On March 24 we gathered for Ann Harmer’s second mushroom dyeing workshop. This time the Lobster mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum) was featured. (See the March 20 blog for the previous workshop.)
The Lobster mushroom is a parasite on other mushrooms. Here on the Sunshine Coast its host is a white mushroom, Russula brevipes, found in older forests growing in moss and duff. The outer red layer is the Lobster mushroom and the part used for dyeing while the inner white part can be eaten. Old mushrooms that are darker in colour, deformed, mushy and starting to decompose give the most colour. Be warned, however, that they smell terrible so dye outside!
The colour from Lobster mushrooms, especially the older ones, can be spectacular. Here are the results Ann obtained from a single strong dye bath of fresh mushrooms.
For the workshop we started by dyeing with dried Lobster mushrooms using well water and chlorinated water and using wool that had no mordant, alum, copper and iron mordants. We used 1 part mushrooms to 1 part fibre. The first step was weighing the mushrooms and putting them in small mesh bags and old pantyhose.
Soon we had all our pots cooking.
After our lunch break the wool had coloured nicely.
We took wool that had been mordanted with alum and tested the effect of pH by placing one skein in a jar of liquid with a pH of 3 – left (made by adding vinegar) and another skein in a jar with a pH of 10 – right (made by adding washing soda).
We then took skeins of wool mordanted with iron and with copper and put half of each skein in the 3 pH liquid and the 10 pH liquid.
Finally we laid out our skeins and admired our day’s work.
By Heather Apple
Mushroom and strong dye bath photos by Ann Harmer
On March 17th some members of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild gathered for the first in a series of three mushroom dyeing workshops given by Ann Harmer (Mushroom Annie).
Ann has a wealth of knowledge and experience with our local mushrooms and their use for eating, dyeing and papermaking. She brought along two wonderful binders filled with mushroom-dyed samples.
The mushroom we focused on this week was Dyer’s polypor (Phaeolus schweinitzii). This mushroom grows only on old wood and starts appearing in early September. Ann took this photo of a Dyer’s polypor in mid-October of last year.
Ann showed us her Dyer’s polypor sample card.
The goal of the workshop was to use dried Dyer’s polypor to dye wool that had no mordant, wool which had been mordanted with alum, copper and iron and then do a post-mordanting with copper and iron. The first step was making labels out of Tyvek and attaching them to the wool.
Then we weighed the mushrooms, using 2 parts per weight of dried mushrooms to 1 part fibre. The mushrooms were put in a fine-mesh bag and then broken into small pieces.
The bags of mushrooms and the wool were put into pots with just enough water to cover and were brought to a simmer and held just below the boiling point. We kept a close eye on the pots.
After the wool had coloured nicely we removed it from the pots and Ann post–mordanted some with iron and copper.
Finally, we laid out all the labeled wool to admire our work.
Thank you Ann for a wonderful day!
By Heather Apple
(Last year the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild had a project growing and dyeing with Japanese indigo. (See “Sea Foam Blue” blog on October 5, 2013.) Some members did some further dyeing and obtained a darker blue using Spectralite in a technique described by Rebecca Burgess in her book “Harvesting Color”. This week at our meeting we shared seeds and we’ll no doubt have another blog in the fall about our further explorations with dyeing with Japanese indigo. Heather)
I suggest starting and treating Japanese Indigo much the same as tomato plants. I assume that they like it warm for starting and growing, as they are a tropical or semi-tropical plant. I usually use a starting mix with good drainage and often sprout the seeds between damp paper towels to ensure viability before investing time and energy. Once the seedlings have a few leaves they should be transplanted into a richer soil mix. I prefer a good potting soil with a little bone meal added. You can make your own mix with compost, vermiculite, sand, peat moss, soil and a pinch of bone meal, but this in not sterile which can cause problems.
Keep the plants well watered and in a warm sunny humid location. I put a plastic bag greenhouse around plant growing lights, in a sunny window near the wood stove. You do have to watch out for mould and other problems such as damping off, depending on the soil used and other conditions. In other words, these little plants do require a certain amount of baby sitting at this stage! If they grow well you might need to transplant them into larger pots and add some fertilizer etc. Now it will just be a matter of playing wait and see with the weather.
Once outdoor temperatures are warm the plants can be transplanted out into the garden. Some years, here on the West Coast, that can be as early as the end of May. Choose a sunny spot with rich soil and good drainage. I usually supplement the soil with compost, bone meal and a light application of all-purpose fertilizer such as 6-8-6. If the weather is stubbornly cool and wet and the plants are just too big to keep in the house in pots, you might try planting them in large pots in the greenhouse or otherwise out in the garden under some clear plastic protection. Last year my Japanese Indigo plants stayed viable in the garden until we got our first frost. They might not have been making much blue pigment at those temperatures, but they certainly are not as sensitive as tomato plants. No fear of blight either!