Category Archives: Phaeolus schweinitzii (Dyer’s polypore)

Strong golds, browns and greens come from this mushroom abundant polypore.

Dyer’s polypore results

From the Phaeolus trimmings

Here are the results of my first real dyepot of the year, using the trimmings from the Phaeolus cluster that I mentioned in my last post. This year I’m going to concentrate on dyeing unspun fibre so I can play with the colours as I spin yarn with them.

The gold roving was mordanted with alum, the green with iron and the rich brown with copper.

I tried putting some more wool through the same dyebath, but the colours were lacklustre, to say the least. But I love what I got from this dyepot!


The official start of dye season!

Phaeolus nurse tree

After a few days of good rain last week, I expected to find something interesting in the forest today. And indeed I did!

I went to check out my “nurse tree” for Dyer’s Polypore. From the number of old specimens still clinging to it (see the brown “bumps” running up the trunk, all well above my reach), it’s clear this old snag must be riddled with the mycelium of Phaeolus schweinitzii.

From a distance I saw a cluster that seemed to glow in the afternoon sun, and as I drew nearer, my hopes were confirmed—look at this beautiful cluster of young fungi! This year I’m trying something new: when I find young ones like this, I’m going to trim the yellow edges to see if I might get fresh new growth that I can harvest again later. The third image shows what’s left on the tree, while the last image shows what I brought home—and what’s now simmering in my first dyepot of the year.

First flush of the season
After edges trimmed
Phaeolus trimmings

Phaeolus vs. Pycnoporellus

Pycnoporellus fulgens, aged

Alas, the mushroom I got so excited about last month wasn’t an early Phaeolus—I should have known—but it’s easy to see how they can be confused. Here on the left you can see that it was a little Pycnoporellus fulgens, now dried into a deep orange. I pick them at this stage and let them dry further until I have enough for a dyebath.

Phaeolus schweinitzii, young

But I was consoled by finding my first Phaeolus of the year on July 30, just a few yards down the trail (right next to a big pile of bear poo). I picked this one, too, to show visiting family what brilliant colour the young ones give—my next post will show the results.

Mr. Bear has been through here

Possibly a Phaeolus?

Phaeolus button?

Last week I spotted a bit of yellow something growing on a small—very small—stump of a Douglas fir. I had to go back to the spot today to check it out. I was keeping my fingers crossed that it might be a Phaeolus schweinitzii. My hopes were buoyed up when I saw how much it’s grown and changed since I first saw it.

I do believe this is a young dyer’s polypore. I’ve never seen one appear this early in the year, but we’ve had an exceptionally cool, wet spring (which adds to my firm belief that this is going to be a fabulous mushroom year!). Nor have I ever seen one on such a small stump—I usually find them on the massive, moss-covered stumps left over from the logging that was done here a hundred years ago. So I could be wrong . . . updates to follow as this little fungus grows.

From a cold dyepot

Dyed in a cold dyepot

Back in October, when more and more dye mushrooms were coming home with me and the dyepots never cooled down, I’d finished with a good batch of Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) but didn’t have time to do the exhausts, so I stuck the pot outside on my mudroom steps, with all the chunks of mushrooms going back into the dyebath.

At the same time, I found myself wondering what to do with a silk blouse that had a stain on the front. Aha! I thought. Let’s see if it can pick up any colour, and if the colour’s uneven and blotchy, so much the better.

It was a good six weeks before I got back to that dyepot, and even though parts of the blouse had been sitting right on the mushrooms all that time, the colour turned out to be quite even; too even, in fact – the stain still shows! (In the picture is a scarf from the original dyebath – I’ve embellished it with some mushroom beads.)

This is worth experimenting with next year, when I end up with more Phaeolus than my dyepots can accommodate. In the meantime, I still have to come up with some way of hiding that stain!

Mushroom-dyed handspun

Dermocybe-dyed handspun

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.

Phaeolus-dyed handspun

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.

Premordanting vs afterbath

Effects of iron and copperThese skeins show the difference between premordanting and being treated to a mordant afterbath. All were dyed with dyer’s polypore, Phaeolus schweinitzii.

The two on the left were treated with iron; the darker one was premordanted, while the lighter one sat in an iron afterbath for about thirty minutes.

The brown skeins were treated with copper; again, the darker one on the left was mordanted before dyeing, while the lighter one was immersed in a copper afterbath.

Care must be taken not to use too strong a mordant solution, as I understand it can damage the fibres over time.

I premordanted the skeins by weighing the fibre and using about 7% of that weight when measuring out the mordant, plus an equal amount of cream of tartar. The afterbaths were made with a quarter teaspoon of mordant dissolved in three cups of boiling water. I’m keeping the solutions in labelled jars, should I want to use them as afterbaths again.