The little babe and I are reading a new series, a spin-off of The Little House on the Prairie books. These are about the women in Laura Ingalls' family - her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Works of historical fiction, they are entertaining stories for young girls that provide interesting information about different times and places. We started with the "oldest" books, set in Scotland, and there have been many times when I've said, "Oh, we need to look that up and find out more about it!" Dyeing wool with lichens is one of those things. In the book, a woman who is knowledgeable about plants for herbal medicine and dyeing uses lichens soaked in stale urine to achieve a staying red color. We found out that instead of urine, we can use straight ammonia and that we have the possibility of getting bright pink and purple colors.
So we took to the woods on a lichen hunt, which is actually a bit harder than I thought. In the woods around us, we have more moss than lichen, and a lot of what we did find was flat against rocks, with no chance of being collected (maybe it wasn't the type we wanted anyway - as usual, I did not do the necessary research. I read one website and decided to go for it.) We did not pull lichens off of live trees, but ended up finding dead branches on the ground that had sufficient lichen clusters. The little babe was a great helper, gamely scraping the damp lichens off the chilly rotting logs. We collected about a cup of various types of lichens. When we got home, we did the "C test", to determine if we should soak our lichens in the ammonia or could use the boiling water route. After applying a cotton swab dipped in bleach onto the white underside of the lichen and seeing the color change to red, ammonia it will be. (There is more information about that on this website.)
The lichen has to soak for several weeks; the website actually says a minimum of three months, so I'll let you know how it ends up sometime in Winter. We have high hopes for girly pink and purple, so I can make something warm for this wood sprite of mine. She does love adventures like this, but she has to do it in her own style!