Monthly Archives: October 2014

Dyeing at the 6th Annual Mushroom Festival

On October 18th the Pender Harbour Community Hall was filled with visitors to the Sunshine Coast Mushroom Society’s sixth annual Mushroom Festival.  It was a wonderful event celebrating the rich diversity of mushrooms that grow on the Sunshine Coast.


Members of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild volunteered to demonstrate dyeing with mushrooms.


We also had a display of the wonderful range of colours that can be obtained from mushrooms.


We demonstrated dyeing with three different mushrooms.  Dyer’s polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) grows only on old wood and starts appearing in early September.


Sulphur tufts (Hypholoma fasciculare) is a common woodland mushroom that grows in dense clusters on decaying wood, usually alders here on the Coast. The caps are sulphur yellow when young, aging to brown.  It is poisonous.


The Lobster mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum) 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.


Here Lynda and Merrily are cutting the red layer away from the white part.


We carefully tended the dye pots and answered the questions of the many visitors who were interested in the dyeing process.


Most of the wool from the local sheep Olivia was knitted into two shawls but a single skein remained.  Here Deanna is lowering the skein into a dye pot of lobster mushrooms.


With water of a fairly neutral pH the wool dyes an uninteresting beige but with the addition of baking soda to turn the water alkaline the wool turns pink.  Here Ann Harmer checks its progress.


When the three dye pots had yielded their riches, we hung our wool on a pole outside.  You can see the beautiful deep pink skein of Olivia’s wool.  The yellow is from the Sulphur tufts and the gold is a bit of the wool from the Dyer’s polypore dye bath.  We had a wonderful time sharing our love of dyeing with some of our local mushrooms.


Heather Apple


Dyeing at the Yurts

Yvonne Stowell, artist and owner of FiberWorks Studio and Gallery, is a beloved and valued member of our fibre arts community, inspiring and mentoring us.  She hosts exhibitions, workshops and spin-ins in the yurts of her Studio and Gallery.

This summer the deck outside the yurts was brightened by planters filled with colourful dye plants.  Yvonne had a large planter filled with Japanese indigo, a dye plant which our Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild has been experimenting with for the past two years.

1Japanese Indigo

Yvonne gathered 900 g of fresh leaves, rolled them and cut them with scissors into pieces as small as possible.

2Indigo leaves

These were covered with 12 litres of cold water and 165 ml of industrial 10% vinegar (15 ml per litre).  She let them soak for ½ hour and then used a handheld blender to chop the leaves vigorously for several minutes until the solution became bright green.  She strained this liquid through a mesh bag into the dye pot and then made a second water/vinegar solution using the same leaves and 4 litres water and 60 ml vinegar.  She used the blender on this mixture, strained the liquid through the mesh bag into the dye pot and then squeezed out any remaining liquid from the bag of leaves into the dye pot.

Yvonne then added 1000 g of wetted out fibre.  This included a shawl knitted from Olivia’s fleece, alpaca and silk rovings.  These were soaked overnight in the dye bath.

3Olivia shawl in dye pot

The photo shows the variation of the dye on different fibres.  Some alum mordanted fibres that were put into the exhaust dye bath turned a soft yellow green (centre).

4indigo dyed fibre

Olivia’s shawl.

5Olivia shawl dyed with indigo

Yvonne also grew red, orange and yellow dyer’s marigolds,

6Dyers marigold - orange

7yers marigold - yellow


8dyer's marquerite

and dyer’s snapdragon.

9dyer's snapdragons

Yvonne gathered 4 ounces of yellow, orange and red marigolds, marguerites and fuchsia snapdragons, using only the flower heads.  The fibre dyed was alum mordanted alpaca and silk.  She used a process similar to the Japanese indigo – cold water, vinegar and the handheld blender.

10fibres (alum mordant) marigolds, marquerites & snapdragons

Yvonne Stowell and Heather Apple, photos Yvonne

The One Straw Society’s Fall Faire

On October 5th the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild had a display at the One Straw Society’s Fall Faire.  The Faire was a celebration of community and a coming together of individuals and groups who share an interest in ecologically sound local sustainability. The One Straw Society focuses on the goal of food sovereignty and community resilience within a thriving natural environment. Also present was the Sunshine Coast in Transition which is part of a global network that focuses on building ecologically sustainable local resilience while nurturing and celebrating community.


The Roberts Creek Hall was filled with tables of fresh organic produce, homemade preserves, holistic remedies and delicious baked goodies.  Visitors enjoyed a variety of demonstrations and activities.




The Guild’s display focused on the Sunshine Coast Fibreshed’s activities involving local dyes and local fibres.


We had a colourful display of fibre and fabric dyed with plants that grow on the Sunshine Coast, showing the diverse range of beautiful colours available from our local plants and mushrooms.



We also featured fibres produced by animals raised on the Sunshine Coast.  We were especially proud to display our first sheep to shawl project.  The wool from a local sheep Olivia was donated to the Fibreshed and was washed, carded, spun, knitted and crocheted by Guild members.  One of the shawls was dyed with Japanese indigo by Yvonne Stowell, owner of FibreWorks Studio and Gallery.


Roberta demonstrated carding her beautiful Japanese indigo dyed wool.


The Faire was a wonderful opportunity to enjoy our vibrant Coast community, spread the word about the Fibreshed and network with individuals and groups concerned with ecologically sound local sustainability.

Heather Apple

The Mushroom Seekers’ First Foray

On a rainy Monday in September, a small group of intrepid mushroom hunters ventured out to Chapman Creek watershed to see what we could find.  As the morning rains subsided somewhat we convened in the parking lot, rain gear on and baskets ready for collecting our treasures.  We ventured into the rainforest accompanied by Sukha, the spirited hound, and the sound of ravens and raindrops.

Ann Harmer, our wise and experienced guide, was wearing her mushroom-dyed knitted hat to inspire us.  She helped us identify fungi, describing the growing habits and where to look for particular fungi.


We found many fungi, most of which were not for dyeing, but they were all met with excitement and enthusiasm.


Some of our first finds were tiny pale yellowish spikes poking up through the duff,  Coral fungus, Ramaria sp.  For dyeing, Ann suggested that we needed the pinkish orange ones, Ramaria formosa, not the pale whitish ones that we found everywhere.



We found a beautiful and mysterious looking fungus which none of us had seen before.  It looked like a flower from space!  It was soft and if we touched the middle ball, tiny dark spores spewed out like a cloud.  Later we identified it as an Earthstar or Geastrum saccatum.



As we continued through the forest we found many more non-dye mushrooms, some edible, some not.  We found Angel Wings, Pleurocybella porrigens, which is both eaten and also considered possibly toxic to people with kidney conditions.  We left it where it was, like tiny winged sculptures of the forest floor.


The forest floor was dotted with LBMs – little brown mushrooms.  Fallen trees were covered in bracket fungus, or shelf fungus, Ganoderma applanatum, also known as Artists conk, for it has a silky smooth white underside that when scratched or etched leaves dark markings – kind of a fungi sketch pad.


Ann found an older scruffy Velvet pax, Tapinella atrotomentosa, which was covered in bluish mold.  It was a good size and she thought it was worth trying to see if any colour could be produced.


We also found a younger one, which allowed us to see how this fungus grows with its stem off to the side, its rolled edge, and how the stem is a darker colour than the underside.


We wandered through the forest, through the muck, peeking under and over logs to uncover the forest treasures.  The summer had been very dry and the rains had not yet come in full force so there weren’t many specimens.  With the rains the forest floor will come alive and we will don our rain gear for more dyers’ mushroom forays.



For more information on mushroom dyeing, please visit Ann’s website Shroomworks

By Kimberly Paterson

Eco-Dyeing with Caitlin ffrench

I attended the Eco-Dyeing workshop at the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild’s Fibre Camp 2014.  Here is our lovely instructor Caitlin ffrench displaying a sample of what we were to produce from a whole variety of natural pigments in part 1 of the workshop.  Caitlin likes to use materials from nature being aware of protecting the land base and not taking too much.  She harvests from abandoned yards and roadsides and uses “weeds” as much as possible.


We each were provided with a square of silk, cotton and wool.   On half of one of her squares Rosemary is now assembling her collection of eucalyptus, golden rod, walnut husks, cochineal (not local) and a variety of found materials such as feathers, maple leaves and grass bits.


The fabric was folded, more material added and then it was rolled over a length of rusty rebar.


Once rolled the next step was to wrap.  Here Andrea is wrapping her bundle tightly in both directions with thin twine.


The bundles were placed in pots of water and left to simmer for the day while the rebar did its job of mordanting and the gathered materials the dyeing.  We sprayed on a little vinegar to help set the colour. I like Caitlin’s attitude, “It is OK if the fibres fades – it is still beautiful.  We all fade eventually.”  We took our bundles home and opened them a week later.  What a surprise!  Mine was nothing like Caitlin’s.  It was interesting to see how the different fabrics accepted the pigments.  I think I stuffed in too much though.  A little muddy.  A good lesson for next time.  But what fun!


The second part of the workshop was dyeing with cochineal.  We first entered our pre-wetted skeins into a mordant bath which was 15 percent alum to the weight of fibre and enough water to allow the fibre to float freely. This was brought to a simmer and cooked for about an hour while the cochineal bath was brewing.  A liquid from iron was added to darken the colour somewhat.


While we were waiting, Caitlin talked to us about the philosophy of India Flint whom she has taken workshops from.  They both are great believers in creating clothes and household fabrics from materials harvested close to home.  So refreshing!


Caitlin also told us how the cochineal insect is a parasite living on the prickly pear cactus and found in countries such as Peru where it is grown in special plantations for its beautiful rich red colour.  It is shipped all over the world to produce the red colour in items such as lipstick, rouge, and even Campari!  Soon the dye bath was ready for our beautiful skeins.


It didn’t take long for colour to start appearing once the skeins were dipped into the bath. Caitlin talked to us about the many different ways to achieve colour by dipping.


We left the skeins for most of the day.  They had turned a beautiful purple when finally removed from their bath and rinsed.  How rewarding!


By Merrily Corder