Crazy lobster colour

This was an unintended experiment with unintended—and happy!—results. I’m not yet finished with it, but since many mushroom dyers are finding and dyeing with Hypomyces lactifluroum (Lobster mushrooms) right now, I wanted to pass this along.

Lobster red

These brilliant reds are actually from an exhaust bath . . . really! Here’s how they came about:

In the spring of 2018 I gave a dye workshop on Vancouver Island. The previous two mushroom seasons had been very poor because of extremely dry summers, and I didn’t have a lot of dried mushrooms to play with, but still had a few lobster parings on hand. I set aside 25 grams of these for the workshop and, as usual, put them in an old nylon stocking for the dyebath.

The workshop got some good results, and when none of the participants wanted to take the spent lobster parings home with them (probably put off by the fishy aroma), I took them home myself. The first exhaust gave a pale orangey pink; the second exhaust a disappointing beige. I had heated these in a makeshift double boiler (the dyebath in a large glass jar that sat in a pot of boiling water), and I just left the disappointing parings where they were, to be dealt with later. This is a bad habit, I know, because so often those spent mushrooms can be most unpleasant to deal with later, but the jar got left, ignored, over the winter and into the spring (we’re now talking spring of 2019).

Lobster dyebath one year later

In my pre-dyeing-season cleanup, I rediscovered the jar, only to find that the liquid (in which the pared bits were still steeping), now much reduced through evaporation because I’d left it outside uncovered, had turned a brilliant deep red!

Into a small dyepot it went, with just enough water to cover a generous piece of wool roving.

The colour in the rovings in the image at the top of this post is uneven because I didn’t want to agitate the wool in such a small amount of liquid. The wool at the bottom of the basket is actually the fourth exhaust, and there’s more to go. The wool was mordanted with alum; no modifiers were used, although in the end I might dip them in a high-pH solution to shift to a more purply red.

So hang onto those Lobster parings, fellow dyers! You never know what might result.

4 thoughts on “Crazy lobster colour”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’m headed home with 2 gallons of lobsters collected in Oregon. I’ll be sure to save my exhaust bath for the future. Any suggestions as to pH of both fresh and old baths?

    1. Wow! You found a mother lode! It’s best to use just the parings (which can be a stinky job!), and it was a bag of these that sat in the liquid and produced that colour. You can play with pH in the dyebath itself – best to measure the pH as you go, and keep it no lower than pH3 and no higher than pH10. You can also dip the fibre in an pH-adjusted afterbath to get the shift in colours. Good luck!

      1. Love this post, thanks Ann, its been a great year so far for hydnellums, and pax, and lobsters, we have waited about 4 years for such bounty….

      2. Good to hear from you, Cedar. I’ve found tons of pax and lobsters this year, but am still waiting for the hydnellums. It’s been a long wait, hasn’t it?

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