The red, orange and yellow Dermocybe mushrooms that I collected recently sat in jars of rainwater for just over two weeks, developing a white scum on the surface of the water and giving off a decidedly fermented odor. I finally found the time to make three dye baths: Dermocybe phoenicea, Dermocybe cinnamomea, and the unidentified yellow Dermocybe, and I was not disappointed with the result!
Clockwise from top in the photo above: Dermocybe phoenicea produced a deep pink, and a lighter pink in the after bath; Dermocybe cinnamomea produced a rich orange, and a soft orange in the after bath; the unidentified yellow Dermocybe produced a buttery yellow. I later combined the three dye baths, and the skein that I dyed with it came out a light coral pink.
I am wishing that I had made spore prints from each of the three varieties, so that I could compare the color of the spore print to the color of the yarn. The other step I omitted is weighing the mushrooms to compare the weight of the yarn to the weight of the mushrooms used. I tend to get caught up in the excitement of creating, and I forget the practical aspects which will be of use later.
A recently purchased book that I have been learning a lot from is the new edition of Wild Color by Jenny Dean. It doesn’t cover mushroom dyes, but it has lots of good information on mordants and plant dyes.
Okay, now my confession: I am embarrassed to admit that I over mordanted the yarn with alum and cream of tartar, which makes it somewhat sticky. I won’t even go into the details of how I managed to do that, but I sure wish I hadn’t made that mistake on such beautiful handspun yarn! We’ll see how it knits up.
In the meantime, I am experimenting with a non-native plant that is abundant in my area: the Privet tree (Ligustrum spp.). Stay tuned for a color surprise.