Ok, I am done with my traveling and just finished a presentation on natural dyes to the local Master Garderners so now it is back to the studio and the dyepot!  Whiteoakgrandmother has encouraged me with acorns and I also plan to collect foliose lichens that are attached to our oak trees.  I'll be scrapping it off all the branches that fell off last night during a hail storm.  Should still be fresh.

I plan to simmer and dye the first time with these lichens but I do not have the lichen book that folks tell me about and am wondering if there is a different path I should take.  I am also considering soaking them in denatured alcohol for about 3 weeks.  So...anyone walked this path before?  Here's a photo of the foliose...still trying to narrow down the species.


Evelyn (not verified)

I have been soaking a lichen in ammonia for about 2 months (i think) and today have put it into a crockpot with extra water and left it on warm for about an hour.  Then I added a skein of silk - the  colour is amazing!  I left it on warm for a couple of hours and have turned off the heat - will rinse in the morning and see what happens.

whiteoakgrandmother (not verified)

That is gorgeous! Worth the wait!


I am soaking mine in denatured alcohol.  Just got a book to help me explore the process paths.....thanks for sharing!  This is a new foliage to experiment with.


Ok, here is the color I got from the foliose lichen from oak trees soaked in denatured alcohol.  Here's the project link  

You'll notice in the photo I also ran acorns and did some blender indigo.  I'll post more detail later....I am ALSO doing it the proper way and have about 40 grams of lichen soaking in ammonia (grrrrr - it is sudsing ammonia-did not notice the sufactant label until it was TOO late) 

Here's the partial photo


I am running some lichen dyepots with foliose lichen reduced with 1 part ammonia and 2 part water.  It is successful but I've run into a question I can't answer.  The purplish red and deep pink is beautiful, I'll need to rinse it to see the final shades and photograph it.

It is recommended to shift the color with vinegar (acid modifier). However, the lichen has been soaked in a 1:2 ammonia to water solution for about 3 weeks to pull the red color.  So, I have quite a bit of alkaline modifier (the ammonia) already resident in the dyebath.  Even thought I added quite a bit of water to dilute the dyebath to allow me to submerge my wool and silk I still wonder if adding 2 tablespoons of vineger is enough to sway the dyebath to shift with all the ammonia present.

I did add the vinegar but did not get a significant shift.

Am I thinking too much?  Any suggestions?  I've looked around for a lichen group on yahoo but I don't see one.  I'll post photos after I get everything washed.

ps, the foliose lichen is a lichen that grows on the Texas live oak that I can easily gather from broken branches downed by the winds.  I am still trying to identify the lichen, there are many choices and not many photos that narrow it down!


Here are the colors I got from soaking the lichen in 1:2 ammonia/water ratio. Wool on left and then silk to the right.  The brown is from various forms of whole or cracked acorns and aged oak leaves soaked in water!  More later!

Pam Howard (not verified)

Oh Deb your colors are beautiful.  It looks like you have quite a lot of lichens to choose from.  In my part of the world, western North Carolina, what gives me a purple is found at high elevations.  There is anothe type that also gives a purple ( AF method ) but it is not so easily found.

Do you live in Texas?  If so what area?  My daughter will be in Texas at the end of the month and maybe I can get her to collect some for me.  I am always on the lookout to collect samples in other areas because I am teaching Lichen Dyeing at the John C. Campbell next year.

Thanks ---Pam Howard

Evelyn (not verified)

such rich colours.  do you think the ammonia is better than alcohol for the lichens? 


Evelyn, I apologize, I did not see your question!  The ammonia seems to be the more traditional fermentation liquid for lichens based on historical research.  I like the coral color I got from the alcohol.  I am running another jar to see if I can repeat the color.  Take a look at my blog and look at the way different colors I got with ammonia.  It is amazing!

Pam Howard (not verified)


I know that you e-mail me some time back and I would have answered you sooner, but I can't find that message.  I am such a slacker with all of these groups.  It is hard enough trying to keep up with regular e-mails.

Anyway my daughter came and went in Texas and she did not bring me  back any lichens.  I am interested in your using the denatured alcohol. I have never used that, is it worth the effort?


Evelyn (not verified)

Just had a look at the difference between the ammonia soak and denatured alcohol - amazing!  The coral colour is lovely.  I will have a go with the alcohol next time and might even go out and collect some lichen now!


Hi Evelyn, we can be fellow weavo slackers. My 2nd lichen test batch is stop soaking and appears to be turning coral also. I'll post a photo after I run the test. This time I plan to run it on wool.

Evelyn (not verified)

It is difficult to keep up with so many conversations! lol   Will keep an eye out for new photos.


Lightfast test for lichens and other dyes, c-note below for more info...



ok, in message #16 of this thread I uploaded a photo of a lightfast test that I did on my lichens.  They were in a south facing window down here in central Texas for a little over a month.  The top half of the cards were covered by heavy paper and the lower half was exposed to the sun.  I've tried to label the cards clearly on the mordant and other mixes.  The lichens held their color well.  You can see that they held their hue very well even if they did lighten up.  Take a look at the card below which has some madder and tannin based colors on it.  There was very little fading on some of those colors.  The DNA soaked lichen on the lower card followed the same type of fading that the ammonia soaked lichen on the top card.  Enjoy!   Deb Mc

Lichen comparison to others


Test delete - please delete this note


Various lichens

From left to right:  1,2,3 Parmotrema Austrosinense (unwhiskered ruffle lichen) - 1st two not crushed when soaked in ammonia and water, 3rd was crushed and soaked in ammonia and water

4, 5 Teloschistes exilis or Teloschistes chrysophtalmus, still deciding what type lichen (lichens are hard!) orange simmered in water, brownish red soaked in ammonia and water - less effort and time for the orange!


Hello, I am new to natural dying, and in fact I am most interested in what materials are useful. I am a collector/botanist/harvester rather than a dyer. I am interested in supplying dyers with useful, sustainably harvested materials in a form you can use. My harvesting takes place on property that is maintained for wildlife habitat, native and rare plants primarily, and I am supporting that work with non-timber forest products such as:

lichens (have a lot of usnea species, lobaria - the one in my profile pic, and hypogymnia) These may not yield the most outstanding colors (the ones from Texas that were so beautiful are not the ones I have), but I would be interested collaborating with anyone on methods. I have more patience for identification (lichens ARE hard, but I have resources for the the ones in the NW united states).

I also have oak galls, and, periodically acorns, and oak wood chips. These are all derived from habitat enhancement tree-thinning, or collected without depleting the resource.

I am interested in growing dye plants in addition to the ones that grow naturally. The volunteers include scotch broom, St John's Wort, wild carrot (Daucus carrota), blackberry (Armenian) and Tansy - all weeds here, some noxious.

Native plants available: common yarrow and possibly others I don't know about. Cleavers is a lot of work - especially if you want the roots, but I have considered cultivating it. I can also grow Coreopsis, Anthemis, Marigold, Lavender, etc.

My website at http://gophervalleyjrnl.wordpress.com gives more background on the project, and posts on lichens and gall biology, and plants.

Looking forward to finding out more - let me know if any of these materials are appealing to work with.


Welcome to the group!  Your web site is very informative.  I need to go back and study it more closely when I have time to understand the details.  It will be good to have a botanist handy.  This group is not that active but keep us posted on your work.  I have also posted some links to other electronic groups outside of Weavolution here in another post.   Some of the groups have limits of the amount you may advertise so you need to understand the limitis.  Welcome  Deb Mc


ok guys, here's the latest round of lichen dyes, combined with various dye materials...here's my blog location 

Here's a photo, Georgia Yarn Company & Habu are my silk yarn sources..

l wakefield

Hi. I'm brand new to this group. I noted your lichen project. I have come at this from a different perspective- scents and perfumery using essential oils and other extractives. The scent 'oakmoss' is very deep, complex, and wonderful. I did a research project on it (species of usnea), which we have some here in Maine. Extraction techniques weren't clear to me at that time. Shortly thereafter I went with my son to his admissions interview at Arizona State. To my surprise, I encountered a gentleman there who was ( I think) from the Czech Republic. He worked curating their plant collections, and I'd initially wanted to ask him about a species of usnea I'd seen in the Arizona mountains. (turns out it was something like Usnea longissima, also known as old man's beard- definitely a surprising thing to see..) He was able to tell me a bit more about what species they collect in Europe- not too much about extraction. From my efforts, prolonged soaking in alcohol (the plants, not me..), as well as the unexpectedly reminiscent aroma when we put certain logs into the woodstove, I can tell you a couple of thigs about the scent. 1) it develops slowly in the alcohol soaking process, 2) I wouldn't be surprised if at some point the pros may also use a 'smoking' or 'curing' process. That's just a guess. I think the fragrance issue is peripheral to your efforts, but I thought I send along a note anyway. (ps I haven't figured out how to get the pictures to load but I'm hoping to see your dye results eventually).