The pattern creates a piece of knitting that looks nothing like a sweater until the end when, voila, you fold it into a beautiful baby sweater.

This pattern took about 4 ounces of my finely spun wool/mohair mix that was dyed using lichens collected along Cottage Road in Averill.  A true Vermont sweater from beginning to end!

Baby Surprise 2

First half of the sweater

Baby Surprise 3

Complete sweater at the end of knitting

Baby Surprise 4

Folded into the sweater: the only seam is along the shoulders and arms

Baby Surprise 5

Finished sweater. There are buttonholes on both sides, so you can sew on the buttons once you know the gender of the baby!



Basketry Week II

It was a rainy/snowy night, but everyone turned out for the second basketry session.  Turning the bottom up to the sides was a challenge for all of us new to making baskets, but with our instructor’s help everyone made great progress on the sides of the basket.  I finished most of the sides (This is an 11″ tall basket); we were sent home with the basket and some extra spline to finish the sides at home and “pack down” the weaving after it dried.  I have one or two rows to do and then I will finish with a tapered piece that goes 1/2 way around the basket.  Next time (we had to add a third session) we will finish the top and add the handles.  This is going to be a very useful basket!  I can’t wait to post the finished basket in a few weeks.

BasketII-1 BasketII-2

I’m also working on some knitting for a new grandchild!  I completed a white baby bonnet and am working on EZ’s Baby Surprise Jacket, made with wool I spun at Averill and dyed with lichens from the Averill woods.  A very special knitting project!

Bonnet 1

Knitted Bonnet before it was sewn together

Baby Surprise1

Beginning of the “Baby Surprise Jacket”.