Firing up the dyepots

Last year’s mushroom season was poor, by our rainforest standards anyway, with the result that I felt more inclined to spend my studio time repurposing thrift-shop clothing treasures than standing over dyepots. But now, with the promise of generous autumn rains and the emergence of some of my favourite dye mushrooms, it’s time to get the dyepots going again and to use up some of the mushrooms and lichens from last year, in preparation for a bumper harvest this year.

I found a small patch of Boletopsis grisea last year (except I learned that in this area these are now considered part of the Boletopsis leucomelaena group) not far from my house. I had actually left those mushrooms until I could return with a larger bag and stronger knife (lesson here: never leave the house unprepared), only to discover that one of them had been nibbled away. Readers of my blog will remember that I lost an entire harvest one year when I left a large harvest of this mushroom outside to dry, so I should have known better this time. Anyway, I returned with several specimens, including one with a hugely long stem that, unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of. Here’s what they looked like before picking, some already having started to “melt”:

Boletopsis leucomelaena gp

I cut these up into smaller pieces and put them in a large Ziploc bag, covering them with water before I sealed it. It didn’t take long for the liquid to turn dark, and surprisingly, they never became stinky—in fact, the odour was quite pleasant throughout the process.

I left these to soak for a few months before a dye session with them, at which time the liquid all went into the pot, along with enough water to just cover the alum-mordanted fibre I had prepared. The result: a lovely, deep forest green. A couple of exhausts gave a light green, a perfect complement.

Boletopsis green

I had enough of the dark green to almost fill a bobbin. I’m not yet sure what I’ll do with the yarn, but the two shades of green will definitely go together into something.

And it feels good to be dyeing again.

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