For a variety of reasons, some personal, some structural (as in setting up a studio, aka My New Happy Place), some environmental (as in this wasn’t a very good year for dye mushrooms), my dyepots have been cold for the last few months. That will soon change, however, once my new workspace is ready and functional.
My spinning wheel hasn’t slowed down all that much, though; here are some interesting textures that resulted from some of my play sessions.
More posts to follow as soon as I can fire up the dyepots!
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.
I believe all forest creatures, including myself, must learn to live together, but dammit! I’m not prepared to let the squirrels have my dye mushrooms when they already have plenty of forest food to munch on and store away at this time of year.
These little buttons were just starting out when I found them on top of a mossy stump early in August, so I set up a twiggy-branch protection system for them (see my August 13 post) and hoped for the best.
Sixteen days later, here’s what I found (after removing the twigs): beautiful, untouched specimens, fresh and perfect for the dyepot. And into the pot they went, that very same day. I’ll post pictures of the results soon.
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.
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!
This is made with the wool that went through my Cortinarius sanguineus dyepot—the small wine-coloured mushrooms that pack such powerful colour (see my post of February 9). Any dyed wool, once it’s spun, will lose some of its colour intensity, so I didn’t expect this to work up in the bright red I started with. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with the results.
I spun this Merino more tightly than I’d planned to, so after it was chain-plied, the three-ply yarn felt more like a soft cord. I decided to do some improv crocheting and ended up with this very long scarf-like garment that wraps around my neck three times, with lots left over to play with.
While my dyepots are finished for this season, the spinning continues. I’m working on the merino from the multiple exhausts of the beautiful little Cortinarius sanguineus—all the mushrooms went in at once, and I put the wool through successive dyepots until the colour was more or less gone (see my post of February 9). I’ll have four good bobbins of singles, which I plan to then chain-ply, or Navajo ply, which will result in a three-ply yarn without any waste.
Because I plan to crochet with this yarn, I’m spinning the singles in a counterclockwise direction, to be plied clockwise. I have no idea how many yards I’ll end up with, but because I want to make a shawl with it, I’ll choose a pattern that will allow me to continue until I run out of yarn.
This was one of the more fun yarns I’ve spun recently—I combined on my drumcarder several colours that resulted from my various Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) dyepots over the season (samples are taped to the white paper). Then as I spun, I added bits of “icicle,” a shiny synthetic fibre that really pops the colour, to give the yarn a bit of glint. It doesn’t show up that well in the photos, but it’s just enough to add some sparkle.
The wool is all merino, leaving the two-ply yarn with a lovely, soft hand. Another skein to fondle!
I saved the best for last—my collection of dried Cortinarius sanguineus, which didn’t look like much on the face of it, but look at all the colour they gave me! I put all the dry mushrooms into an old stocking, boiled it up for a couple of hours, then left that in the dyepot for all the exhausts. The first dyebath is on the left (with one iron-mordanted roving—the darker one), and progressive exhausts go from left to right. The bright orange on the far left is “icicle,” a sparkly synthetic fibre that always picks up amazing colour.
I’m going to use this to spin one yarn, going from darker to lighter—this mushroom is too special to blend it with anything else.
Moving on from the seemingly non-stop gold dyepots, I’ve now finished dyeing with all the Velvet Pax (Tapinella atrotomentosa) that I’ve been saving and drying since the summer. For this dyepot, I used equal weights of dried mushroom and fibre—330 grams of each—and dyed half the fibre at a time. The dark green roving on the right was mordanted in iron. (Note to self: next year, premordant more wool with iron, to get more dark green!). It’s interesting how the “Icicle” on the left picked up golden tones, while the Tencel (the shiny brown at the top and the shiny beige to its left) picked up the browns.
I probably could have done one more exhaust from this pot, but to be frank, I’m tired of the browns, especially when I all my lovely dermocybes are waiting for me to do something with them.
I learned this year that Chroogomphus tomentosus (Woolly Pine Spike) is edible, but I also heard it might serve as a passable dye mushroom, so my dyepot got first dibs. This is what resulted: a pink with insufficient intensity (considering how many mushrooms went into the dyepot) to make me want to use it again. The small piece of wool on the left was the sample that went through the initial boiling of the mushrooms; the roving on the right, which went into the pot after I strained out the mushrooms, picked up much less colour.
Next year I’ll give them to the chef (my dearest) and see if they might have more magic in the cookpot!
CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS