My posts have been few this last little while—I’m putting most of my dyers aside for the Fungi & Fibre Sympsium and spending most of my available time setting things up for registration, which will open March 1. It promises to be such a grand event, in such a beautiful setting, and the excitement in our little community is building.
It’s actually going to happen, and right here in Madeira Park on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia: the largest (and only) international gathering of mushroom dyers! We’ll spend a week hovering over dyepots, taking in interesting workshops, and exploring the lush trails of our West Coast rainforest.
Registration will open March 1. Our workshop lineup is almost complete; check it out on our website. If you’re not already on our mailing list, drop us a line at email@example.com.
A word of warning: once you attend one of the Symposia, you’ll never want to miss another!
If it seems like it’s been a while since I last posted . . . it has. Despite the dry summer, the mushrooms are coming out now, so most days we’re out scouting our favourite spots.
We discovered one particular patch of Lobsters (Hypomyces lactifluorum) two years ago and hadn’t been back since, but we decided to check it out this morning. Strangely enough, there were very few other mushrooms around, but our patch didn’t disappoint; we came home with a good ten pounds of the beauties, most of them already breaking apart. But that doesn’t matter to me—I’ll strip the coloured bits no matter how fragile or smelly their hosts might be.
And it was interesting to see the various stages of progression: from an uninfected Russula brevipes to one starting to show a bit of colour, to one in the full stages of orange.
My evening work is cut out for me—paring mushrooms! Now we’re certain to have a strong Lobster dyepot for next year’s Fungi & Fibre Symposium. (Have you marked your calendars yet? October 17-22, 2016, Madeira Park, BC.)
Some friends came over this week to do a couple of dyepots with some dried mushrooms still in my stash. I pulled out a bag of dried toothed fungi that had been sitting in a drawer for a couple of years. When I picked them, I thought they were some sort of Hydnellum, not realizing that in fact I’d collected a good bagful of Phellodon, probably P. atratus, given the amazing blue they gave to the silk scarves in the dypeot. (The mushrooms had soaked overnight in an ammonia solution, which brought the dyepot up to a pH of 10 when we were ready to cook.)
But something interesting happened in the dyepot: Where elastic bands had been used to do some quick shibori, the silk was a coppery brown. At first we thought this might have been a reaction to the rubber in the elastic, but then we noticed this brown showed more faintly where the silk had been tied in loose knots. This warrants more experimenting, for sure. I still have enough of the dried mushrooms for another dyepot, so this is turning out to be an exciting way to start another season of mushroom colours—but first I have to exhaust what’s left in the first pot (these mushrooms seem to be very generous with their pigment; the dye liquor was rich and dark).
This is why I love mushroom dyeing—the learning never stops!
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.
Like the rest of North America’s West Coast, we’ve had an exceptionally dry spring and early summer. Flowers, birds, berries—they’ve all been a few weeks early this year, and everything is scarily dry.
I’ve been away for three weeks and on my return was hesitant to go out into my Back 40, knowing the moss would be crunchy and the ground dry. But I needed my forest therapy (after a glorious but noisy and crowded holiday in Sicily), so out I went with Rica, my fantastic flying puppy.
And what should I find, in a spot where I’ve never found this mushroom before:
(I did find a few of these Velvet Pax at this time last year, but we’d had a cool, rainy June. I certainly didn’t expect to find it in our current conditions. Usually they appear in late July through September.)
This was on its own in open sun (growing out of wood under the moss), already getting parched. Down the hill, at the base of a shady stump where I’ve found these mushrooms in previous years, was another clump that still looked as if they had some growing to do, so I’ll keep an eye on them for now. My other usual spots haven’t revealed anything yet.
Along the trail, farther along, is my nurse log for Pycnoporellus fulgens. Even though I don’t get a striking colour from these, and I usually need two years’ worth of collecting to make one dyepot, I’m always happy to see them, as they are (usually) the first harbingers of mushroom season.
I’ve never seen this fungus in such a huge cluster before—this one is about four inches wide. Usually it appears as a single fan, perhaps in tiers (see my post from 2009 when I first realized what it was). As always, I’ll leave this to dry over the summer and start a new stash until I have enough for another pastel dyepot.
I feel honoured and privileged to have been invited to teach a workshop on mushroom dyeing at Maiwa this year.
Maiwa (pronounced MAY-wah) supports traditional craft, through an ethical business model, in the trade of embroidered, block-printed, handwoven, and naturally dyed textiles (mainly with India, but also with several other areas). Their dedicated staff seek out quality workmanship, and they do what they can to educate the purchasing public about the cultures, co-operatives, and lives of the artisans.
Every year, beginning in September and carrying on into November, Maiwa holds its Textile Symposium, with lectures, exhibitions, seminars, and workshops covering all manner of topics related to the fibre arts. Their teaching facilities are first-rate (Classroom space! Dyepots of all sizes! Heated drying racks! Extractors to remove smelly fumes! Assistants!) and their staff exceptionally helpful and efficient.
If you get a chance, visit one of their locations in Vancouver: their main store and Maiwa Supply, both on Granville Island, and Maiwa East at 1310 Odlum. Not only will you find garments, fabrics, and accessories, it’s also the go-to place for dyeing supplies and information. The shop at Maiwa East is filled with furniture unlike anything you’ll find in a big box. You can purchase documentary DVDs through their website and download podcasts of many of their symposium presentations.
Registrations opens June 22 at 10:00 am. I’ll be teaching a two-day workshop November 2 and 3.
My dear friend and wonderfully creative fibre artist behind the Ruby Slippers blog has made some beautiful fabric pieces by eco-dyeing—rolling flowers and leaves into little bundles, then steaming them. She has to leave these bundles alone for several weeks to ensure that the colours are imprinted, and when she can finally open them, the results are marvelous.
Eco-dyeing with mushrooms presents its own challenges, but when I noticed a layer of “dust” in the bottom of a box holding a bunch of dried Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii), a tiny light bulb sparked an idea. I dyed some silk scarves in a Phaeolus dyepot and removed them before the colour became too intense. Then I put them immediately into a pot of simmering water—a stop bath—to set the colour. Then I got to play, and here’s what happened.
I scooped up a few handfuls of Phaeolus bits—as the fungus dries, it seems to shed its layer of pores, which have turned dark brown, but I reasoned these bits would still contain pigment.
My search for something handy to use as a “stencil” took me to the kitchen utensil drawer. My dearest, who does all the cooking, probably wouldn’t have condoned my taking this up to my studio to be covered in inedible fungus dust, but in matters of mushroom dyeing, it’s always safer to follow the “ask forgiveness” rule. I sprinkled the bits into the slots with a liberal hand, then gave the whole thing a good spritz of water to keep everything in place. With care, I lifted the slotted spoon off the fabric, pleased to see that the design had stayed in place. I soon discovered, though, that the mushroom bits had minds of their own and were scattering themselves outside the design area. So I went along and sprinkled bits over the scarf’s surface, hoping for a speckled background.
I’d laid the scarf out on a long piece of plastic (cut from one of those ubiquitous shopping bags that I swear procreate under the kitchen sink) and began rolling, taking care not to disturb my designs.
Then it was a simple matter of tying the scarf tightly in three places . . .
. . . and putting it into a bamboo steamer where it steamed for thirty minutes one day and thirty minutes the next. (I did that because of timing—ordinarily I would have steamed it for an hour the first time.)
I decided not to wait three weeks to see the results. I figured the bits of Phaeolus would impart their colour quickly and permanently . . .
Last year I wrote about an exciting discovery with the orange coral mushroom, Ramaria largentii, when I obtained a nice purple from a little bag that had been left outside during a frost. The mountain of coral that had dried inside proved to be unusable, giving a blah beige.
This year’s harvest of coral wasn’t outstanding, but I do have enough in my freezer now to do a few dyepots. First I wanted to make sure that several months of freezing wouldn’t affect the colour. And indeed it didn’t! This purple is on wool roving mordanted with iron.
I’ve been away from my studio more than I wanted (although the January trip to Costa Rica was a legitimate reason to be away), but the dyepots are heating up again, with some interesting results. More to come . . .
We’ve had to wait for mushrooms this year, almost longer than my patience could tolerate, but the welcome rains of two weeks ago were enough to coax most of the regulars out, albeit in fewer quantities than we found last year . . . except for today’s find, which appeared in numbers I’ve never seen before in one place: fresh, beautiful clusters of Hydnellum peckii in a ring around a couple of medium-size Douglas fir. When they’re fresh and oozy like this, it’s easy to see why they’re called Strawberries and Cream. (My hands were stained red for hours after picking them!)
I love how these and other toothed fungi engulf whatever’s in their way. This one had not only eaten a couple of sticks, but it was doing its best to devour a branch in its path.
In the same forest were a good number of Hydnellum aurantiacum, which is more common in these parts. (You can see the teeth in this image.) I can expect some lovely greens out of both Hydnellum dyepots.
As of now, I’m setting aside half of my mushroom treasures for other reasons; stay tuned to find out!
CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS