Cudbear refers to a reddish-purple dye derived from certain lichens, primarily of the genus Roccella. It is used for dyeing fabrics, giving them a distinct purple hue. The term can also be used to describe the lichen itself.
Cudbear has a long history and was widely used as a natural dye during the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. The lichens from which it is derived are found in various locations, including the Canary Islands and Ceylon. It is specifically extracted from the thallus of the lichen, which consists of fungal hyphae interwoven with the algae or cyanobacteria.
To obtain cudbear, the lichen is typically dried, crushed, and then fermented in ammonia or urine. This process causes the color components within the lichen to be released and dissolved. The resulting liquid is then evaporated to form a paste-like substance, which can be further processed into a powder.
Cudbear has a high affinity for fabric, making it an effective natural dye. It produces a range of purple shades, from light lilac to deep violet, and its colorfastness depends on the particular fabric and the dyeing process used. Although cudbear saw a decline in usage with the advent of synthetic dyes, it is still appreciated by some artisans and natural dye enthusiasts for its unique and traditional properties.
In summary, cudbear refers to a reddish-purple dye obtained from specific lichens, primarily Roccella species. It has been utilized since the 17th century as a natural dye for fabrics and can produce various shades of purple.
The word "cudbear" has its origins in Old Norse and Middle English. It comes from the Old Norse word "kūdr", which means "orchil" or "lichen". This Old Norse term was later adapted into Middle English as "cudwer" or "kodware". Over time, the word evolved into "cudbear", which refers to a purple dye extracted from certain lichens.