Lobster mushrooms are a delicious, useful, and fascinating thing. On a good day of hunting in mid-August I can usually find enough of them in our woods to make a delicious dinner and the whole house smiles when they see me trudging out of the woods with a heavy basket.
The lobster mushroom is kind of different in that it's actually the product of a mold attacking another mushroom, morphing it into deliciousness. The flesh is firm, not mushy like some mushrooms, and it gives off a beautiful golden color and slight seafood smell when cooked. We like ours sauteed in butter and garlic and tossed with pasta.
As lobster mushrooms age their flesh turns to a cranberry red. Last year I used some of these past-prime mushrooms to dye fiber and achieved a peach color on wool with an ammonia mordant. This year I wanted to try dyeing on silk without using a mordant, just to see what I would get.
None of the mushrooms I used this time had degraded to the point of being cranberry red and mushy, rather I used some that were just a little old and some of the wormy bits that were cut off of the good mushrooms. This seemed to make a difference as the resulting dye color after simmering down the mushrooms in water yielded this orange color instead of red.
I scoured my silk, stuffed it in the jar with the dye, and let it percolate in the heat for about a week in my small greenhouse. The silk took up some color right away and it only deepened slightly over the course of the week.
At the end of the week I removed the silk and gave it a rinse.
The resulting color is an orangey yellow, a little deeper than the photos are showing.
I'm really loving using the silk for dyeing and can't wait to work on a project with some of these pieces. What I love more is when I can use cast-offs like mushroom bits, onion skins, carrot peels, bean water, etc. for making something beautiful. It makes me look at my compost pile in a whole new way.
I hope you're making some fun discoveries today too.