Dyeing with Lobster Mushrooms

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.)

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Soon we had all our pots cooking.

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After our lunch break the wool had coloured nicely.

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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).

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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.

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Finally we laid out our skeins and admired our day’s work.

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By Heather Apple
Mushroom and strong dye bath photos by Ann Harmer

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