Spinning something yellow

Sulfur tuft roving

In the world of natural dyeing, pale yellow is almost something to yawn at – it’s so easy to get with any number of grasses, leaves and weeds. However, the sulfur tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare, formerly Naematoloma fasciculare) is one of the first dye mushrooms to appear in the fall, usually in early September, so I love to get a dyepot of its good, fresh colour going as a start to the dyeing season. I’ve tried letting the mushrooms dry and also leaving a fresh dyepot to sit for a week or two, and in both cases, the colour became more drab and less exciting.

Another reason I love this little mushroom is because it’s the one Miriam Rice threw into a dyepot some forty years ago, merely out of curiosity if it would give any colour (she’d been experimenting with other natural dyes, but never with mushrooms). Fortunately for us, she’d picked a cluster of sulfur tufts, one of the few mushrooms that does give a good colour. Had it been one of the many fungi that give a nice mushroom brown, I, and many others, probably wouldn’t be dyeing with mushrooms today!

This is some sulfur tuft roving I dyed last fall, and this ply will be the wrapping for a spiral or boucle yarn.

Sulfur tufts
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The finished yarn

Merino on the bobbin

These colours came from varieties of Cortinarius semisanguineus, mushrooms that look like LBMs (little brown mushrooms) from above, but whose brilliant red, orange and gold gills attest to the pigments they contain. After saving two years’ worth of  dye experiments, it was time to spin them up. I’d used two kinds of wool – Merino and Corriedale – and separated them out, easily done by feel. I spun the Merino first, shown here on the bobbin, then spun the Corriedale on another bobbin. Colours always look brighter in unspun fibre; spinning and plying soften them somewhat.

I plied the two bobbins together into a textured yarn, enough for two skeins. With some Merino left on the bobbin, I Navajo-plied it to get a three-ply yarn with distinct colour breaks.

The last of this year’s dermocybes are simmering now in my slow cooker, and I’m dyeing silk with them. I’m saving the Cortinarius sanguineus to the end, as the colour is sure to be spectacular, although on the silk it won’t be as brilliant as if I were dyeing wool.

Dermocybe yarn

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.

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.

CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS