Doesn’t the air smell wonderfully fresh after a new rain following weeks of dry weather? That’s called petrichor, and I filled my lungs with it this morning after hearing the welcome sounds of rain on the roof overnight. We didn’t get enough moisture to make much difference to the parched soil and dry moss, but maybe the mycelia below soil level were also heartened by the promise of the rainy season’s return.
Now I’m spinning up what bits of yarn are left from last year’s dyepots, and finally decided to do something with the Pycnoporellus roving I showed in my previous post. I needed to pop up the colour a bit, so decided to use a bright piece of wool that came out of a Cortinarius cinnamomeus dyepot, along with a vibrant chunk of synthetic fibre that went through the dyebath at the same time (the two sections on the far left).
It didn’t take much time to run it all through my handcarders, then I spun two strands of thick-and-thin, to give the skein some texture. I normally don’t like orange—probably because I can’t wear anything resembling that colour—but blending it with the warm peach resulted in another skein I love to fondle.
Now I’ll take any amount of petrichor that wants to come our way, as long as it means some real rain in the near future.
Early on in my mushroom dyeing [buzzword alert] “journey,” I did all of my experiments with commercial yarn, as I wanted to see how many different colours I could obtain in one season. I played with random combinations of three different colours; no matter which colours I put side by side, they always went well together. (I posted about this on January 19, 2011, and again on January 24).
Now I’m playing with colours again, this time in my handspun yarns. In this case, I blended three stripes on my drumcarder, putting them through once. (The colours came from Phaeolus schweinitzii, Tapinella atrotomentosa, and dermocybe dyepots.) Then I drafted the entire batt into a roving the right size for spinning. The colours remained as separate stripes in the roving and into the yarn.
Proving once again that mushroom dyes sit well together.
Alright, then—Mushroom Annie, we’re here today to discuss a matter of serious concern that has come to our attention.
Go ahead. But please make it quick. A cold front is coming in next week, signalling the approaching end of mushroom season.
Uh, yes . . . I see that you understand already.
Your family and friends are worried about you. Your studio floor is covered with drying fungi, your dehydrator is churning out dried fungi, your front steps are littered with all manner of disgusting fungi, yet you persist in going out every day for more mushrooms. Does this not seem a touch worrisome?
Not at all. Why should it?
Well, for one thing, what about your friends? Are you not concerned that you might be neglecting them?
I have friends in my mushroom club, the Sunshine Coast Society for the Hunting, Recognition and Observation of Mushrooms (that’s SHROOM for short). Silas, my dog who accompanies me on all my forays, is my good friend. Even the forest fungi are my friends.
Listen, Ann . . . I mean Mushroom . . . oh, dammit, you know who I mean! You’re obsessed! You’re living a one-track life! You’ve allowed mushrooms to assume an importance beyond their worth! I’ve learned that you’re not even spinning in the evenings anymore! That time in front of your spinning wheel used to be sacrosanct—can’t you see what’s happening to you?
I miss spinning, I really do. But I keep finding Lobster mushrooms, and people keep giving me more, and they have to be pared before they go rotten. And speaking of Lobsters, I’ve already made concessions. My husband banned me from cooking the parings inside, because it made the house smell like, well, rotten lobsters. That was a major factor in my decision to turn our guest cottage into a mushroom studio.
You gave up B&B-ing in favour of mushrooms? This is more dire than I thought. How have you let it come to this?
All I can say is . . . well, consider my latest foray into what I call my backyard: acres and acres of forest where Silas and I can hike for hours without any human contact.
At the start of the trail was this intriguing photo op—how could I pass it up? And it’s a dyer—a bonus!
Once we reached the day’s foraging spot, as I clambered over logs and squeezed under deadfall in search of Dermocybes, I saw this Lobster peeking through the duff, tantalizing me to inspect a bit closer. I picked it, of course, and looked around carefully, only to find five more of these beauties, all ready to offer up their pigment. Do you know how hard it is to obtain red from natural dye sources?
And all this before I reached my goal: Dermocybes! The satiny finish! The scarlet gills! The siren song! Irresistible.
I’ll admit to a surfeit of Dyer’s Polypore, but this little one was exhibiting such generosity! I’d already cut it back to the ground a couple of weeks earlier, and here it was, creating yet more opportunity, just asking for another chance to give of itself. I couldn’t bear to disappoint it now, could I?
That’s all very well, but if you must look for mushrooms, have you never thought about turning your attention to something useful? I’m talking about the ones chefs covet, the ones foodies rhapsodize about.
Last season was a poor one for the dermocybes, so I saved up what I had collected until I could decide what to do with them. I’ve been playing with silk lately and thought perhaps a camisole would be just the right garment for a good dermocybe red.
I used three rows of stitching for each line that goes from neck to hem, and repeated that design on the back. The dyepot was concentrated and gave me the colour I was hoping for, and it dyed a few more ounces of wool before the colour was exhausted.
Unfortunately for me, the silk camisoles I’m using, supplied by the good people at Dharma Trading, are manufactured in Asia, and therefore come in Asian sizes, meaning that a camisole labelled XL is equivalent to a North American M.
Fortunately for the lady who saw this garment hanging in our booth at a recent craft sale (and whose first comments were, “I’ve already spent enough today [spies the camisole] . . . Omigod!”), it fit her perfectly and looked absolutely stunning. I’m glad it’s gone to a good home.
This is made with the wool that went through my Cortinarius sanguineus dyepot—the small wine-coloured mushrooms that pack such powerful colour (see my post of February 9). Any dyed wool, once it’s spun, will lose some of its colour intensity, so I didn’t expect this to work up in the bright red I started with. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with the results.
I spun this Merino more tightly than I’d planned to, so after it was chain-plied, the three-ply yarn felt more like a soft cord. I decided to do some improv crocheting and ended up with this very long scarf-like garment that wraps around my neck three times, with lots left over to play with.
While my dyepots are finished for this season, the spinning continues. I’m working on the merino from the multiple exhausts of the beautiful little Cortinarius sanguineus—all the mushrooms went in at once, and I put the wool through successive dyepots until the colour was more or less gone (see my post of February 9). I’ll have four good bobbins of singles, which I plan to then chain-ply, or Navajo ply, which will result in a three-ply yarn without any waste.
Because I plan to crochet with this yarn, I’m spinning the singles in a counterclockwise direction, to be plied clockwise. I have no idea how many yards I’ll end up with, but because I want to make a shawl with it, I’ll choose a pattern that will allow me to continue until I run out of yarn.
I saved the best for last—my collection of dried Cortinarius sanguineus, which didn’t look like much on the face of it, but look at all the colour they gave me! I put all the dry mushrooms into an old stocking, boiled it up for a couple of hours, then left that in the dyepot for all the exhausts. The first dyebath is on the left (with one iron-mordanted roving—the darker one), and progressive exhausts go from left to right. The bright orange on the far left is “icicle,” a sparkly synthetic fibre that always picks up amazing colour.
I’m going to use this to spin one yarn, going from darker to lighter—this mushroom is too special to blend it with anything else.
We found a spot, not that far from us but requiring a bit of effort to get to, where I found the Holy Grail—Cortinarius sanguineus—in such abundance that this year I’m going to have more than just a sample dyepot.
By the time I found this population (I don’t want to call it a cluster, because the mushrooms weren’t exactly clustered), we were running out of time and daylight, so I wasn’t able to explore further. Next year I’ll know exactly where to go, a few metres above a little stream and in fairly deep shade, and I’ll walk all along that elevation, where these little beauties obviously love their surroundings.
The dyepot will be happening soon—I think silk will be appropriate for this one!
These colours came from varieties of Cortinarius semisanguineus, mushrooms that look like LBMs (little brown mushrooms) from above, but whose brilliant red, orange and gold gills attest to the pigments they contain. After saving two years’ worth of dye experiments, it was time to spin them up. I’d used two kinds of wool – Merino and Corriedale – and separated them out, easily done by feel. I spun the Merino first, shown here on the bobbin, then spun the Corriedale on another bobbin. Colours always look brighter in unspun fibre; spinning and plying soften them somewhat.
I plied the two bobbins together into a textured yarn, enough for two skeins. With some Merino left on the bobbin, I Navajo-plied it to get a three-ply yarn with distinct colour breaks.
The last of this year’s dermocybes are simmering now in my slow cooker, and I’m dyeing silk with them. I’m saving the Cortinarius sanguineus to the end, as the colour is sure to be spectacular, although on the silk it won’t be as brilliant as if I were dyeing wool.
It’s time I started doing something about my stash – well, some if it, anyway – so I gathered up all the bits and pieces of roving that went through the dermocybe dyepots over the last two years.
I found I had two kinds of wool: soft, silky Merino (the pile on the left) and coarser Corriedale (right). The Merino, which felts more easily anyway, has a lot of little slubs throughout – if I dye with it again, I’ll have to be more careful not to move it around too much when it’s in the hot dyebath.
I hand-carded the wool, to open up the fibres and line them up for spinning.
My plan is to spin one bobbin of Merino and one of Corriedale, then ply them together, thus getting the best of both wools. I’ll put the colours together at random, so when the yarn is finished, it should be an interesting blend courtesy of the little Cortinarius that grow in the woods around us.
CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS