I’m pleased to announce the publication of Magic in the Dyepot, part memoir, part how-to, and part how-not-to. In it I share what I’ve learned so far. I hope it will entice even more natural dyers to consider fungi for their dyepots.
For ordering information and to see a few sample pages, click here.
It’s been just over a month since Symposium week, a grand event by all accounts. With 120 registrants from all around the world, the energy was high in our little community. The dyepots barely had a chance to cool down from one day to the next, the forests couldn’t have been more generous with their mushrooms, and everyone went home with smiles on their faces.
Thanks to participant Lesley O’Keefe, we can enjoy looking back on the week’s events with this Youtube video, which also highlights the beauty of BC’s Sunshine Coast—and shows why those of us who live here feel we’re the most fortunate people in the world.
My freezer has been home to masses of frozen Ramaria collected for the Fungi and Fibre Symposium dyepots, but I wanted to be sure it would give some good colour after being frozen for nine months. My earlier experiments with the frozen version of this mushroom resulted in a decent purple, but I didn’t want to take a chance on seeing a dozen international visitors hovering over a dyepot, watching and waiting for purple. And ending up with a blah beige.
So this lovely orange coral appeared in my Back Forty at the perfect time, when plans for the event are ticking along nicely and when my hands really needed to get into some dyepots. The coral came home with me and went straight into my sample dyepot along with a few strands of iron-mordanted yarn.
The results amounted to a revelation. I recant my previous musings about frozen Ramaria and about keeping the dyepot temperature on the low side. Here’s what happened (laid out on grey cardstock—the colours are true, at least on my screen) :
First, it doesn’t appear that the purple from Ramaria is quite so finicky as the other purple-bestowing mushrooms when it comes to temperatures (specifically Tapinella atrotomentosa and Omphalotus olivascens, which need to be watched carefully and pulled at ~160° F). Clearly the dyebath shouldn’t be allowed to reach boiling, but 170° F was the optimum for the first two sets of samples.
My second discovery: freezing Ramaria works if done for a short time but not for the nine months I subjected my stash to. So I returned the Symposium orange coral to the forest floor, and now I’m hoping for an outstanding harvest this year so our registrants won’t be disappointed.
At the same time as I found the Ramaria, I also found Clavulina coralloides in various stages of infection with Helminthosphaeria clavariarum, a fungus that routinely parasitizes this little coral.
Since I was planning on doing some sampling anyway, I decided to try this one too—with the darkest of the infected coral—on the off chance the deep purple of the parasite might translate into the dyepot, again with an iron-mordanted test strand.
More grey than purple, but clearly darker with more heat. Worth playing with some more? I don’t think so.
I’m actually making some headway on my crocheted silk wrap, all in mushroom colours, that must be finished by October in time for the Fungi & Fibre Symposium—once I got into the pattern, I discovered it was much easier to follow the chart instead of the written instructions, and now I can see where it’s taking me.
This is the back. I’ve also blocked matching side pieces and am now attaching all three sections in such a way as to make openings where I’ll add the sleeves. I’m following the pattern on faith here in the belief that eventually this too will make sense.
The mushrooms are appearing early this year, thanks to a glorious rainy spring and early summer. I hope to squeeze in some dyepot time in the next few weeks, but with three months to go until the big event, my priorities are elsewhere for the most part.
Thanks to an abundance of spring rains, we’re seeing mushrooms a few weeks earlier than usual this year—we can only hope this bodes well for an exceptional season later in the year!
This gorgeous Tapinella atrotomentosa caught me quite by surprise a few weeks ago. The slugs had already nibbled on it a bit, so I cut off the largest cap, then tucked ferns and the spiky leaves of Oregon grape around the remaining little ones to give them a chance to grow. I took my treasure home, cut it into slices, and put it on the sunny deck to dry. My dearest used the oven that evening when making dinner (he cooks all our meals, which pleases me no end), so I popped the tray of almost-dry mushrooms into the still-warm oven after dinner.
Much to my dismay, my little strips of Velvet Pax looked over-dark the next morning; not exactly burned, but darker than I’d expected. What had I done? I usually don’t find enough of these to treat them so recklessly and callously! There was nothing for it but to put the sorry little bits in a test dyepot with a few strands of mordanted yarn, to gauge the damage.
Clearly I need to get back into the routine—I’d used a little glass pot, and even though I’d set the heat on medium-low, I turned my back for what seemed just a minute, only to turn back and find my little pot almost boiling over. I was sure I’d screwed it up completely.
But look what came out of the pot (from left to right: no mordant, alum, iron, copper)—does that not look blue to you?
The dye liquid, although a small amount, was still quite dark, so I popped in another test bundle and watched it this time, careful not to let it get over-hot. And this time the colours were more like what I would expect from a Tapinella pot allowed to overheat.
I hesitate to try and repeat these results on a larger scale, but if I find a good number of Tapinella this year, I may just have to.
Some time ago—almost three years ago, in fact—I posted about my plans to knit a silk wrap. I didn’t mention at the time that I have an immovable deadline for this project: the Fungi & Fibre Symposium to be held here in Pender Harbour in October of this year. At this fabulous event, participants wait until the final gala dinner on the last evening to show off their new mushroom-dyed finery—lovely garments, clever hats, lustrous silk ties—items to be admired and marveled at for the rest of the evening.
So I convinced myself that I could make a crocheted silk wrap, the construction of which is far beyond anything I’ve ever managed before; the same can be said for the yardage requirements (2,000+ yards of finely spun silk).
I don’t think I’ve spun quite enough yet, but the project can wait no longer. I must get started if I’m to complete it by October 22. The swatch is still a bit heavy, so I may have to move to a larger crochet hook, but at least I know I can make sense of the pattern.
I’ll report as the wrap takes shape. Wish me luck.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived: it’s time to register for the 17th Fungi & Fibre Symposium, October 17-22, 2016, in Madeira Park on BC’s Sunshine Coast. Just go to the Register page on the website, fill in the interactive form, then go back to the website to process your registration fee through PayPal.
Workshops will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so those who register early will have the best chances of getting their preferred choices.
It’s going to be a grand event—do plan to attend.
CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS