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.
Last year it was all about trying as many mushroom colours as I could, which meant using commercially spun yarn. But I got more pleasure this year from spinning the rovings I dyed with mushrooms, and that’s where I want to focus my efforts next year.
These yarns were made of wool dyed with the dermocybes – Cortinarius semisanguineus and their cousins. The skein on the left is a textured yarn, made by spinning thick and thin. I spun the one on the right using wool from three exhausts of the same dermocybe dyepot. I pulled off small pieces of roving and spun the three colours one after the other. I ended up with two bobbins of this, which I then plied together. It made such a rich medley of shades, I had trouble putting it down! These skeins have both gone to good homes, and I hope to see what their owners do with them.
These skeins were made with fibre dyed with Phaeolus schweinitzii, or dyer’s polypore. The left skein was again made with rovings from three exhausts of the same dyepot, spun fairly thick and with a lot of texture.
The next skein is a knot yarn; I plied an evenly spun wool singles with a finely spun silk singles, which I allowed to knot upon itself throughout the plying. The silk gives it a fine sheen, and the knots give it a wonderful texture. The skein on the right was made from the brilliant gold rovings I got from the button dyer’s polypores I mentioned in an earlier post. I spun this thick and thin, to get some real texture going. These, too, were snapped up by knitters who appreciated their one-of-a-kind value.
I found a great location for Cortinarius semisanguineus this year, which is a good thing, because my usual closer-to-home patches are showing very few of those special little mushrooms, and I might have been dyeing a tiny sample instead of the great quantities of wool and yarn I’ve been putting through the dyepots.
I didn’t have time to sort the mushrooms out by the colour of their gills – red, gold, or yellow – so I put them all together until my dyepots were free. By that time they’d turned into a smelly, runny mass of pigment, but it was still pigment, and that was all that mattered.
I started with a four-litre bucket of mushrooms when they were fresh, so I put the reddish goo into my dyepot, then strained out the pieces after it had simmered for an hour or so. Then for each exhaust, I put in a piece of merino roving and a 50-yd skein of merino – and look at the results!
The red pigments were obviously picked up first, leaving some brilliant oranges for the last three exhausts.
I have one more harvest of dermocybes to process, but I’m holding out until I’m sure I’ve found all I’m going to find!
CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS