Category Archives: Hydnellum aurantiacum

A Happy Accident

And that’s how we wish all our accidents to be, right?

The colours that resulted on this wool roving were not at all what I expected, and at first inexplicable. After all, this came out of a Hydnellum aurantiacum dyepot, a mushroom I usually rely on to give a pleasant bluish green. And I had done everything right: a generous 2:1 ratio of mushrooms to fibre (1:1 will usually suffice, but this year I can afford to be generous), cooked at pH 10 (raised with the addition of ammonia) from which the sample strands emerged beautifully green, left to cool overnight, strained, then wool added, temperature brought up slowly to 160 degrees F, then cooled overnight with the wool still in the dyebath.

Mystified, I went through the mental dyeing process again, until the Aha moment struck. I like to contain the dye mushrooms in a mesh bag, my favourite being a fine nylon lingerie bag because the nylon doesn’t pick up the colour. Except . . .

In May of this year, I finally screwed up the courage to use the small bag of Cortinarius sanguineus I had obtained at the 2018 Fungi & Fibre Symposium in Norway. These are such precious little guys, and I was saving them until I finished spinning some local grey wool into yarn. I popped the lovely dermocybes into my handy nylon bag, then into the pot. I was surprised at the orange tones from the first and subsequent dyebaths, having expected a deep red in both the grey yarn and the white roving.

But I accepted this as one of the quirks of the trade, spun up the rest of the wool and made a little cape for my granddaughter, whose colouring can handle these orangey shades. I rinsed the bag (or so I thought) and put it away until fall and the next mushroom dyeing season.

The Hydnellum were everywhere this year, and were my first dyepot of the season. Without thinking, I popped the mushrooms into the yellow bag . . . well, you know the story from there. The roving that was in contact with the nylon must have picked up its colour, while the part that wasn’t kept the green I was expecting. And while it’s not what I would have chosen, it should make for an interesting variegated yarn when I do spin it up, and I’m thinking it will ply nicely with some Phaeolus green wool that I’ve been wondering what do do with.

And that’s why I never tire of dyeing with fungi.

Hydnellum of Many Colours

Hydnellum aurantiacum
Hydnellum aurantiacum

This beautiful little mushroom, which grew in such abundance last year, has given me some lovely soft greens, but I wanted to see if I could encourage it to give some of the blues I know it’s capable of achieving. So our mushroom interest group—about ten interested members of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild—focused on this one at our last session.

I’ve had good results by soaking the mushrooms overnight in water with the pH raised to 12 with ammonia, but this time I decided to use washing soda because we’d be cooking the mushrooms indoors, and the odour of washing soda is decidedly less caustic than that of ammonia. I also wanted to try other methods of bringing out the colour, along with a few mordants for each method.

Hydnellum colours
Hydnellum colours

In this image, each group of three skeins represents a different mordant, from left to right: no mordant, alum, iron, and copper

The three skeins in each group were processed as follows, again from left to right:

Mushrooms were soaked overnight in well water (pH 5.8). The following day, the skeins were added to the dyebath, which was brought to a slow simmer until the skeins were fully dyed.

Mushrooms were soaked overnight in well water brought to a pH of 12 with the addition of washing soda. The following day, the skeins were added, then the dyebath brought to a slow simmer until the skeins were fully dyed.

Mushrooms were soaked overnight in well water, then brought to a temperature of 170 degrees F. The dyebath was held at this temperature for 15 minutes, at which time the skeins were added and simmered until fully dyed.

We were pleased with the beauty of all of these colours, and I think I’ve convinced a few more potential mushroom dyers to enter this “dark hole”!