Announcing . . . 2016!

November 14, 2014


Mark your calendars: In October of 2016. the 17th International Fungi & Fibre Symposium will be coming to Pender Harbour! When the announcement was made at the most recent Symposium in Estonia, the room erupted in cheers—the event has never been held in Canada before, and everyone was thrilled to bits at the prospect of checking out our dye mushrooms in British Columbia’s coastal rainforest.

The wonderful members of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild are enthusiastic about putting on an event to remember, and members of the Sunshine Coast Society for the Hunting, Recognition and Observation of Mushrooms (hereafter known as SCHROOM) are already busy collecting the mushrooms we’ll need to keep the dyepots going.

Estonia colours

It’ll be a while yet before we get the details hammered out, but let me know if you’d like to be on our mailing list. Or just keep an eye on this blog.


Mushroom season 2014: bring it on!

October 3, 2014
Hydnellum peckii

Hydnellum peckii

We’ve had to wait for mushrooms this year, almost longer than my patience could tolerate, but the welcome rains of two weeks ago were enough to coax most of the regulars out, albeit in fewer quantities than we found last year . . . except for today’s find, which appeared in numbers I’ve never seen before in one place: fresh, beautiful clusters of Hydnellum peckii in a ring around a couple of medium-size Douglas fir. When they’re fresh and oozy like this, it’s easy to see why they’re called Strawberries and Cream. (My hands were stained red for hours after picking them!)

I love how these and other toothed fungi engulf whatever’s in their way. This one had not only eaten a couple of sticks, but it was doing its best to devour a branch in its path.

H. peckii  engulfing a stick

H. peckii engulfing a stick

In the same forest were a good number of Hydnellum aurantiacum, which is more common in these parts. (You can see the teeth in this image.) I can expect some lovely greens out of both Hydnellum dyepots.


Hydnellum aurantiacum

Hydnellum aurantiacum

As of now, I’m setting aside half of my mushroom treasures for other reasons; stay tuned to find out!


Playing with lobsters, Part IV

August 3, 2014
Lobster scarf_1

Lobster scarf_1

Lobster handprint scarf_2

Lobster scarf_2

Lobster dyepots are so magnanimous, and this was the last gift my most recent dyepot gave me before its colour was exhausted. The scarf started out a so-so shade of pink, so I had an idea to fold it loosely into diagonal accordion pleats and paint the edge of each fold with a solution of washing soda and water, to make a design of purple stripes. Yet another lesson: a solution painted onto damp silk will not stay put but will spread as far as it can into the fabric. But that was okay—the scarf, when dry, was an attractive shade of purply-pink, mottled with the original so-so pink.

But it still needed something. Having little to lose at this point, I decided to use a vinegar solution, at the other end of the pH scale, to paint some stylized handprints on the fabric. But this time I had my iron at the ready, and each “finger,” after being brushed on, was immediately cauterized. The effect was more pronounced when the design was still wet, but it’s still there, adding what I hope is a pleasing visual texture.

At that point it was time to stop. Thank you, Hypomyces lactifluorum.


Playing with lobsters, Part III

July 18, 2014


So many learning experiences, all of them valuable. This coil yarn emerged from a dyepot of lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum) a lovely strong orange, just what I wanted for my next experiment: I planned to “highlight” each individual coil with a washing soda solution, which turns the orange into a shade of magenta. Wouldn’t that be striking, I thought—orange yarn with evenly spaced magenta coils.

I towel-dried the yarn as soon as it had cooled and set about painting each coil with a tiny brush dipped in the soda solution. And the results were immediate: magenta coils strung together by an orange yarn. But there was one thing I hadn’t taken into account. A solution painted onto wet fibre will bleed into said fibre—the wicking principle. So when I returned to my studio the next day to admire my results, I was greeted by a beautiful almost-entirely-magenta yarn, punctuated here and there by a few orange strands.

Oh, well . . . that gives me an excuse to spin another coiled yarn and try all over again.


Playing with lobsters, Part II

July 15, 2014

This was interesting. I’d done triple rows of shibori stitching to create a design on the front of this camisole, but the Lobster (Hypomyces lactifluorum) dyebath didn’t give me the vivid red or orange I had hoped for. So I decided to try for graduated colour shifts by letting the bottom half of the camisole sit in the exhaust bath for a couple of days. Then I raised some of it out, leaving the lower part to sit and absorb colour a bit longer. I didn’t heat this up again, but I let the camisole dry without rinsing, then I ironed the whole thing, hoping the heat would help set the colour.

This method seemed to have worked; I rinsed the camisole the following week, and the colour gradations remained.


Playing with lobsters, Part I

July 14, 2014

Even though last year’s harvest of Lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum) was bounteous beyond belief, I’ve been careful about using up all the parings. These wonderful fungi could decide to take a year off this autumn, as has happened in the past, and I don’t want to deplete my supply. Having had success with the Tiger Camisole, I decided to do something similar with the Lobsters.

Camisole with lobster, front

Camisole in lobster, front

This was interesting: I’d wrapped and tied the silk piece around a stubby glass bottle, which I stood upright in the dyepot. Unbeknownst to me, the bottle had tipped over halfway through the process, leaving a half-dyed part exposed to the air—a happy accident indeed. The half-dyed bits were a brilliant orange, while the fabric that remained in the liquid dyed a deep red. I definitely need to play with this characteristic some more (assuming it will happen again).

Camisole with lobster, back

Camisole in lobster, back

This is the back view.


Thanks, ArtsQuest!

July 1, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, we had a visit from Corinne and Gary Funk of ArtsQuest.ca. Several years ago, they gave themselves an interesting assignment: travel around Canada to interview artists whose work catches their fancy and document their discoveries. They not only blog about each person they visit, but they post video interviews, as well.

My interview is now on their website, and I want to thank them for putting my work in such a good light. They even worked around the distractions provided by my dogs, whose bear bells accompany some of the dialog. (If you watch closely, you’ll see a flash of Rica’s black tail, too!)


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