Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A day with my mushrooms; dye experiments

I've been collecting road side plants for a while now. Always curious about the little inconspicuous plants that jump out at me on my walks.  

This past summer while walking up from my first swim at Medomak, I spotted along the side of the woods, two large bright orange- things popping out from the leaves. 
At closer look I notice these bright growths are mushrooms. 
Something happens when I find a new mushroom, lichen or plant where I don't know it's potential yet. I become a crazed person, stopping everything, using what ever I have on my person, shirt, skirt, (in that moment) towel that I usually wear around my middle after swimming to cover parts I don't care for others to see. Like my glow in the dark thighs. 
But once I saw this orange- time stopped and I stopped thinking of my whiter than pale thighs. I was more happy about my weird mushrooms. 
After some investigating, I found it was the lobster claw mushroom. Also known as
 Hypomyces lactifluorum. Dyeing with this fresh mushroom and adding ammonia to the dye bath, our yarns came out a light salmon pink. I was pretty excited about it. As the summer progressed into fall, my mushroom foraging grew to such an obsession. I spent a lot of time in my sister's new woods in Bowdoin where my two small nephews and niece helped me collect, filing my basket full of every mushroom they found. 

Back home I sorted each batch, cutting them into tiny pieces and letting them hang out outside to dry or in my basement. I did invest in an inexpensive dehydrator to help get the job down quicker. It speeds up the process for drying. Drying the mushrooms is essential for storing for later use. 

This week I knew would be the week to go through my stash. Over this past year I managed to stuff TWO plastic grocery bags FULL of dried foraged mushrooms. All labeled with the date, location, and if I was able to identify it- the name. If not- I made one up. But you know, it just feels better to know with out a doubt what a mushroom is. I still need to find a good mushroom book. 

After I decided on which ones to work with, I weighed each pile, in grams, made notes, put them in a mason jar, filled with boiling water, placed in large lobster pot filled half way with water. I made a little note of which mushroom on a piece of masking tape, stuck it on the end of a wooden skewer and put it in the jar. I love to multi task and I don't feel normal if I'm not multitasking, but I also can't hold all this info at the same time. I have to write things down. Also, having these notes is always good for comparison later with each dye test. 

Measuring out & grinding hard black puff balls. 

Red gilled cort bath- beginning

Lobster claw bath

First look at red gilled bath!!!

From left to right: a type of black hedgehog, 4 baths of lobster, 2 of red gilled. All in process. 

A few days before the mushroom dyeing, I mordanted several small sample skeins of 100% wool and small strips of silk fabric. In each jar went a strip of silk and a skein of wool yarn. 

Bright spots in a sea of beige. 

When I'm dyeing with a plant for the first time and I'm waiting and I'm exited to see the color result, I've had to teach myself not to really "look" at the color until it's all done and dried on the fiber. 

Mushrooms I dyed with: (if it has a * I made up the name because I can't figure out what it is yet)
Red Gilled- 5g
Lavender (looks like cortnilius)8g
hard black puff balls 5g
hedgehogs- black 23g
phalis 12g
cort 2g
lobster claw 2g
polypore 19g
Nov- mushroom 35g
thelephora terrestris11g
tiny soft puff ball 5g
white fungus with pink edges 41g
tiny orange hedgehogs 2g
turkey tail 14g
pail turkey tail 20g
small poly pore 20g

I knew the red gilled and the lobster where absolute givers of color- the others where blind experiments. 

Those two mushrooms- the red gilled cort and lobster where just stunning. STUNNING! STUNNING! STUNNING!
It's official. Though red gilled is wonderful, the 5 grams I used only lasted through 4 dye baths where the 2 grams of lobster claw mushroom lasted through 6! The first dye bath of lobster with just alum was bright orange. I then added ammonia for the next dye baths and lovely pinks. 

Have you dyed with mushrooms? Share your stories with us here!

About to board a plane to San Francisco where I'll have 8 days to explore Califonria's spring and budding flora and fauna. 
I've got collection bags & silk fabric packed for creating Eco prints! So excited to discover more dyes plants!

If I remember to, I'll post to FB at 44 clovers, Pinterest and Instagram my findings along the way:) 

Happy Weekend!

2 comments: said...

Amazing! I can't believe those reds. I thought you could only get those dyes naturally with cochenille. I need to look down more after it rains.

Rachel said...

Yes! I just love these for reds. You can also use madder root which is cheaper then cochineal and something you can grow (with a lot of time) yourself. I started my first madder seedling this year and I don't think they will be ready to harvest for another 3 years but that's ok!

What I love about the mushrooms is you need so little for a deep color. Do some experimenting with mushrooms you find!