Old Gold

One Phaeolus dyepot
One Phaeolus dyepot

I realize now just how blessed I’ve been in recent years to have such an abundant supply of Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) in my backyard forest. This year, for a number of reasons, I was unable to process much of this wonderful fungus when it was fresh; I had to leave most of it to dry, and I’m now working my way through it.

My first discovery has been that the colour isn’t as bright with the dried mushrooms as when they’re fresh, although this dyepot would contradict that finding. This is one of the more brilliant golds I’ve ever had, and I know there was one smaller Phaeolus in the pot that had been picked fresh. It was still coming out of its button stage, and the inner flesh, when I cut it into chunks, showed some promising colour. However—and this is where I’ve been blessed, or some would say spoiled—one dyepot was all I got. The silk scarf on the right also went into this bath, scrunched down and tied around a wine bottle, and the colour barely registered.

Also, I’m having to use more mushrooms per dyepot, four or five dried mushrooms versus one or two fresh. I tried boiling up this dyepot again, with just the mushrooms and no fibre in the pot, to see if I could squeeze out a bit more gold, but to no avail—my samples came out a tired tan.

Phaeolus green
Phaeolus green

But never mind—while moving buckets and things up to my studio, I came across this batt of Corriedale, which did go through a fresh Phaeolus dyepot last fall and came out a beautiful, deep green. It had been mordanted with iron, and after several rinsings to remove any traces of the mordant, I left it in a bucket of water and promptly forgot about it. What a bonus find! I think this will card up nicely with some of the less striking golds and browns, and I should have a nice tweedy yarn in the end.

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5 thoughts on “Old Gold”

  1. great blog, thank you!
    i just found a beautiful polypore but have never used it for dyeing. do you boil in plain water? do you ever store the colored water for dyeing later?

    1. Is this a dyer’s polypore you’ve found? The process is the same for any polypore, but that’s the one with the strong colour. You’ll want to break it up into pieces, soak it overnight (with enough water to just cover the pieces), then bring it slowly to a simmer. I usually put in a few strands of mordanted yarn when I’m doing this, as I soon see if there’s any color potential. After it’s simmered for about an hour, you can strain the liquid off and use it as a dyebath, or you can leave the mushrooms in and put the fibre on top. In this case, I like to put the fibre in a fine mesh lingerie bag, to keep the bits and pieces from getting into it. Dyer’s polypore gives interesting results with copper and iron mordants, too. I’ve kept the liquid to use later and it still seems to work fine, although you might lose some of the brightness. This is also a good mushroom to try solar dyeing with. But I speak as one who has so many dyer’s polypores every year that I have trouble using them all up – if you have just the one, it’s going to be very specail for you. Good luck, and I’d love to see your results!

      1. Thank you for your response. I was told it was dyer’s polypore, but I’m not sure. The great thing about being away from home is having access to different dyestuffs, but I neglected to bring fiber to use with my happy finds. I could manage to boil it now but wouldn’t be able to test with mordanted fiber until December. Do you have suggestions? Gratitude

      2. In an ideal world you could boil half of it now and keep the liquid for later, and boil the other half later, to compare the difference. But if you just have the one polypore, that could be difficult. If it was mine, I’d wait until I got it home. . . unless it’s absolutely fresh (still yellow on the edges and fuzzy), in which case I’d process it right away. Either way, if it’s the right mushroom, you should get some very nice colour.

      3. Thank you for your response. I was told it was dyer’s polypore, but I’m not sure. The great thing about being away from home is having access to different dyestuffs, but I neglected to bring fiber to use with my happy finds. I could manage to boil it now but wouldn’t be able to test with mordanted fiber until December. Gratitude

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