Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lichens for dyeing

I am fascinated by tree and rock lichens and the patterns and texture they form on branches and boulders. It is interesting that almost all kinds of lichen can be used for colouring in the dye process and different kinds produce different colours ranging from pale green to yellow, tan, reddish brown and even pink. Many can be used without a mordant to set the colour but others require a process of fermentation to release their colour. I am not a "crafty" person so I have no experience of dyeing cloth or spinning and weaving with wool but the history of plant dyes makes for interesting reading. A little gem of a book on the subject, giving a world history on plant dyeing from such far flung places such as Morocco, Norway, Japan, was published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, New York many years ago but it may be still available. Among the contributors is one Padraic O'Maille , a tailor of Galway, Eire whose clients wear tweeds dyed with lichens.

Volume 20 No 3 Special edition
published by Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

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