I’m fortunate that I know of several patches of lobster mushrooms just minutes from our back door, and I also have friends who are happy to collect them for me.
I pare off the orange bits and eat the white flesh if it’s still fresh. However, I found that the older lobsters that were already going mushy had even more red in their parings. All the peeled bits went into a pan that was set next to our woodstove, adding a most fishy aroma to our house for as long as it took for them to dry. Could this be why they’re called lobster mushrooms?
Once I had enough parings (one and a half 750-ml yogurt containers), it was time to put them into the dyepot. To keep the bits from getting into my fibre, I put them into sections of old pantyhose (does anyone wear these anymore?), tied the ends up, and boiled them for a short while. It doesn’t take long for the colour to appear.
Here’s a silk scarf (premordanted with alum) that came out of this dyepot – a brilliant peachy orange colour.
And here’s the same scarf after I had some pH fun with it: I set up two squirter bottles, one with a vinegar solution at pH3, the other with a washing soda solution at pH11. Then I spritzed the ends of the scarf. The vinegar enhanced the orange, while the washing soda brought out the purple in the colour.
I did the same with some merino roving (also premordanted with alum). The vinegar bucket is on the left; the washing soda on the right.
Here are the colours that resulted from this glorious dyepot. I really liked the effect of the washing soda afterbath, so I dipped an entire piece of roving (top left) into that bucket.
This is a skein I’d premordanted with iron, and I dipped each end in the pH buckets.
An interesting discovery: I submerged a silk scarf in the washing soda bucket with the intention of “decorating” it with some vinegar spritzes. My first attempt at spritzing was less than desirable, so with a what-do-I-have-to-lose gesture, I threw the scarf back into the washing soda bucket. Surprise! It turned purple again! It took me three successive tries before I finally achieved some results I was happy with.