Even though my dyepots are still going strong, it’s time to start spinning the mass of fibre accumulating around the house. The first yarn of the season, which I’m spinning now, will be a blend of these three colours.
I’m preparing the fibre on my handcarders as I go, making some rolags of one colour and some with two colours blended. This merino cards up so beautifully—it’s a dream to spin.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SUNSHINE COAST MUSHROOMS