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Eco-dyeing with mushrooms

February 28, 2015

My dear friend and wonderfully creative fibre artist behind the Ruby Slippers blog has made some beautiful fabric pieces by eco-dyeing—rolling flowers and leaves into little bundles, then steaming them. She has to leave these bundles alone for several weeks to ensure that the colours are imprinted, and when she can finally open them, the results are marvelous.

Eco-dyeing with mushrooms presents its own challenges, but when I noticed a layer of “dust” in the bottom of a box holding a bunch of dried Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii), a tiny light bulb sparked an idea. I dyed some silk scarves in a Phaeolus dyepot and removed them before the colour became too intense. Then I put them immediately into a pot of simmering water—a stop bath—to set the colour. Then I got to play, and here’s what happened.

Phaeolus dust

Phaeolus dust

I scooped up a few handfuls of Phaeolus bits—as the fungus dries, it seems to shed its layer of pores, which have turned dark brown, but I reasoned these bits would still contain pigment.

My stencil

My stencil

My search for something handy to use as a “stencil” took me to the kitchen utensil drawer. My dearest, who does all the cooking, probably wouldn’t have condoned my taking this up to my studio to be covered in inedible fungus dust, but in matters of mushroom dyeing, it’s always safer to follow the “ask forgiveness” rule. I sprinkled the bits into the slots with a liberal hand, then gave the whole thing a good spritz of water to keep everything in place. With care, I lifted the slotted spoon off the fabric, pleased to see that the design had stayed in place. I soon discovered, though, that the mushroom bits had minds of their own and were scattering themselves outside the design area. So I went along and sprinkled bits over the scarf’s surface, hoping for a speckled background.

The first try

The first try

It's working!

It’s working!

I’d laid the scarf out on a long piece of plastic (cut from one of those ubiquitous shopping bags that I swear procreate under the kitchen sink) and began rolling, taking care not to disturb my designs.

Rolling the bundle

Rolling the bundle

The tied bundle

Then it was a simple matter of tying the scarf tightly in three places . . .

Steaming the bundle

. . . and putting it into a bamboo steamer where it steamed for thirty minutes one day and thirty minutes the next. (I did that because of timing—ordinarily I would have steamed it for an hour the first time.)

I decided not to wait three weeks to see the results. I figured the bits of  Phaeolus would impart their colour quickly and permanently . . .

The finished scarf

The finished scarf

. . . and they did!

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Frozen . . . the Mushroom

February 9, 2015
Ramaria flavigelatinosa

Ramaria largentii

Last year I wrote about an exciting discovery with the orange coral mushroom, Ramaria largentii, when I obtained a nice purple from a little bag that had been left outside during a frost. The mountain of coral that had dried inside proved to be unusable, giving a blah beige.

This year’s harvest of coral wasn’t outstanding, but I do have enough in my freezer now to do a few dyepots. First I wanted to make sure that several months of freezing wouldn’t affect the colour. And indeed it didn’t! This purple is on wool roving mordanted with iron.

Ramaria after Freezing

Ramaria after Freezing

I’ve been away from my studio more than I wanted (although the January trip to Costa Rica was a legitimate reason to be away), but the dyepots are heating up again, with some interesting results. More to come . . .

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ShroomWorks is now on Etsy!

December 4, 2014

I have to give the Etsy people credit—they walk prospective shop owners through the entire listing process, with tutorials and encouraging words aplenty. Still, it’s taken more hours than I care to acknowledge to reach the point where I can announce my official opening:

ShroomWorks is open for business!

Check out my shop here.

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Ann and Rica’s Excellent Adventure

November 28, 2014

We’re expecting a bit of snow tonight (a dusting, really), and temperatures are set to drop, so I decided to go out for my annual foray on a nearby moss bluff—several tiers of bluff, actually—where I usually find a few of my Cortinarius dyers. This is part the “arbutus belt,” a narrow area at a consistent elevation where the conditions are right for the arbutus tree (Arbutus menziesii, also known as madrone). Arbutus wood is iron-hard, and it sheds its paper-like bark each year. These trees resist domestication and are quite picky about where they’ll take root, so I consider myself fortunate to be living among them.

Arbutus bluff

Knowing this hike would involve a bit of a climb, I left Silas, our 12-year-old Golden, behind, as it would have been too much for him. Instead, I invited Rica, our Border Collie mutt, to join me—nothing is too much for her!

I could hear the dermocybes calling, and sure enough, it wasn’t long before I found these little guys camouflaged among the dried leaves.

Cortinarius smithii

We clambered over moss-covered rocks, sweeping back and forth across the bluffs, and it wasn’t long before my little brown paper bag was full, of both the yellow-gilled and red-gilled beauties, and I had to start on another bag.

Yellow-gilled DermocybeCortinarius smithii

Along the way I found a few clumps of orange coral, Ramaria largentii, which only added to the excitement.

Ramaria largentii

It’s probably just as well Silas wasn’t along with us, as he would have been unable to tear himself away from these two discoveries: bones cleaned down to the bone (probably by coyotes) and a nice pile of elk poo (recognized by its large size and the distinctive “thumbprint” in each nugget).

Bones

 After two hours of foraging, it was time to return home. But wait—Rica found some excitement of her own! The squirrel teased and chattered and eventually made its way down the other side of the tree. Rica’s doggy brain forgot about it immediately, happy to move on to other discoveries.

Rica trees a squirrel

A perfect afternoon, evidenced by this view of Mixal Lake on our way down to the road and back home.

On the way home

And look what’s in the dehydrator at this very moment:

Ready for drying

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Sole mates

November 21, 2014

 

Mushroom paper shoes

Mushroom paper shoes

My dyepots have been cool for several months now—fall is the time for collecting dye mushrooms, and it was a fairly good season, all in all—so here’s a photo of something else I made in the summer. These were in response to a call for entries for an exhibit, “Under My Feet,” put on by my fibre mentor and textile artist extraordinaire, Yvonne Stowell, in her lovely space, FibreWorks Gallery, in Madeira Park.

Papermaking takes second place to dyeing and spinning, but occasionally I get the urge to mix up a vat of mushroom pulp, pull out the molds and deckles, and make a right good mucky mess. Yvonne’s call for entry came at a time when I decided I needed some slip-on shoes specifically for my studio (the bright orange Crocs just don’t do it for me), so I used a pair of almost-falling-apart house slippers as molds.

I first made the soles (using pulp made from red-belted conk, or Fomitopsis pinicola), cutting several layers of paper around an outline of the slipper soles and pressing them together—”laminating” sounds more sophisticated, doesn’t it? Then I draped more cut-to-shape pieces over the tops, again pressing several layers together. I hadn’t planned how to secure the various parts to the soles, but my hands naturally went into piecrust mode, and that seemed to work, so for continuity, I continued that pattern around the backs of the soles. The shoes needed some embellishment, and I had lots of leftover Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) pulp on hand, and I used that to make some brown diagonal bands. Phaeolus pulp is quite crumbly, and I had to be careful to keep it from falling apart.

I covered everything loosely with plastic wrap, to keep the shoes from warping, but after a few weeks I noticed bits of white mold were taking root. I removed the slippers and stuffed the openings with crumpled newspaper, placed them on a mesh screen to encourage the bottoms to dry, and left them under a very loose tent of plastic.  When everything had dried, the dark brown bands were still crumbly, so I gave everything a waterproofing coating.

Mushroom paper being what it is, I didn’t expect to come up with anything dainty or delicate; “robust” is probably a better word to describe these (although they weigh almost nothing). However, they’ll end up being for display only—these thick soles have absolutely no capacity to bend, and stomping around flat-footed is a bit ungainly!

Don’t expect me to create a line of fashionable paper shoes—not in the immediate future, anyway.

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Announcing . . . 2016!

November 14, 2014

2016

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.

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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!

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