Tag Archives: natural dyeing

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!

The official start of dye season!

Phaeolus nurse tree

After a few days of good rain last week, I expected to find something interesting in the forest today. And indeed I did!

I went to check out my “nurse tree” for Dyer’s Polypore. From the number of old specimens still clinging to it (see the brown “bumps” running up the trunk, all well above my reach), it’s clear this old snag must be riddled with the mycelium of Phaeolus schweinitzii.

From a distance I saw a cluster that seemed to glow in the afternoon sun, and as I drew nearer, my hopes were confirmed—look at this beautiful cluster of young fungi! This year I’m trying something new: when I find young ones like this, I’m going to trim the yellow edges to see if I might get fresh new growth that I can harvest again later. The third image shows what’s left on the tree, while the last image shows what I brought home—and what’s now simmering in my first dyepot of the year.

First flush of the season
After edges trimmed
Phaeolus trimmings

Deanna’s Forest Floor Blanket

Forest Floor Blanket

My dear friend and wonderful weaver, Deanna Pilling, unveiled her Forest Floor plaid at today’s Guild meeting (Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers).  The narrow pink and orange stripes are of yarn I dyed with mushrooms; the lighter middle stripe came from blackberry leaves and berries and was dyed by another weaver.

Deanna spent a lot of time deciding on the rest of the colours that make up this plaid; together they represent our rainforest with the rich hues of cedar, arbutus and soft green moss.

Lovely!

Love these Hydnellum greens

Hydnellum textured yarn

This is such a soft, rich green. I found a good number of Hydnellum aurantiacum in the fall, enough for quite a large dyepot. I put a succession of rovings through three exhausts, then spun them into textured yarns, using the various shades of the same colour.

I’d read that shifting the pH to the alkaline side on this one can sometimes result in a blue, but I had no such luck. In fact, even at pH 11, I noticed little difference in the colours.

I have plans for this skein, involving a secret gift exchange among members of my spinners’ and weavers’ guild, but that’s all I’m going to say for now.

Hydnellum aurantiacum

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

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.