All posts by Shroomworks

In 2003, my dearest and I decided to move to and build in an area surrounded by rainforest on BC's Sunshine Coast. So I thought it would be wise to learn about mushrooms. Little did I know that this new interest, combined with my joining the local spinners' and weavers' guild, would lead to a new passion: dyeing fibre with mushrooms. I was lucky enough to attend the 13th International Fungi & Fibre Symposium in Mendocino, California, in 2008, and from the good people there, I learned a great deal and was inspired to come home and learn even more. The story has just begun . . .

Combining colours

hydnphaegymnlichen-colours

Dyepots! I finally have time to hover over my dyepots again! They sat more or less unused during the year leading up to the Symposium, and I’m sure they are just as happy as I am to be coaxing colour from my mushroom stash once again. This year I want to focus on combining several colours of wool, then spinning them into yarns, on the principle that mushroom hues all go together well.

Here, ready for carding, are the colours going into this set of batts:

Blue/green wool on the left, with a bit of angelina:  Mystery lichen (more about this later);
Gold, dark green: Phaeolus schweinitzii;
Warm yellow: Gymnopilus luteofolius;
Blue-green: Hydnellum aurantiacum.

Mikey approves
Mikey approves

I put bits of roving through my (new-to-me Louet!) drumcarder in no particular order, but rather divided all the colours into four roughly equal quantities in the hope of getting four roughly similar batts. Mikey seems to approve of the combination.

Now for the story of the mystery lichen.

Some ten years ago, when I learned of lichen dyeing but before I had heard about mushroom dyeing, I experimented with whatever lichens I could find, with varying results. One batch of unidentified lichen went into its ammonia soak, but the results didn’t appear very promising, and the jar got tucked away somewhere, to be neglected for the next ten years. Last year, in a fit of tidying, I found the jar and almost dumped the brown liquid, but decided I should first give it a test run. And here’s what resulted:

Mystery lichen
Mystery lichen

I should mention that the underside of the metal jar lid was seriously corroded, to the point I had to struggle to unscrew it. Might this corrosion have worked its way into the ammonia solution, to give this vibrant blue? The exhausts were a grey-green and pale green. The fibre at the bottom is silk noil, which went through the first dyepot.

These surprises are what make the dyepots magic . . .

A long time in the making

crocheted-wrap2

crocheted-wrap1

crocheted-wrap3-1

This has to be the longest project I’ve ever undertaken, but at least I can say it’s done, close to four years from the day I first announced my impulsive decision to make the Petals Wrap (featured on the cover of Crochet So Fine by Kristin Omdahl).

I certainly didn’t work on it every day of those four years (but the thought of working on it crossed my mind every day), and I don’t want to think of the number of hours I spent on this, but now that it’s done, I can crumple it up and toss it into the back of a drawer (just joking—but I could do so and pull it out a year later to find it unwrinkled).

I ended up adapting the pattern considerably. By the time I reached the point where the sleeves were to be added, I was getting worried about my supply of mushroom-dyed handspun silk. That’s when I looked at the pattern reviews on Ravelry, only to read that a bottom section I had yet to add looked disturbingly like a flounce—dare I say in many cases like a ruffle? Plus, that and the sleeves would take as much fibre as I’d alreadys used in the front and back sections. That information, along with the fact that it was only two months until Symposium week, led to my choice to forget sleeves and flounce and turn it into a tunic/vest instead. I’m pleased with that decision.

And I finally found a use for the bear hair I found all those many years ago and, sadly, ruined by steaming. I was concerned about germs, but I would have had such long, strong fibres if I hadn’t worried about a bit of poo getting under the fingernails. Anyway, I’ve been hanging on to a little pile of tiny broken fibres, wondering if I should try spinning from a toothpick-sized puni. Instead, I decided to mold it with white glue into the shape of a mushroom to embellish the crocheted button I added at the neckline. Problem is, the stem broke off somewhere during the Symposium, so now all I’m left with is something that looks for all the world like a little plop of black, shiny . . . bear poo.
bear-hair-button

Weaving the magic

My mom was a weaver, and watching her set up the warp and get everything ready to actually weave was enough to make me decide I didn’t want to follow that path. As a result, I have great admiration for the talented weavers who can take fibre and turn it into lovely fabric and garments.

deannas-rainforest-wrap

This Rainforest Wrap was made by a Deanna Pilling, a most talented weaver and, incidentally, the driving force behind the Sunshine Coast Fibreshed. Deanna used mushroom-dyed yarns against a black background and created this gorgeous wrap, inspired by the rain and the lush forest growth that results.

Truly inspired, wouldn’t you agree?

Another successful Fungi & Fibre Symposium

image-for-blog

It’s been just over a month since Symposium week, a grand event by all accounts. With 120 registrants from all around the world, the energy was high in our little community. The dyepots barely had a chance to cool down from one day to the next, the forests couldn’t have been more generous with their mushrooms, and everyone went home with smiles on their faces.

Thanks to participant Lesley O’Keefe, we can enjoy looking back on the week’s events with this Youtube video, which also highlights the beauty of BC’s Sunshine Coast—and shows why those of us who live here feel we’re the most fortunate people in the world.

Rethinking Ramaria

Ramaria largentii
Ramaria largentii

My freezer has been home to masses of frozen Ramaria collected for the Fungi and Fibre Symposium dyepots, but I wanted to be sure it would give some good colour after being frozen for nine months. My earlier experiments with the frozen version of this mushroom resulted in a decent purple, but I didn’t want to take a chance on seeing a dozen international visitors hovering over a dyepot, watching and waiting for purple. And ending up with a blah beige.

So this lovely orange coral appeared in my Back Forty at the perfect time, when plans for the event are ticking along nicely and when my hands really needed to get into some dyepots. The coral came home with me and went straight into my sample dyepot along with a few strands of iron-mordanted yarn.

The results amounted to a revelation. I recant my previous musings about frozen Ramaria and about keeping the dyepot temperature on the low side. Here’s what happened (laid out on grey cardstock—the colours are true, at least on my screen) :

Ramaria samples, fresh and frozen

First, it doesn’t appear that the purple from Ramaria is quite so finicky as the other purple-bestowing mushrooms when it comes to temperatures (specifically Tapinella atrotomentosa and Omphalotus olivascens, which need to be watched carefully and pulled at ~160° F). Clearly the dyebath shouldn’t be allowed to reach boiling, but 170° F was the optimum for the first two sets of samples.

My second discovery: freezing Ramaria works if done for a short time but not for the nine months I subjected my stash to. So I returned the Symposium orange coral to the forest floor, and now I’m hoping for an outstanding harvest this year so our registrants won’t be disappointed.

At the same time as I found the Ramaria, I also found Clavulina coralloides in various stages of infection with Helminthosphaeria clavariarum, a fungus that routinely parasitizes this little coral.

Clavulina Coralloides 3pics
Since I was planning on doing some sampling anyway, I decided to try this one too—with the darkest of the infected coral—on the off chance the deep purple of the parasite might translate into the dyepot, again with an iron-mordanted test strand.

Clavulina samples

More grey than purple, but clearly darker with more heat. Worth playing with some more? I don’t think so.

It’s taking shape

Back section being blocked
Back section being blocked

I’m actually making some headway on my crocheted silk wrap, all in mushroom colours, that must be finished by October in time for the Fungi & Fibre Symposium—once I got into the pattern, I discovered it was much easier to follow the chart instead of the written instructions, and now I can see where it’s taking me.

This is the back. I’ve also blocked matching side pieces and am now attaching all three sections in such a way as to make openings where I’ll add the sleeves. I’m following the pattern on faith here in the belief that eventually this too will make sense.

The mushrooms are appearing early this year, thanks to a glorious rainy spring and early summer. I hope to squeeze in some dyepot time in the next few weeks, but with three months to go until the big event, my priorities are elsewhere for the most part.