These 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.
It’s late in the season to be finding young Phaeolus, so imagine my delighted surprise when I found four young clusters last week, all within some 200 yards of each other, and all coming up from underground fir roots (as opposed to growing on the tree trunk itself).
Now look at the colours (unretouched) that came from these four little clusters! These were from four exhausts, starting with the skeins/roving at top left (wool premordanted with copper and iron gave the brown and green skeins) and going around clockwise. The roving from the second dyebath (top right) was actually brighter than the first – I had this experience last year, too.
Not pictured are two skeins that I treated with copper and iron afterbaths. I’ll post pictures of those soon, but right now I’m flying out the door for what will probably be the last organized foray of the Sunshine Coast SHROOM (Society for the Hunting, Recognition and Observation of Mushrooms).
I’m starting to find young dyer’s polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) in the forest, so they’re giving me some very rich golds, made even richer by the afternoon light.
I made another dyepot using grey fleece, Corriedale roving and a handful of Tencel. The colour didn’t turn out to be quite so vibrant, but rich nonetheless.
Last year I dyed mostly commercial yarn because I was more interested in seeing the wide range of colours I could get. This year I plan to dye more unspun fibre so I can play with them at the spinning wheel. Now it’s out for a foray in another part of the forest, a friend, my dog, and me.
I had a fantastic foray a few days ago and came home with a good ten pounds of Phaeolus – even my dog alerted me to a prime specimen (although he hasn’t repeated that trick since).
Here are two views of one that was still yellow and fuzzy on the underside and around the margins, a good sign that it will give some bright colour. I’m saving it and the other young ones I found for the dyeing workshop I’m holding this Friday the 16th (as part of the First Annual Sunshine Coast Mushroom Fest this weekend). I hope a few days of sitting outside won’t have dimmed their potential for lustre!
Here are some of the skeins that came out of recent Phaeolus dyepots. I’ve prepared 30-yard skeins (here the gold ones were mordanted in alum, the brown in copper and the greenish ones in iron) so I can get some good colours without exhausting the dyebath in the first go. Now that it’s cold enough to have the wood stove going, I put a new skein in the dyepot in the morning, leave it all day and overnight, then it’s cooled off in the morning. I can go for four or five days with a Phaeolus dyepot before the gold starts to look washed out, at which time the spent dyebath goes on the compost and the mushroom bits go into a bin for future paper-making.
Here are the results from the two smallish, fairly fresh Phaeolus schweinitzii I mentioned in my Sept 3 post. This image doesn’t do justice to the colours – they are actually brighter than they appear here. I used a small dyepot and small skeins, one at a time, and kept the heat on low the whole time. You can see the colours in succession, from left to right. The first two baths gave duller colours (the smaller skein third from the left was mordanted in iron; all the rest were mordanted with alum), but as I did more exhausts, the gold got brighter, than faded to a soft yellow.
So when I found a group of Phaeolus buttons, still fuzzy yellow and unopened, I decided to repeat the process. Again, the succession of dyebaths goes from left to right, this time with the smaller skein having been mordanted in copper. I dyed a silk scarf in the third dyebath, with beautiful results, and again the successive dyebaths faded to a warm yellow.
I’d had my eye on a place where I found a large grouping of Phaeolus last year, so when I found them coming out this year at a nice button stage, I went at them with my knife, in great anticipation of their giving the same brilliant gold. I cut them into chunks about two inches wide and ended up with a good two cupsful of mushrooms in my dyepot. Again, I kept the heat low, and in went a large (100g) skein, and look what resulted: a nice mushroom tan! Thinking that this dyebath might behave like my first attempt above, where the colour actually brightened after a couple of tries, I put a copper-mordanted skein in for the second exhaust – and got a dull army blanket green!
I don’t want to discard all those good mushrooms yet (or turn them into paper), but I don’t want to waste any more wool if the colour isn’t going to improve, so I’ve taken a bit of the dyebath and a few pieces of mushroom and put them in my smaller test dyepot with a smaller skein. We’ll see what happens with this.
Our summer has been so very dry this year that I’m not finding too many mushrooms of any kind in the forest out back. I did find a couple of small Phaeolus schweinitzii near a boggy area, and these were already partially dried. I put them in my small dyepot and did a slow almost-simmer for four or five hours, then dyed some sample skeins, which came out a lovely, rich gold. I then returned the pieces of the polypore back to the dyepot for another few hours, and now a second sample dyebath is in the works. I want to see how many of these little dyebaths I can get from the two mushrooms – I’ll have photos up shortly.
The scarf on the right went through the Dyer’s Polypore dyepot I described earlier. The pigment in this fungus is so strong, I decided to throw two more scarves into it the next day. These had already been through the young-Phaeolus dyepot and had come out gold, but I wasn’t happy with my tie-dyeing efforts, so I tied them up again (using elastic bands). When they came out of the dyepot, there were still some empty spaces, so I retied once more, and back they went into the dyepot for another hour.
This gives a better idea of the patterning that resulted from the tie-dyeing. I gathered up random bunches of the fabric and twisted elastic bands around until they were tight enough to hold.
This scarf went through the Phaeolus dyepot just once. I’d folded it several times vertically in such a way that the centre of the scarf (lengthwise) was exposed to more dye than the rest of the folds, ironing the folds in place as I went, then tied pieces of elastic along its length. I left a fair space in the middle of the scarf untied, so the expanse of rich brown contrasts with the decorated ends.
Named Dyer’s Polypore with good reason, this beautiful bracket fungus is filled with pigment – good, strong, gold pigment. It’s an annual, meaning it grows for one season, then dries up, only to come back in the same place next year. It looks like this when it’s young, when the white edges appear almost fuzzy. As they get older, they become a rich, reddish brown.
Young phaeolus give a rich gold colour, while the older ones give a darker golden brown.
I found a huge, sodden Phaeolus in the forest last week, so I boiled it for an hour or so, then strained the bits out for the dyebath. This is what resulted – the skeins were mordanted (l to r) with copper, alum, and iron. That’s a silk scarf (tie-dyed) in the middle, and at the bottom are silk noil and a piece of unknown silk, both unmordanted (added as an afterthought).
I love the rich, rich gold of the top skein in this image. That one I dyed with a young Phaeolus, still with the band of white at its edge, and I couldn’t believe the colour! The three skeins at the bottom are from the dyepot I talk about above – the light gives a better rendition of their colour in this image, but now the mordants are (l to r) alum, copper, and iron. The small skeins are from November’s mushroom workshop; the three on top from a fresh mushroom, and the three on bottom from old mushrooms, whose colour wasn’t very intense, for some reason.
On my walk through the woods today, I found another little patch of pink coral mushrooms, so they’re simmering away in the mud room – perhaps this is the one that will give me a real Purple!
CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS