At Fiber Camp in Maine last summer, my friend Rachel led a workshop on natural dyeing. We dyed yarn with indigo and cochineal, and also foraged for colors in the fields and forest around the retreat center. Blooming goldenrod gave us a wonderful deep yellow, queen anne’s lace a light brown, and lichen we scraped off the fence a wonderful pale greeny brown. Lichen also makes the yarn wonderfully soft and great smelling – as Rachel said, “Like a woodsy man!

Ever since, I’ve been having recurring, vivid dreams about magical lichens – giant green puffballs with stickers like sweetgum pods, or mottled like the stinky, brain-shaped horse-apples of an osage orange tree, and powerful as snargaluff pods.


It’s lichen season here in Portland, (though as my friend Victoria says, it’s lichen season all year round here) and the stuff is everywhere. Every time I get home from a walk I find my jacket pockets stuffed with green fluff. Here’s yesterday’s haul, foraged on a rare rainbow-weather day after a sodden grey week. When I’ve gathered enough dyestuffs I’ll cook up some colors in  my kitchen. And in the background – pomegranate skins! You’d guess pink, but they turn things yellow.

And also, what the heck are these?


I found them on a fallen evergreen branch in my ‘hood – is that why they call them pine cones?



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