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


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




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.

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.


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


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.

Now this is strange . . .

Thanks to an abundance of spring rains, we’re seeing mushrooms a few weeks earlier than usual this year—we can only hope this bodes well for an exceptional season later in the year!

Tapinella atrotomentosa
Tapinella atrotomentosa

This gorgeous Tapinella atrotomentosa caught me quite by surprise a few weeks ago. The slugs had already nibbled on it a bit, so I cut off the largest cap, then tucked ferns and the spiky leaves of Oregon grape around the remaining little ones to give them a chance to grow. I took my treasure home, cut it into slices, and put it on the sunny deck to dry. My dearest used the oven that evening when making dinner (he cooks all our meals, which pleases me no end), so I popped the tray of almost-dry mushrooms into the still-warm oven after dinner.

Much to my dismay, my little strips of Velvet Pax looked over-dark the next morning; not exactly burned, but darker than I’d expected. What had I done? I usually don’t find enough of these to treat them so recklessly and callously! There was nothing for it but to put the sorry little bits in a test dyepot with a few strands of mordanted yarn, to gauge the damage.

Clearly I need to get back into the routine—I’d used a little glass pot, and even though I’d set the heat on medium-low, I turned my back for what seemed just a minute, only to turn back and find my little pot almost boiling over. I was sure I’d screwed it up completely.

Tapinella burned then boiledFB

But look what came out of the pot (from left to right: no mordant, alum, iron, copper)—does that not look blue to you?

The dye liquid, although a small amount, was still quite dark, so I popped in another test bundle and watched it this time, careful not to let it get over-hot. And this time the colours were more like what I would expect from a Tapinella pot allowed to overheat.
Tapinella burned exhaustFB

I hesitate to try and repeat these results on a larger scale, but if I find a good number of Tapinella this year, I may just have to.

It’s (past) time: crochet project starts now!

Yards and yards of silk
Yards and yards of silk

Some time ago—almost three years ago, in fact—I posted about my plans to knit a silk wrap. I didn’t mention at the time that I have an immovable deadline for this project: the Fungi & Fibre Symposium to be held here in Pender Harbour in October of this year. At this fabulous event, participants wait until the final gala dinner on the last evening to show off their new mushroom-dyed finery—lovely garments, clever hats, lustrous silk ties—items to be admired and marveled at for the rest of the evening.

So I convinced myself that I could make a crocheted silk wrap, the construction of which is far beyond anything I’ve ever managed before; the same can be said for the yardage requirements (2,000+ yards of finely spun silk).

I don’t think I’ve spun quite enough yet, but the project can wait no longer. I must get started if I’m to complete it by October 22. The swatch is still a bit heavy, so I may have to move to a larger crochet hook, but at least I know I can make sense of the pattern.

I’ll report as the wrap takes shape. Wish me luck.

Fungi & Fibre Registration Open!

H. peckii


The moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived: it’s time to register for the 17th Fungi & Fibre Symposium, October 17-22, 2016, in Madeira Park on BC’s Sunshine Coast. Just go to the Register page on the website, fill in the interactive form, then go back to the website to process your registration fee through PayPal.

Workshops will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so those who register early will have the best chances of getting their preferred choices.

It’s going to be a grand event—do plan to attend.