What’s in the pot?

Can you believe this colour? It all started…

Late in 2010, some of my fibre frenzied cohorts and I went to a Mushrooms for colour workshop given by Ingeborg Woodsworth, a fascinating gardener, mycologist, and educator.

After a wonderful afternoon in one of the richest mycological forests in our area, we came home with baskets and bags full of treasures, and the gift of knowing what to look for.

Subsequent forays into our woods and forests, and mad stewings of alum mordanted rovings in bubbling cauldrons later, I had a rainbow ….the shrimp pinks are hypomyces (lobster mushrooms), the purple is ramaria (coral mushroom) the deeper orange is cortinarius (red dye mushroom), the yellow was King boletes and the pale green, hydnellum.

which I spun into yarn..

I had gathered too many to process, so froze my bags of lobster mushroom peelings, corts, and some ramarias that I’d found nearby.

I had read on Riihivilla’s blog about hydnellums needing a long soak in ammonia.  So, for nine months, my hydnellums steeped in jars, black,  like a torrid octopus brooding in his own ink. I did not thoroughly identify the two species that I found, but had them soaking separate jars.  I haven’t PH numbers either.  This will come, once I get organized.

This is the hydnellum with blue black teeth I found up by Ingeborg’s place.

quite different from the ones found in our woods – the brown toothed one on the left:

This is the colour from the first dip in the pot before the winter treatment in ammonia!

This was the colour of the dyebath!

Only the first dye dip from this red bath gave the bluey greens, and subsequent colour was grey-green.

Both specimens gave similar shades.

The next into the pot were pale orange Ramarias which grew in huge abundance at Ingeborgs.

I had read that ramarias are hard to identify, but some give purple with  iron.

I boiled up the mushrooms.  This is the dyebath:

Then I added a few pulverized ferrous sulphate tablets to the bath:

and then the roving:


A couple of months ago, the porch needed tidying and  the freezer needed some serious room, so we set up an outdoor dye station, and continued with the dyeing.

The first dyebath was the hydnellums.

Into the pot went the black ink,

the campstove got it all a-boiling,

and my olfactory senses exploded!

I wish I could record a smell.  I wish I had taken photos of the boiling pot being attacked by dozens of flies, whose olfactory senses were in full gear, and yelling “Yay!!! Rotten meat!!!” I wish I had recorded the sound of the pings of their bodies hitting the pot lid.  It was insane.  And what neighbours must have wondered, because the reek of dead carcass was all the way to the road.

My husband said wryly, “Are you keeping notes?”

How can you record a smell?   I swore that hydnellums were off the foraging list…

for about 24 hours..

forgetting hormones huh..

What a colour!  That black ink kept giving and giving!

Next, were the corts and lobsters.  Curiously, the frozen lobsters gave a sherbet orange – not a shrimp pink as they had when fresh. The corts were true and gave a salmon pink.

The ramarias were a disappointment. Not even grey, as some of my samples gave in the fall.  Evidently not the same species as the original ones we found, or fugitive chemistry with freezing.

Then, I popped a fresh phaeolus sweinitzii into a pot.  I had dyed with aged dark brown ones in the fall and they had given rich earthy  golds (bottom right in above image).

I’d been watching this baby grow at the base of an old fir on our walks.  Butt rot is what foresters call it as it rots out the butts of conifers.

But in the pot with some alum mordanted Lincoln Mohair, and the golden yellow sang gloriously out.  And a pre-iron mordanted skein gave a gorgeous olive green.

I have to do a separate blog on this Dyer’s Polypore.

My fresh phaeolus dyepot keeps giving, but there’s only so much yellow I can take, so I put a bag of Brazilwood shavings in the pot with it and some of my alum mordanted Lincoln Mohair rovings.

Now, I think that’s quite enough  colour for today.  We all need to take a nap!