What I’m spinning now

Two years’ worth of rovings

It’s time I started doing something about my stash – well, some if it, anyway – so I gathered up all the bits and pieces of roving that went through the dermocybe dyepots over the last two years.

I found I had two kinds of wool: soft, silky Merino (the pile on the left) and coarser Corriedale (right). The Merino, which felts more easily anyway, has a lot of little slubs throughout – if I dye with it again, I’ll have to be more careful not to move it around too much when it’s in the hot dyebath.

I hand-carded the wool, to open up the fibres and line them up for spinning.

My plan is to spin one bobbin of Merino and one of Corriedale, then ply them together, thus getting the best of both wools. I’ll put the colours together at random, so when the yarn is finished, it should be an interesting blend courtesy of the little Cortinarius that grow in the woods around us.


And more lovely combinations








Each of these trios gives yet another colour sense–I wish I had enough of the yarns to make three different garments, using each combination. But now I’m devoting my fibre time to spinning the rovings that came out of my mushroom dyepots; photos to follow.

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.

Getting ready for Dunbar

Getting ready for Dunbar

The house is filling up with all manner of mushroom-dyed yarns, rovings, fleece and silk scarves, all in preparation for the annual craft sale at the Dunbar Community Centre in Vancouver on Saturday, November 27. I still have a few dyepots to go, most notably the lobster dyepot (Hypomyces lactifluorum), which I’ve been putting off because most of the lobsters people have given me are starting to get a bit . . . shall we say . . . ripe. That doesn’t affect the colour, but it probably means I’ll be peeling off the orange layers outside.  I’ll have to take advantage of the next dry day to do so.

Our own lobster patches – those that survived the logging behind us – haven’t produced anything this year, sadly enough. I like to think the mushrooms are protesting the fact that their space is within site of the clearcut areas. I have no doubt they’ll be rested and ready to resume normal mushroom behaviour next year.

Dermocybe dyepot

Dermocybe rovings

I found a great location for Cortinarius semisanguineus this year, which is a good thing, because my usual closer-to-home patches are showing very few of those special little mushrooms, and I might have been dyeing a tiny sample instead of the great quantities of wool and yarn I’ve been putting through the dyepots.

I didn’t have time to sort the mushrooms out by the colour of their gills – red, gold, or yellow – so I put them all together until my dyepots were free. By that time they’d turned into a smelly, runny mass of pigment, but it was still pigment, and that was all that mattered.

I started with a four-litre bucket of mushrooms when they were fresh, so I put the reddish goo into my dyepot, then strained out the pieces after it had simmered for an hour or so. Then for each exhaust, I put in a piece of merino roving and a 50-yd skein of merino – and look at the results!

The red pigments were obviously picked up first, leaving some brilliant oranges for the last three exhausts.

I have one more harvest of dermocybes to process, but I’m holding out until I’m sure I’ve found all I’m going to find!

Dermocybe skeins