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 . . .

Anatomy of a sweater – visualization

I want to make a sweater of mushroom colours to wear when I go to Sweden in September for the next Fungi & Fibre Symposium. The first step was to play with all my mushroom skeins and lay them out to see how I want to arrange them. Because I want to emphasize the colours, the sweater itself will be of a very basic design.

The start of my mushroom sweater

I put the skeins out on my dining room table, then left them there for a few days so I could arrange and rearrange while imagining the colours swirling around on a garment. When I was happy with the results, I realized I had a dilemma: How could I keep the colours together in this way? (My dearest was returning home after a few days away and, since he cooks all the meals, would be wanting the table cleared off.)

So I phoned my fibre mentor, Yvonne, who suggested sliding pieces of cardboard under the skeins and taping them in place. A search of the basement turned up two large pieces of mat board (I used to mat and frame a lot of my photographs), so I was able to get by with just two of those. I didn’t tape each skein in place – that would have taken forever – but looped large lengths of tape over several skeins at a time until everything was secured. These are now waiting under the bed until such time as I can develop an appropriate pattern (Yvonne will help me with that, too). Then I can just pull them out and take each skein off when I need it, thus keeping the colour arrangement in place.

This year’s dyepot is finally exhausted

Lone sanguineus

Where last year I found eleven Cortinarius sanguineus, this year I found just one. This was the pattern for all the dermocybes; I found them in all my favourite places, but not in the numbers I enjoyed last year.

Colour from one sanguineus

Undaunted, I prepared the last mushroom dyepot of the season, and this precious strand of colour will be featured somewhere in the mushroom sweater I’m thinking (and thinking) about.

Pycnoporellus fulgens

Fresh Pycnoporellus fulgens
This little fungus caused a fair bit of consternation when I was trying to identify it. It’s soft and bright yellow when  young, then as it dries, it hardens and turns bright orange.
I had it pegged as Phaeolus fibrillosus (from Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora), but couldn’t find any images for that one on line. So of course I had to show a dried specimen to David when he stayed with us, and he identified it as Pycnoporellus fulgens . . . formerly known as Phaeolus fibrillosus.
It doesn’t give a strong colour, but the soft peachy hues will act as a lovely neutral with the stronger mushroom colours.
Pycnoporellus, two exhausts
Older Pycnoporellus fulgens

And some lovely greens

Greens from Hydnellum aurantiacum

I can’t stop fondling these muted greens that go with all my other mushroom colours. The two on the left were mordanted with alum, the next with iron and the one on the right with copper. Again, I had a high mushroom-to-fibre ratio to get these rich colours.

Hydnellum aurantiacum

And some more rich colours

Rich colours from Velvet PaxWe used some fresh Velvet Pax (Tapinella atrotomentosa or Paxillus atrotomentosus) for the workshop (see the second image below), then what I had left sat in the freezer for a few weeks. I ended up with a strong concentration of mushrooms, resulting in one of the best browns ever to come out of my dyepots (there’s a hint of purple in that brown – I swear it!). The two brown skeins were mordanted in copper, while the green were mordanted in iron. The small grey skein was mordanted in alum.

After these skeins came out, I put the mushrooms back into the pot and they’ve been brewing on top of the woodstove for a few days. I have high hopes for the second exhaust, but first I need to do some more mordanting.

The small skeins from the workshop obviously came from a weaker dyebath; the mordants are alum, iron and copper.

Velvet Pax from the dye workshop

The amazing lobster pot

First dyebath from my lobster pot

I found lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum) in such great abundance this year that even after setting aside enough parings to get good colour for the dyeing workshop, I had enough left for a strong dyepot of my own.

This is the brilliant red that resulted from my first dyebath, while the images below show the exhausts that came out of that same pot – all the skeins, as well as all the scarves.

A hike up Pender Hill yesterday resulted in yet another bag of lobsters, totally unexpected, and even though they’ve gone mushy, I hope to get another dyebath of equal strength.

Skeins from one lobster dyepot
Lobster scarves

So much dyeing . . . so little time to post!

Results from this year's dyepots

I started gathering up all my skeins and scarves to be tagged for the Fibre Arts Sale this Saturday (an annual event in Sechelt, BC, hosted by the Sunshine Coast Spinners & Weavers Guild) and was surprised to see just how much colour our local mushrooms produced over the last few months.

I’m particularly excited about the reds and pinks from the lobster mushrooms – I filled a yogurt container with the dried parings, tied them up in a bag, and the dyepot is still going! I’ll have photos of all the exhausts once the dyepot is spent, as well as images of some of the other more awesome colours (there’s a deep brown-purple at the bottom right in this image, which should show up better in natural light). As you can see, my colour wheel here is heavy on the golds, browns, and brown-greens, all from the abundant Phaeolus schweinitzii the forest gave me this year. The blobs in the middle are silk scarves – again, I’ll try to show them to better advantage in later posts.

Mushroom hat finds a new home

David's mushroom hatMy mushroom paper hat had been sitting on the coffee table, waiting for a new home. And guess what? It’s now gone home with David Arora!

David was our guest speaker at the First Annual Sunshine Coast Mushroom Fest held here in Pender Harbour in October, and he was our guest here during that time.

Photos of lobsters
Photos of lobsters

He stayed on until we had a few days of sunshine (this is the Sunshine Coast, after all!), to take advantage of the light so he could get some mushroom photos. Here he’s found one of our lobster patches.

Colours from the workshop dyepots

Hypomyces lactifluorum
Lobster mushroom, different pH
Hypomyces lactifluorum
Lobster - Hypomyces lactifluorum

At last I’ve had a chance to take some photos of the finished skeins showing the lovely colours we got from the dyepots at our October 16 workshop.

I usually leave this particular dyepot to the end of the workshop because the colours are so beautiful and the changes so dramatic when you shift the pH by putting the skeins in different afterbaths – in this case, the skein on the left was put into a pH3 solution (water and a bit of vinegar), while the one on the right was soaked in a pH11 solution (water and washing soda). The skein in the middle was left as it was right out of the dyepot.

We had an abundance of lobster mushrooms in this area this year. As you can imagine from looking at the image, they aren’t hard to spot when they’re emerging from the moss or the forest duff.  I’m just now getting ready to fire up my own dyepots with the lobster parings I’ve been gathering over the past month or two.

More colours to follow.

Workshop October 16

Julie untangles the wool
Julie untangles the wool

Everyone had a great time at our mushroom dyeing workshop here at Bluff Hollow last Friday. Fortunately, the mushrooms have been abundant – after an iffy summer with very little rain – and we had some interesting and productive dyepots.

Here Julie is untangling some wool just out of a Phaeolus dyepot – we had enough young ones to give us a strong colour (here mordanted with copper).

Paring the lobsters
Paring the lobsters

Lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum) are exceptionally abundant this year, to the point where I had to carry a good ten pounds of them up a steep hill to get them home one day!

Here a few members of the class are paring off the red “skins” to put in the dyepot – we got some lovely reds out of this one, which you’ll see in the group photo below. I’ll post close-up photos soon.

Silvia at the dyepot

Silvia, who attended the 2008 Fungi & Fibre Symposium with me, joined us and brought a Boletopsis that she’d kept in the freezer since last year. Sometimes they’ll give a nice green; here we seemed to get a nice grey. Nothing wrong with a good neutral . . .

Look at the colours!
Look at the colours!


And here are all the marvelous colours we got! Closeups and descriptions of the mushrooms will follow in a couple of weeks (I’m going away, to decompress after the weekend’s fabulous Mushroom Festival – more about that later, too).