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 . . .
I had a fantastic foray a few days ago and came home with a good ten pounds of Phaeolus – even my dog alerted me to a prime specimen (although he hasn’t repeated that trick since).
Here are two views of one that was still yellow and fuzzy on the underside and around the margins, a good sign that it will give some bright colour. I’m saving it and the other young ones I found for the dyeing workshop I’m holding this Friday the 16th (as part of the First Annual Sunshine Coast Mushroom Fest this weekend). I hope a few days of sitting outside won’t have dimmed their potential for lustre!
Here are some of the skeins that came out of recent Phaeolus dyepots. I’ve prepared 30-yard skeins (here the gold ones were mordanted in alum, the brown in copper and the greenish ones in iron) so I can get some good colours without exhausting the dyebath in the first go. Now that it’s cold enough to have the wood stove going, I put a new skein in the dyepot in the morning, leave it all day and overnight, then it’s cooled off in the morning. I can go for four or five days with a Phaeolus dyepot before the gold starts to look washed out, at which time the spent dyebath goes on the compost and the mushroom bits go into a bin for future paper-making.
Here are the results from the two smallish, fairly fresh Phaeolus schweinitzii I mentioned in my Sept 3 post. This image doesn’t do justice to the colours – they are actually brighter than they appear here. I used a small dyepot and small skeins, one at a time, and kept the heat on low the whole time. You can see the colours in succession, from left to right. The first two baths gave duller colours (the smaller skein third from the left was mordanted in iron; all the rest were mordanted with alum), but as I did more exhausts, the gold got brighter, than faded to a soft yellow.
So when I found a group of Phaeolus buttons, still fuzzy yellow and unopened, I decided to repeat the process. Again, the succession of dyebaths goes from left to right, this time with the smaller skein having been mordanted in copper. I dyed a silk scarf in the third dyebath, with beautiful results, and again the successive dyebaths faded to a warm yellow.
I’d had my eye on a place where I found a large grouping of Phaeolus last year, so when I found them coming out this year at a nice button stage, I went at them with my knife, in great anticipation of their giving the same brilliant gold. I cut them into chunks about two inches wide and ended up with a good two cupsful of mushrooms in my dyepot. Again, I kept the heat low, and in went a large (100g) skein, and look what resulted: a nice mushroom tan! Thinking that this dyebath might behave like my first attempt above, where the colour actually brightened after a couple of tries, I put a copper-mordanted skein in for the second exhaust – and got a dull army blanket green!
I don’t want to discard all those good mushrooms yet (or turn them into paper), but I don’t want to waste any more wool if the colour isn’t going to improve, so I’ve taken a bit of the dyebath and a few pieces of mushroom and put them in my smaller test dyepot with a smaller skein. We’ll see what happens with this.
Our summer has been so very dry this year that I’m not finding too many mushrooms of any kind in the forest out back. I did find a couple of small Phaeolus schweinitzii near a boggy area, and these were already partially dried. I put them in my small dyepot and did a slow almost-simmer for four or five hours, then dyed some sample skeins, which came out a lovely, rich gold. I then returned the pieces of the polypore back to the dyepot for another few hours, and now a second sample dyebath is in the works. I want to see how many of these little dyebaths I can get from the two mushrooms – I’ll have photos up shortly.
I’ve been working with a small group of people who are organizing the first Sunshine Coast Mushroom Fest, to be held here in Madeira Park on October 16-18. As we blue-skied about what we wanted this festival to look like and wondered who we should invite to speak at our first event, David Arora’s name came up, as in, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow get David Arora up this way to talk to us?”
Well, guess what? David’s driving up from California in October to attend a couple of other mushroom events in these parts, and said he’d be more than happy to take part in our little mushroom celebration. He’ll be speaking the evening of October 17, then taking a limited number of people (thirty) on a foray/ID workshop on Sunday the 18th. Registration will take place through the Iris Griffith Interpretive Centre – I’m not sure when details will be up on their website (www.lagoonsociety.com), but if you can possibly make it here on that weekend, it will be well worth it.
We went into the forest on the weekend, not expecting to find anything in the way of fungus (given our current long spell of hot, very, very dry weather), so I was thrilled to find one mossy stump with four of these beauties – Paxillus atrotomentosus, aka Tapinella atrotomentosa) growing out of the wood. I’d found a couple on this same stump last year and expected to find some later in the month, after our usual August rains.
These were clearly drying out – note the cracks on the cap – so I picked them, but left the other button-sized speciments to flesh out a bit.
The other little mushroom I referred to in my last post came out of the freezer this week and is currently sitting in a jar of water in the full sun, and the liquid has turned brown. I’ll let it cook there until our next rain (please let that be soon!), then see what colour results.
I’ve found a couple of small Velvet Pax (Paxillus atrotomentosus or Tapinella atrotomentosa) in the forest behind us, one on a mossy stump and one at the base of a dead tree (on which are also growing some varnished conk). I was surprised to find them so early, but apparently the June rains brought them out. They weren’t as large as those in the image here, but they were still unmistakeable, with the brown velvet on their stems and the purplish discoloration where the bugs or squirrels had nibbled at them.
Of course, I had to try the first little specimen (its cap was already cracking) in the dyepot, and here are the results. This is the mushroom that has been known to give a purple colour, but here the alum-mordanted sample (top) has a definite greenish cast, while the iron-mordanted sample below is a nice army-blanket green.
The second mushroom I found is currently sitting in the freezer; I’m wondering if that might make a difference to the colour.
Here’s a variation on the mushroom bowl: a bowler hat! It’s still sitting on the metal bowl I used as a form, but it should be ready to pop away in a few days. Given the shrinkage rate of this paper, I doubt the hat will fit on my own head, but maybe someone will find it useful.
I’ve been playing with mushroom paper beads lately, as well as using turkey tails for making jewelry – a whole new world, this, but a good way to spend evenings in front of the TV.
Once the beads are dry, I drill holes in them with my Dremel, then string them onto some twine and brush on a few coats of Verathane, for strength and waterproofing. Then they’re ready to use. For the whole turkeytails, I Dremel the top edge so it’s fairly flat, then drill a hole in the top for the wire loops.
All of these pieces will get tossed into the freezer for a few days, just to make sure no little critters remain inside!
Here are two views of the same bowls. I used a turkey baster to place the different colours on the screens for the paper that was to become the insides of the bowls, and for the outside textures, just pressed damp mushroom pulp on the core of each bowl (which was made of conk pulp). These were molded over glass bowls, on which I’d sprayed some Pam to act as a release. After sitting covered overnight, I put them outside in a shaded area until I could see the pulp wanting to shrink away from the bowl. With a little “nudge” from a knife blade, they popped right off. To keep them from warping, though, I left them sitting on the glass bowls until they were thoroughly dry.
It’s been too long since my last post. Papermaking mushrooms can be found year-round, so I’ve been collecting and processing them, then when time allows, I can continue to play with papermaking.
This is a conk – Fomitopsis pinicola – mentioned in an earlier post as the one that makes the strongest paper and which I use as a base when making mushroom bowls.
Sometimes its appearance is paler, as shown here. I like to find them when they’re very young – they’re white and look like little marshmallows growing on the side of a tree or log. I keep track of these “nurse trees” in my internal GPS – I may have trouble remembering things, but my brain has imprinted the locations of special mushrooms!
CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS