Monday, September 26, 2011

Knitting! Unusual Yarns

On an Autumn hike with my husband in the woods, I came across a fallen piece of Speckled Horsehair lichen and thought, "Gee, that looks like I could spin it!" I was giddy with all the possibilities of the future uses for lichen yarn. "Imagine a living sweater of the stuff, that just keeps growing!! I wonder if I am the only person who has ever thought of this?!" (Turns out I'm not. Many First Nations here used this lichen for clothing, footwear, and masks. I guess there are no new ideas under the sun.) So, using my trekking poles, I harvested a bit more and then made my husband carry it back in his backpack. Do you know the type of lichen I'm talking about? We used to call it Witch's Hair when we were kids, but this is actually a different species and darker in colour.
Anyways, I (read: he) brought the stuff back and I sorted through it, picking out bugs and pine needles and getting it ready to spin. It is pretty thick stuff to spin. I should have used a heavier drop spindle, but that's all I had, so too bad! It held the twist pretty well and I knit with it straight off the spindle. I just wanted to see what it would be like to knit with lichen. Come on, you know you are curious too! I knit up a little swatch, and it was pretty decent stuff, although it will snap if you are too forceful with it (which is why there is a hole in this swatch). I wonder what I will need to do to keep it alive? Or what it will be like when it dries out? Either way, I don't see a bright future for the stuff in sweater making. It's horribly scratchy. And when I introduced the idea of a living sweater to my mother, she responded, "Ew!"
Oh well. It was a fun experiment.

Speckled Horsehair Lichen in its "raw" form:
The knitted swatch:

I wonder if there is a future for lichen pot-scrubbers?


  1. AWESOME!!!! I love it! what a brillian idea- was it fairly easy to knit with? you could mist it to keep it alive (spray bottle with water?) I am picturing living tapestries....

  2. It was ok to knit with. A little stiff. Knitted live tapestries would be so COOL! And I even found a different lichen in a lighter green. You could really get some contrast in there... Oh boy, now I am inspired to do another project...


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