Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dyeing With Mushrooms

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. 

day 1

day 2

day 3
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.

I had to try wet-felting some of the wool to see if it retained its color after being subjected to soap, hot water, and friction.  This is the result, next to an undyed acorn.

It's not too different from the color of that mold growing on the stump, is it? 

Hmm...I wonder....


Kim van Waardenburg said...

looks very interesting! hmmm maybee you should have heated the whole pot to get the color in the wool and fabrics? I am no expert with dyeing, but with eucalypthus I didn't get any color in my wool when I did the same, but when I steamed the wool with some leaves on -> bright orange.

t does wool said...

that was a beautiful experiment...with a lovely result~!

SewDanish-Scandinavian Textile Art, Unique Handmade Supplies said...

Interesting! I've never tried using mushrooms. Eventough results may vary, it is so much fun to play. You never really know :-)

Sonia / COZY MEMORIES said...

I have never dyed with mushroom, nor I have never dyed wool, so I can't compare with any of my own experiments. The peachy tone is absolutely lovely, sometimes (well, often) we can't achieve the same color as the material we've used. Nature is quite unpredictable, and dyeing is also a very unpredictable art, or that's what I've learnt from my own experiments.
Your dyeing is very interesting anyway, and oh how much I wish I could come to your woods, pick shroomies with you & dye with you on my side ! That would be so much fun !!
thanks for sharing !

Jill Nault said...

I've thought about dyeing with the natural plants we have in the prairies often. After your post, I'll have to get serious about it now!

Kar said...

That is so cool! I'm going to have to try dyeing one day. It looks fun.

joanie said...

I love reading about these experiments. Thanks for such detailed explanations. It's fun to see the results of your efforts from the beginning to a final project.

Chiot's Run said...

Love, love, love it! I've always wanted to use natural items for dyes. I've read onions skins work wonderfully and coffee as well, and I think elderberries would make a beautiful shade (at least they make my fingers a lovely shade when I make jelly).

I do use fruits when I need colors for icing for cakes, no artificial colors here, raspberry is my particular favorite.

Perhaps I can think of something I need to make so I can give this a shot.

Down 2 Earth said...

I am very interested in this process. I have dyed silk scarves with all natural objects and it is such a thrill to see the colors that appear.
Love it ~

Tiffany said...

So interesting, thank you so much for sharing your process with us. I love what the lobster mushroom did. I would love to see the cute little pink and white mushrooms in your shop :D

Vintage Tracy said...

Your house is like a science lab! Cool idea!

Anonymous said...

Interesting tests!
Working with natural dyes has my interest for a while now and I'm happy to read about your experiment.
Thanks for sharing.


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