Early on in my mushroom dyeing [buzzword alert] “journey,” I did all of my experiments with commercial yarn, as I wanted to see how many different colours I could obtain in one season. I played with random combinations of three different colours; no matter which colours I put side by side, they always went well together. (I posted about this on January 19, 2011, and again on January 24).
Now I’m playing with colours again, this time in my handspun yarns. In this case, I blended three stripes on my drumcarder, putting them through once. (The colours came from Phaeolus schweinitzii, Tapinella atrotomentosa, and dermocybe dyepots.) Then I drafted the entire batt into a roving the right size for spinning. The colours remained as separate stripes in the roving and into the yarn.
Proving once again that mushroom dyes sit well together.
“Study” implies lessons to be learned, and that’s certainly the case with this mushroom, an orange or pink coral (Ramaria gelatinosa).
When I first started playing with mushroom dyes, I’d read that this one would give purple if an iron mordant was used, so I popped a good handful of the mushroom into my little sample dyepot, along with my mordanted samples, and boiled the life out of it, only to find an interesting grey at the end of the process. I even blogged about it at the time. Despite my suggestion then that I’d try that one again the following year, there were so many more mushrooms to try that I walked on by the orange/pink coral . . . until this year.
The forest provided such an abundance of this coral mushroom this year, along with everything else, that I decided to collect what I could and try again. But since I was spending every available minute out collecting all kinds of mushrooms, I did with the coral what I did with all my other treasures: I spread it out on newspapers to dry.
When it was time to fire up the sample dyepot again, I’d just brought in some more fresh coral, so that went in first, and I used a splash of ammonia to raise the pH of the dyebath to around 10—and the iron sample yarn came out a deep burgundy. (The samples, left to right: no mordant, alum, iron, copper.)
Energized by this result, I tried another sample pot with a handful of dried coral (of which I had mountains by this time) . . . which resulted in an insipid grey. The mountains of dried coral went back to the forest, my gift to the mushroom fairies. Another lesson learned.
I had enough fresh coral left for a good-sized dyepot, from which I got these colours on some Corriedale batts.
As luck would have it, I found another good clump of coral a week or so later; it stayed outside in a paper bag, and by the time I got to it, it had frozen solid. Into the dyepot it went (again with ammonia to raise the pH), along with some premordanted (with iron) silk: a camisole, a scarf, and a silk “hankie,” which will be spun into a fine thread. I took to this dyepot some lessons already given to me by two of my dyeing mentors, Heather and Alissa: when trying for purple, don’t let the temperature of the dyebath rise much above 160 degrees F, and pull it out of the dyebath as soon as you have the desired colour (as opposed to leaving the fibre to soak overnight or longer). And here’s what resulted:
I’m thrilled, of course, although the last lesson from this mushroom is the hardest to deal with: patience. I have no more Ramaria to play with this year—but that makes this purple all the more special, doesn’t it?
At last, a grand year for Hypomyces lactifluorum! We’re finding them in all the old locations (some of which had been bereft of lobsters since 2009) and in some new spots as well. And members of the Sunshine Coast SHROOM have been more than generous in sharing some of their finds, so we’re assured of having some brilliant dyepots at our forthcoming Mushroom Festival and show on October 19
It’s taken me several evenings to pare off the orange “skins” from several bags’ worth of these wonderful fungi, and here they are, spread out to dry in my studio, youngest to oldest, left to right. As they dry, the ones that were wet and soggy at picking have developed an even richer colour, promising some exciting results. I do notice a peculiar aroma on entering the space, but I consider that just one of the hazards of the job.
When I sat down to spin the lovely Omphalotis purple, I decided to keep separate the six different shades that emerged from successive exhausts of the same dyepot. So I split the wool of each shade in two and, working from darkest to lightest, spun two plies of about the same length and with the same gradations of colour. These I plied together into one skein.
As these special colours flowed through my hands and onto the bobbin, I realized that I’d put two different types of wool into the dyepots, one a bit coarser than the other. Not to worry—whatever I make with this will be for myself, and with sich royal hues upon my person, what possible complaints could I have?
I had the good fortune to attend a spinning workshop by the amazing and inspiringJacey Boggs last summer, where she opened my eyes about the possibilities in handspun yarn. Here are some close-ups of a couple of the mushroom-dyed skeins I posted about a few days ago. The pink one, dyed with dermocybes (the darker shade was mordanted with iron), is spun with coils, while the green yarn, dyed with Hydnellum, is one thin strand plied with a thick-and-thin strand.
Now I have even more reason to fondle my handspun!
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.
CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS