Category Archives: Omphalotus olivascens

Some finished projects

I spin more yarn than I can keep up with, but occasionally I’ll complete something with my mushroom-dyed skeins. Here are my latest:

Omphalotus colours
Omphalotus colours

I wanted to use up all of the precious purple I obtained from last spring’s Omphalotus olivascens dyepot, but I didn’t know just what I could make with it. I wanted something that would highlight the differences between the dark purple from the first dyebath and the lighter shades from the final exhausts. So when I saw the pattern for the Penrose Tile shawl by Carol Feller in the Autumn 2013 issue of PLY Magazine, I knew I’d found the answer.

The shawl is meant to be longer vertically—I ended up with a circular scarf rather than a shawl—but I’m pleased with the results.

*****

This was an interesting project. It started with machine-knitted “blanks”—rectangles knitted in double strands of white wool. Workshop participants dyed these blanks in three different dyepots, so they looked like this (mine was fourth from the right).

Mushroom blanks
Mushroom blanks

We then took our blanks home and ravelled them. I ended up with a length of yarn that, when folded in half, had identical colour shifts (because the yarn was doubled during the knitting). I looked for something that would take advantage of this symmetry, and found it on Ravelry: Queen Anne’s Lace Scarf.

Three-dyepot crochet
Three-dyepot crochet

It proved to be an easy take-along project that went together quickly. And it’s a good example of the possibilities that can happen when mushrooms hit the dyepot.

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Spinning a few yarns

Every aspect of mushroom dyeing and fibre preparation is a joy, and I could always use more time at these pursuits, but the ultimate pleasure, the end goal of all of this, is the spinning. I love to feel the smooth fibres slipping through my fingers as the wheel works its magic and twists them into a thread that winds onto the bobbin. If I’ve blended colours or fibres, it’s exciting to see how they come together into a single strand, and then how plying two or more strands results in a balanced yarn. As I wind the yarn onto my niddy-noddy, the length of it again slides through my hands, and when I’ve tied it into a skein, I get to fondle it once more. Who knew yarn could be so tactile, so sensual?

Two- and three-ply yarns
Two- and three-ply yarns

This yarn was the result of carding some blah colours into batts, which I then brightened up with some leftover bits of orange and gold. I spun this deliberately chunky and used two plies of this with one ply of straight Hydnellum green—the result ended up not blah at all. When I ran out of one strand of the chunky, I plied the other with what was left of the green; hence the smaller, greener skein that sits on top.

Dermocybe rose
Dermocybe rose

I love this colour, and until I fire up a few more dermocybe dyepots, this is all I have of it. I added texture by”stacking” a thin ply over the soft texture of a thick-and-thin ply.

Phaeolus gold
Phaeolus gold

I made this yarn from the results of several Phaeolus dyepots, combining shades of gold and green. The “icicle,” a synthetic product, picks up colours wonderfully and adds a bit of zing to the finished yarn.

Thrice-dipped yarn
Thrice-dipped yarn

I had fun with these skeins. I spun them from a soft white roving, my reliably go-to fibre, then dipped parts of them in each of three dyepots: dyer’s polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii), lobster (Hypomyces lactifluorum), and Hydnellum aurantiacum. The colours overlapped quite nicely.

Now my spinning wheel is calling me.

Six shades of . . . purple

Omphalotus yarnWhen I sat down to spin the lovely Omphalotis purple, I decided to keep separate the six different shades that emerged from successive exhausts of the same dyepot. So I split the wool of each shade in two and, working from darkest to lightest, spun two plies of about the same length and with the same gradations of colour. These I plied together into one skein.

As these special colours flowed through my hands and onto the bobbin, I realized that I’d put two different types of wool into the dyepots, one a bit coarser than the other. Not to worry—whatever I make with this will be for myself, and with sich royal hues upon my person, what possible complaints could I have?

Spinning Omphalotus

Omphalotus_spinning

After the usual seasonal hiatus, when mushrooms lie dormant and the garden takes priority, I’m back to dreaming of mushroom dyepots and all the potential therein: I’ve found the first early dye mushrooms in the back forest! More about those later, but for now I’ve started spinning the gorgeous violets I obtained from the Omphalotus olivascens (see my post of May 12). With a bit of experimenting, I’ve discovered that a mild vinegar rinse (pH3) seems to set the colour—rinsing in plain well water took some of the violet out and left a grey, and a rinse in pH9 did even moreso (good thing I tried it with just a small sample.)

I haven’t yet rinsed any of this dyed wool—I’ll spin them first, then set colour and twist at the same time.

I’ve taken each piece of dyed roving and divided it in half, spinning from darkest to lightest (the colours each successive exhaust dyepot gave me). I’ll spin two bobbins in this way, then ply them together, with the end result being one yarn that starts with the lovely dark violet and ends with the lightest purple-grey. In time, I’ll turn this into a scarf or a shawl, depending upon how much I end up with.

Now this is violet!

Colour from Omphalotus olivascens
Colour from Omphalotus olivascens

After my first Omphalotus dyepot, which I’d done with our well water and which gave me mostly very nice greens, (see my post of April 18) I decided to use distilled water for my second (and last) dyepot. When the dyebath was almost at temperature (about 170 degrees F), I saw that my sample strands showed signs of violet, so I put my first piece of undyed wool in right away and left it for about 20 minutes, by which time it too was violet.

(I should mention that I generally leave the mushrooms to simmer in the dyepot while I do the exhausts, in case I can wring out a bit more pigment. I’ve discovered Tide lingerie bags—and no, this is not a product placement for any particular brand—which are made of the finest mesh, with a zippered closure. Using this, I can lift all the fibre out in one go, and I don’t have to deal with any leftover mushroom bits.)

I pulled the fibre out immediately, fearing that this colour might get dull if left to cook too long. After it had cooled, and without realizing what I was doing, I put the fibre into a bucket of (well) water and watched, in absolute horror, as the violet disappeared before my very eyes! The wool was a lovely steel grey, but grey was not what I was after.

I immediately put another piece of fibre into the pot, watched it carefully, and pulled it out when it was clearly going to be violet. This time I didn’t rinse it, and the colour remained. In fact, I got several more exhausts from this dyepot, the violets becoming progressively lighter, but definitely violet. I stopped when my last sample came out an undistinctive beige.

After the wool had dried, I rinsed a small sample in well water and another sample in a vinegar rinse—their colour doesn’t seem to have changed, but I’m nervous about rinsing the rest of the wool until I’m certain it’s safe to do so. Our well water tests high in calcium and silica, with a pH of 7.6—any chemists out there who can explain what’s going on?

Omphalotus olivascens

Omphalotus ready to go
Omphalotus ready to go

I was fortunate enough to obtain a quantity of these mushrooms (dried) from the amazing Alissa Allen (see mycopigments link at the side), who’d collected them in December around Arcata, California. I was swooning in anticipation, because these beauties are purported to give a violet colour, and they don’t grow this far north. So here they are, having soaked overnight in my well water, ready to be cooked up.

Omphalotus_first_dyepot
Here, then, the results, from left to right: First dyepot, unmordanted wool; first dyepot, mordanted with iron; second dyepot, mordanted with iron; third dyepot, mordanted with copper; fourth dyepot, mordanted with iron; fourth dyepot, mordanted with copper.

As an experiment, I took a bit of wool from the first violet sample and placed it in an ammonia solution (pH9) to see if that might bring out even more of the violet. To my dismay, the sample (seen at the left, under the first violet sample) quickly turned grey. A striking grey, but grey nonetheless. Next to that grey sample is a bit of synthetic “icicle” that picked up the violet colour without a problem.

Being unwilling to let go of this potential colour, I tried yet another exhaust with my little samples, but it was clear the pot had nothing more to give than an uninteresting beige, so I was forced to return what was left back to the forest.

This has been a very exciting dyepot, and I still have half ot the dried Omphalotus to play with again!