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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.

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Playing with lobsters, Part III

July 18, 2014

IMG_3769

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.

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Playing with lobsters, Part II

July 15, 2014

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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.

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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.

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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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Some finished projects

June 8, 2014

I spin more yarn than I can keep up with, but occasionally I’ll complete something with my mushroom-dyed skeins. Here are my latest:

Omphalotus colours

Omphalotus colours

I wanted to use up all of the precious purple I obtained from last spring’s Omphalotus olivascens dyepot, but I didn’t know just what I could make with it. I wanted something that would highlight the differences between the dark purple from the first dyebath and the lighter shades from the final exhausts. So when I saw the pattern for the Penrose Tile shawl by Carol Feller in the Autumn 2013 issue of PLY Magazine, I knew I’d found the answer.

The shawl is meant to be longer vertically—I ended up with a circular scarf rather than a shawl—but I’m pleased with the results.

*****

This was an interesting project. It started with machine-knitted “blanks”—rectangles knitted in double strands of white wool. Workshop participants dyed these blanks in three different dyepots, so they looked like this (mine was fourth from the right).

Mushroom blanks

Mushroom blanks

We then took our blanks home and ravelled them. I ended up with a length of yarn that, when folded in half, had identical colour shifts (because the yarn was doubled during the knitting). I looked for something that would take advantage of this symmetry, and found it on Ravelry: Queen Anne’s Lace Scarf.

Three-dyepot crochet

Three-dyepot crochet

It proved to be an easy take-along project that went together quickly. And it’s a good example of the possibilities that can happen when mushrooms hit the dyepot.

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Spinning a few yarns

April 20, 2014

Every aspect of mushroom dyeing and fibre preparation is a joy, and I could always use more time at these pursuits, but the ultimate pleasure, the end goal of all of this, is the spinning. I love to feel the smooth fibres slipping through my fingers as the wheel works its magic and twists them into a thread that winds onto the bobbin. If I’ve blended colours or fibres, it’s exciting to see how they come together into a single strand, and then how plying two or more strands results in a balanced yarn. As I wind the yarn onto my niddy-noddy, the length of it again slides through my hands, and when I’ve tied it into a skein, I get to fondle it once more. Who knew yarn could be so tactile, so sensual?

Two- and three-ply yarns

Two- and three-ply yarns

This yarn was the result of carding some blah colours into batts, which I then brightened up with some leftover bits of orange and gold. I spun this deliberately chunky and used two plies of this with one ply of straight Hydnellum green—the result ended up not blah at all. When I ran out of one strand of the chunky, I plied the other with what was left of the green; hence the smaller, greener skein that sits on top.

Dermocybe rose

Dermocybe rose

I love this colour, and until I fire up a few more dermocybe dyepots, this is all I have of it. I added texture by”stacking” a thin ply over the soft texture of a thick-and-thin ply.

Phaeolus gold

Phaeolus gold

I made this yarn from the results of several Phaeolus dyepots, combining shades of gold and green. The “icicle,” a synthetic product, picks up colours wonderfully and adds a bit of zing to the finished yarn.

Thrice-dipped yarn

Thrice-dipped yarn

I had fun with these skeins. I spun them from a soft white roving, my reliably go-to fibre, then dipped parts of them in each of three dyepots: dyer’s polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii), lobster (Hypomyces lactifluorum), and Hydnellum aurantiacum. The colours overlapped quite nicely.

Now my spinning wheel is calling me.

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