Last Saturday I had the fun of co-teaching a Fibershed sponsored mushroom dye class with Katharine Jolda. What a magical day it was! Because my focus was on teaching the class, I didn’t have time to take photos. But one of the students, Dona Snow, posted an album on Picasa, and has kindly given permission for me to share the link to the album and a few of her photos in this post.
The setting for the workshop was the ranch of Mary Pettis-Sarley, one of the Fibershed Producers. And a dream setting it is!
The mushrooms that Katharine and I had on hand were Omphalotus olivascens (some frozen and some dried), Phaeolus schweinitzii (dried), Pisolithus tinctorius (dry), Gymnopilus spectabilis (frozen), Dermocybe cinnamomea (dried) and Dermocybe phoenicea var. occidentalis (dried). We dyed samples of wool from Mill Valley that had been spun at Yolo Wool Mill, as well as some silk.
All the samples were cut into smaller pieces so that each student got samples of all the mushroom dye colors produced. I was especially pleased with the variety of colors we obtained from Omphalotus olivascens, depending on the mordant used.
I’ll be teaching another beginning mushroom dye class next January at SOMA Camp, and Katharine and I hope to teach future mushroom dye classes for Fibershed as well. It all depends on finding mushrooms though, and that depends on the rain. It has been such a dry winter here, and it feels so good to hear the rain again tonight as I write!
Thanks to everyone who attended the class, to Rebecca Burgess for encouraging us to teach it, to Anna Smith Clark for taking photos for Fibershed, and to Mary and Chris for hosting at their beautiful home, which is also home to many adorable fiber animals. Mary sells the yarn from her animals on the Fibershed Marketplace if you wish to knit with a bit of wool/alpaca/mohair from our California countryside.
Tomorrow I will be heading up to the town of Covelo, to attend a workshop taught by John Marshall on traditional Japanese methods of working with indigo, including rice-paste resist, clamp resist and string resist. Finally some time to get my hands in the dye vat!
My indigo crop has been flourishing this year, and I have completed the first harvest and dried the leaves to compost into sukumo this fall.
I have been learning how to compost the indigo from Rebecca Burgess, founder of fibershed and educator extraordinaire. Earlier this year we were fortunate enough to have Rowland Ricketts come to our area to teach us how to make a traditional Japanese composting floor for the indigo, and now Rebecca’s crop from last year is being composted on that floor.
In other indigo news, Rowland has been in Japan developing an indigo-related public art project and installation, called I am Ai, We are Ai, which is part of the 2012 National Cultural Festival in Japan.
If you want to learn more about Rowland and Chinami Ricketts, and the work they are doing with indigo, here are two interesting blog posts Studio Kotokoto’s blog:
Even though I haven’t had time to make any dye baths, I have continued to grow and harvest and dry dye materials for future use. My dyer’s coreopsis is especially abundant this year, and I look forward to using it in a special project at some point.
Also looking forward to another Seaside Day of Dyes (Register Here), sponsored by fibershed and taught by Rebecca Burgess this September 22nd at Drakes Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. If you are in the area, I highly recommend it! Below are some samples from the last Seaside Day of Dyes in 2011.
Fellow natural dye enthusiast and dye farmer, Birdsong Sundstrom, is promoting her Natural Dye CSA with a contest! Grand prize: An indigo-dyed pair of socks, made on her antique circular sock knitting machine. Visit her website for details.
Second prize is a skein of local Romney yarn, which Birdsong dyed with pokeberry. I have a skein of her beautiful pokeberry-dyed yarn in my stash, but haven’t yet decided what to knit with it. I had better get busy with more knitting before I run out of space for my ever-growing collection of natural dyed yarns!
Meanwhile, I the artichoke plant in my community garden plot is enormous, so I am planning on brewing up a batch of dye with the leaves, and drying some for future use. More on that later.
I have been having lots of fun experimenting with mushroom dyes the last few weeks, both at the annual fiber arts classes at SOMA camp, and at home.
The mushrooms that I have been dyeing with are Dermocybe spp. (pink to orange), Omphalotus olivascens (purple and green) and Gymnopilus spp. (yellow).
I finally learned how to get a reliable lavender with Omphalotus olivascens by adding a splash of vinegar to the dye bath. And with the same mushroom I got gorgeous greens by adding iron water to the dye bath. (By iron water I mean water from a jar that I keep filled with old rusty objects, water and vinegar for an iron rich liquid.) Several of the green yarns in the photo below were small skeins of a boring tan or light gray color that I over dyed, so I got quite a nice range of greens.
Last fall I found some Pisolithus tinctorius and got great shades of gold and brown on wool and silk.
It has been a very dry winter here, so I’m not sure how mushroom hunting will be for the rest of the season, but yesterday some friends and I were lucky in finding a fair amount of Dermocybes, both the red variety and the gold variety. I decided to dry these for use later in the year, so I spread them out on some small window screens and have propped them over the heater vents. My house currently smells a bit like mushroom soup. Yum!
I am building up a nice stash of mushroom dyed yarns, so I look forward to some knitting projects soon. Some of the brighter colors will probably become accents in projects made with natural colored yarns.
My indigo crop was abundant this year, and I allowed the stems to flower at the beginning of fall. When the flower clusters started to turn brown, I cut off the stems and spread them on a cloth to dry indoors. Now I have a huge pile of stems, and have started to clean the seeds.
This year I am offering my seeds on the Fibershed Marketplace website. A percentage of each sale goes to support Fibershed in our ongoing educational programs.
Some advance news of a very exciting event we are planning: Fibershed founder and director Rebecca Burgess is in conversation with Rowland Ricketts about him making a trip to California in January to consult with her about building a traditional indigo composting floor, and we are organizing an evening lecture by Rowland that will be open to the public! More information as soon as plans are finalized.
Note added January 4, 2012: The workshop sold out immediately, but there will be an evening lecture by Rowland in Point Reyes Station on January 10th. For more information, visit the Fibershed Events page.
I am also very excited about a DVD I bought recently called Natural Dye Workshop with Michel Garcia, Colors of Provence Using Sustainable Methods. I learned some new methods for making indigo vats, and for using a clay resist paste to create interesting designs with indigo. The course also covers painting with mordants to achieve a variety of results with other plant dyes. Highly recommended!