Tag Archives: dyeing fiber

Unpredictable but beautiful colours

Velvet Pax colours

My first mushroom dyepot of the season, using Tapinella atrotomentosa (Velvet Pax) yielded the colours on the left. I’d seen some nice purple from this mushroom on unmordanted wool, and that’s what I was hoping to get on the large (unmordanted) sample at the left; it turned out to be more brown than purple. The lighter sample to its right was the exhaust bath, while the lovely purple was a small piece mordanted with alum.

(Confession: I’ve begun putting my fibre inside a very fine mesh lingerie bag so I can extract colour and dye the fibre at the same time. When this batch began to heat up, I smelled the distinct odour of washing soda, leaving me to think I hadn’t rinsed the bag completely at the end of last year’s season. My next batch with this mushroom will get a pinch of washing soda to see how that affects the colour.)

Proceeding to another batch of fresh mushrooms (and a thoroughly rinsed mesh bag), I put a large piece of alum-mordanted wool into the dyepot, and instead of purple, I got this great olive green! The alum-treated silk scrunchy also went through that dyebath, while the sample on the far right was mordanted with copper.

I wonder if the phases of the moon, or the way I crinkle my eyebrows, has anything to do with the unpredictable results from this mushroom.

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And the cycle continues . . .

Squirrels like Velvet Pax

Our latest foray into the back and beyond proved exciting—the Tapinella atrotomentosa (which I still want to call Paxillus atrotomentosus, or Velvet Pax) are beginning to appear in the usual spots, on mossy old stumps and decaying logs. I even found a few in the roots of an old cedar—I usually see them on Douglas fir. I’m not the only one attracted to these beauties, however. These little gnaw marks are clear evidence that I’m in competition with squirrels.

Protecting the button mushroom

Because I’m selfish with my dye mushrooms, I decided to try a trick I’ve employed in my vegetable garden, to keep cats out of my freshly dug garden beds: I gathered up a bunch of twiggy branches and made a protective little cage over this button in the hope it can grow intact to a usable size.

In the meantime, my first dyepot of the season, using the bits of Velvet Pax the squirrels decided to leave for me, is now under way, along with marathon mordanting sessions. Bring on the dye mushrooms!

Cortinarius sanguineus!

Cortinarius sanguineus

We found a spot, not that far from us but requiring a bit of effort to get to, where I found the Holy Grail—Cortinarius sanguineus—in such abundance that this year I’m going to have more than just a sample dyepot.

By the time I found this population (I don’t want to call it a cluster, because the mushrooms weren’t exactly clustered), we were running out of time and daylight, so I wasn’t able to explore further. Next year I’ll know exactly where to go, a few metres above a little stream and in fairly deep shade, and I’ll walk all along that elevation, where these little beauties obviously love their surroundings.

The dyepot will be happening soon—I think silk will be appropriate for this one!

Cortinius sanguineus
Cortinarius sanguineus

Mega pax and polypore

Mega pax and polypore

I obtained these huge specimens on the weekend (see the quarter for perspective) at the  Sunshine Coast Mushroom Festival here in Pender Harbour. A friend brought in the huge Velvet Pax on the left (Tapinella atrotomentosa) for the ID table. This is in my dyepot at the moment, and I have high hopes for the greens, greys and maybe even mauves that it’s going to give me.

Then on our foray with Larry Evans Sunday, I found the biggest Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) I’ve ever seen, at the base of  a very, very old Douglas fir. The tree stood no more than eight feet tall, but it stood straight. Woodpeckers and birds had taken their toll, and it was devoid of bark, ready to collapse soon.  I saw the remains of several old Phaeolus around its trunk, and peering out from a hollow under a giant old root, this fabulous beauty caught my eye.

This lovely one deserves a dyepot of its own.

Immersed in golden dyepots

Phaeolus, three mordants

I’m finding so many beautiful dyer’s polypore this year, and the variations on gold are never-ending! I put these mordanted rovings in the dyepot together, knowing that the iron might affect the colours on the other two, which were mordanted with alum and copper. And it did, but not in a bad way. The colour produced by two good-sized clusters was so rich and strong that the iron’s “saddening” effect added some depth to the gold of the alum roving and to the rust brown of the copper one. (The iron roving is dark green.)

And then there’s the brilliant gold that took my breath away . . . this came from another two fresh clusters of dyer’s polypore, with enough pigment left over to have an exhaust dyebath (the wool on the right).

The best time of the year, without a doubt.

First dyebath, exhaust bath

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!