Tag Archives: Tapinella atrotomentosa

There’s hope yet . . . another mushroom season begins

Like the rest of North America’s West Coast, we’ve had an exceptionally dry spring and early summer. Flowers, birds, berries—they’ve all been a few weeks early this year, and everything is scarily dry.

I’ve been away for three weeks and on my return was hesitant to go out into my Back 40, knowing the moss would be crunchy and the ground dry. But I needed my forest therapy (after a glorious but noisy and crowded holiday in Sicily), so out I went with Rica, my fantastic flying puppy.

And what should I find, in a spot where I’ve never found this mushroom before:

Velvet Pax - first of the year
Tapinella atrotomentosa – first of the year
Drying already
Velvet Pax – drying already

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I did find a few of these Velvet Pax at this time last year, but we’d had a cool, rainy June. I certainly didn’t expect to find it in our current conditions. Usually they appear in late July through September.)

This was on its own in open sun (growing out of wood under the moss), already getting parched. Down the hill, at the base of a shady stump where I’ve found these mushrooms in previous years, was another clump that still looked as if they had some growing to do, so I’ll keep an eye on them for now. My other usual spots haven’t revealed anything yet.

Along the trail, farther along, is my nurse log for Pycnoporellus fulgens. Even though I don’t get a striking colour from these, and I usually need two years’ worth of collecting to make one dyepot, I’m always happy to see them, as they are (usually) the first harbingers of mushroom season.

Pycnoporellus fulgens
Pycnoporellus fulgens

 

Pycnoporellus fulgens
Pycnoporellus from above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never seen this fungus in such a huge cluster before—this one is about four inches wide. Usually it appears as a single fan, perhaps in tiers (see my post from 2009 when I first realized what it was). As always, I’ll leave this to dry over the summer and start a new stash until I have enough for another pastel dyepot.

Peach from Pycnoporellus fulgens
Peach from Pycnoporellus fulgens

I feel mushroom fever creeping into my brain!

Advertisements

Mushroom colours go together

Bobbin of mushroom colours
Bobbin of mushroom colours

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.
mixed colours2

Proving once again that mushroom dyes sit well together.

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.

Vulnerable Velvet Pax

Vulnerable velvet pax

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.

Velvet pax untouched

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.

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!

Velvet Pax dyepot

Velvet Pax dyepot

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.

Tapinella atrotomentosa (Velvet pax)

Velvet pax

Now I know it’s going to be a great mushroom season—I joined a friend this afternoon for a hike to Ambrose Lake, and right beside the trail we found a stump just overloaded with Velvet pax. (Note the fuzzy brown stems befitting its name. This mushroom is very easy to identify—it grows on old, mossy fir stumps or on the sides of mossy logs.) Unfortunately, my camera announced that its battery was gone, so I had to wait until I got home to take this picture.

The dried mushrooms on the right are from an earlier hike in our own back forest; the fresh ones on the left are from today’s hike. I counted twelve specimens, all from the same tree!

I’ll dry all the Velvet pax I find until the season is finished. This should be a marvellous dyepot!