Note I said "dyeing" and not "dying". I didn't want anyone to worry after my last post about eating mushrooms. We enjoyed our mushroomy feast, and lived to not only tell the tale, but dye some wool too.
I had a number of lobster mushrooms from the harvest that were past their prime and no longer suitable for eating. I noticed that the mushroom flesh that had started to degrade was turning a lovely cranberry red and I thought that was a good sign. I had read that lobster mushrooms yield a lovely cinnamon pink so I was eager to test it out.
This is what I did. I took the past-prime mushrooms, cut them up into small pieces, put them in a stainless steel pot with a bit of water and brought them to a boil. In the meantime, I put my wool fabric, wool roving, and linen in my glass dye jars that I had filled with water and ammonia. Ammonia is my mordant in this instance and is used to help set the dye color. When dyeing wool, it's helpful to pre-wet it since it's reluctant to suck up water. That's great for wool outwear, but not so great when you want it to take on dye evenly. (I carefully dunked the wool roving without agitating it, as I didn't want it to start felting.)
When the mushrooms had boiled, I turned off the heat and let them sit. I drained the water and ammonia from the dye jars and once cooled, poured the mushroom liquid (straining the chunks out) into the dye jar.
The large jar contains dye from only lobster mushrooms while the smaller jar/s contain a mixture of lobster mushrooms and sulphur shelf.
I will note that while I was cleaning the sulphur shelf/chicken mushroom prior to eating it, it was giving off a bright yellow color. I suspect much of that color was wasted in the cleaning process so the resulting dye was more drab than if I had used it immediately.
The lobster mushroom dye was as promised, a gorgeous cinnamon pink, and the wool seemed to be picking up the hue nicely.
I left the jars outside in the sun, not wanting to risk having the kids spill them all over my house, and that brought on some changes. I watched, over the course of 3 days, the colors change in hue and intensity.
At day three it seemed as if the colors had stopped changing so I pulled the fiber from the jars. I braced myself for the stench, expecting it to knock me over. It was reminiscent of the cow barn on a hot day at the county fair, but it didn't pack quite the pungent aroma I expected from a jar filled with dead mushrooms and ammonia. Still, I don't think Chanel will be calling me for my aromatic prowess anytime soon.
Obviously the dye was not photo-stable, and although the colors are muted, the batch that contained only the lobster mushrooms did retain a peachy color both in the roving and in the creases of the wool fabric. The linen didn't seem to take up much of anything. The mixed-mushroom dye resulted in a very pale tan.