Marvelous Mushroom Dyes, Part One

A few weeks ago, my Mother (Dorothy Beebee) and I experienced a mushroom dye trifecta: time, mushrooms, and lots of premordanted yarn.

Hanging skeins of undyed yarn

Our hanging skeins of premordanted, undyed yarn.

We had four different mushrooms, a variety of yarn that my Mom bought at the Taos Wool Festival, and a solid day without real world responsibilities. When I arrived that morning, we carefully mapped out our plan for the day:

Mom: What colors do you want to make?
Me: All of them.

Mushroom dyed yarn

The result of two determined and creative women

Because we did so much in one day I’m going to break down our results by color, in a few short posts. We’ll start with green and yellow, using my two favorite mushrooms Gymnopilus spectabilis and Phaeolus schweinitzii.

Gymnopilus spectabilis

Our goal was to create gold and green as we’ve done before. This time, we wanted to see if changing the mordant changed the hue of green.

We used 100% wool skeins

  • White wool, alum mordant (goal- yellow)
  • White wool, no mordant (goal- yellow)
  • Gray wool, alum mordant (goal – green)
  • Gray wool, iron mordant (goal- green)

Result – We don’t think changing the mordant on the gray wool changed the green. For the gold, both the alum mordant and no mordant wool turned buttery gold.

Green and gold yarn, Gymnopilus spectabilis

Phaeolus schweinitzii

When I think of this dyer’s polypore, I think YELLOW. Thus, I was surprised to find a green yarn sample in my Mom’s Phaeolus notes. What? This mushroom makes green? When did that happen? She swears we’ve made green with this  mushroom before, I swear we haven’t.

We used 100% wool skeins, premordanted in iron, and added them to our Phaeolus dye bath.. The yarn turned yellow, then progressively turned green. Awesome!

Two shades of green, from two different mushrooms dyes.

Two shades of green, from two different mushrooms.

Using my two favorite mushrooms, I can make two different and equally lovely shades of green. Green dye can also be made with Omphaloutus olivascens, but we left that mushroom frozen for a different experiment, on a different day.

I used the yarn in two different crochet projects:

Hat crocheted using yarn dyed with Gymnopilus spectabilis and Phaelous schweinitzii

Hat crocheted using yarn dyed with Gymnopilus spectabilis and Phaelous schweinitzii

Crocheted infinity scarf, made with mushroom dyed yarn

Crocheted infinity scarf, made with mushroom dyed yarn

Coming up soon – Orange, Pink, and Red. (Aka, when my Mom got a crazed look in her eye and started dumping dried Dermocybes into the dye pots with wild abandon… )

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