A Happy Accident

And that’s how we wish all our accidents to be, right?

The colours that resulted on this wool roving were not at all what I expected, and at first inexplicable. After all, this came out of a Hydnellum aurantiacum dyepot, a mushroom I usually rely on to give a pleasant bluish green. And I had done everything right: a generous 2:1 ratio of mushrooms to fibre (1:1 will usually suffice, but this year I can afford to be generous), cooked at pH 10 (raised with the addition of ammonia) from which the sample strands emerged beautifully green, left to cool overnight, strained, then wool added, temperature brought up slowly to 160 degrees F, then cooled overnight with the wool still in the dyebath.

Mystified, I went through the mental dyeing process again, until the Aha moment struck. I like to contain the dye mushrooms in a mesh bag, my favourite being a fine nylon lingerie bag because the nylon doesn’t pick up the colour. Except . . .

In May of this year, I finally screwed up the courage to use the small bag of Cortinarius sanguineus I had obtained at the 2018 Fungi & Fibre Symposium in Norway. These are such precious little guys, and I was saving them until I finished spinning some local grey wool into yarn. I popped the lovely dermocybes into my handy nylon bag, then into the pot. I was surprised at the orange tones from the first and subsequent dyebaths, having expected a deep red in both the grey yarn and the white roving.

But I accepted this as one of the quirks of the trade, spun up the rest of the wool and made a little cape for my granddaughter, whose colouring can handle these orangey shades. I rinsed the bag (or so I thought) and put it away until fall and the next mushroom dyeing season.

The Hydnellum were everywhere this year, and were my first dyepot of the season. Without thinking, I popped the mushrooms into the yellow bag . . . well, you know the story from there. The roving that was in contact with the nylon must have picked up its colour, while the part that wasn’t kept the green I was expecting. And while it’s not what I would have chosen, it should make for an interesting variegated yarn when I do spin it up, and I’m thinking it will ply nicely with some Phaeolus green wool that I’ve been wondering what do do with.

And that’s why I never tire of dyeing with fungi.

8 thoughts on “A Happy Accident”

  1. You may have solved a universal puzzle—at least in my section of the universe. I too use the nylon bags and rinse them as I finish. Sometimes if they are especially dirty with little bits, I toss them in the washer with a dark load of wash. There you have it! They accumulate bits of cleaning compounds during that process that I hadn’t thought of. Fortunately, I love the surprises and am not trying to reproduce particular colors. But now I know.
    BTW. I love the green you got! That would have been a happy surprise for me.
    Send CA some of your rain. Mushroom season? What’s that?

    1. Hmmm . . . that opens up all kinds of possibilities! I feel so blessed to be living in an area that gets abundant, free water from the sky. But even here we can go for ten to twelve weeks without rain in the summer, leaving the moss crunchy and the forests tinder dry. I can’t imagine the stress of living with extended droughts with little relief. I’ll ask the rain gods to take a detour and head your way for a while.

  2. I used to use old nylon panti-hose stockings to hold either my wool roving or mushrooms, only to discover that the nylon accepted the dye most generously, even better than the wool To the point that I have saved all the dyed nylons , NS m cutting them into strips to use in a small tapestry that is currently a “work-in-progress” at the moment! this is an inspiration to get back to it now that I’ve been inspired by your delightful presentation this evening, Ann!

    1. Thanks, Dorothy – glad you were able to “attend.” I’ve had a few of my old nylons pick up the colour, but never thought to use them in something – what a good idea! I had a neighbour who retired from office work and gave me all of her old nylons. Women don’t seem to wear them much anymore – what will we find to replace them?

      I keep thinking of things I forgot to say last night – it’s disconcerting to talk to a screen and not hear any audience response. One thing was to mention containing the mushrooms while cooking, or straining them off before adding the fibre – I hope that’s self-evident. And I’m so embarrassed – I completely forgot to put in photos from Norway in 2018! How did that happen? It was of course another lovely gathering – who knew we’d have to wait so long to see each other again?

      Hope you’re doing well.

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