On the morning before Cathy O’Brien from the Gwynedd Guild of WSD came to talk to us about lichen dyeing, there was some bantering about the pronunciation of the word: was it ‘litchen’ or ‘like-en’. No consensus was reached it has to be said, both sides stuck to their guns!
We had been looking forward to her visit and were not disappointed.
First we were given a brief historical perspective of dyeing including the Romans and the manufacturing of the very secretive Scottish ‘cudbear’, plus the term ‘crottle’ which is a Gaelic name for lichens. Here is a link if you wish for more info about cudbear.
She led us through her own journey in researching lichens and dyeing after a visit to Tenerife where she learned of the role of that island in exporting lichens for use in dyeing. One of the ones that grows there like a weed is roccella . Unfortunately for us it doesn’t grow here in the UK (unless you know better!)
Lots of examples were on display, both fresh and dried and Cathy talked us through recognition, collecting and drying before explaining the different methods of extracting the dye: boiling method, ammonia method, together with photo-oxidising dyes. This was accompanied by photos, notes and examples of yarn she had dyed.
Cathy is still on her journey experimenting with lichen dyeing but was happy to let us join in and share her knowledge. If anyone decides to have a go at this a reference book and magnifying glass are recommended as some lichens look very much alike and others are protected.
You can find out more here
Thanks to Cathy for an inspiring talk!
Follow us on Facebook here