Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mushroom Dyeing

I haven't been hooking much lately, I'm getting ready for an exciting new dye project. I have been in love with mushrooms for forty years. I used to hike around in wild areas just to see them, and way back when, I could even identify dozens of kinds, at least by common names. I had two friends who were my former teachers and who were also excited about mushrooms and wild flowers. We used to go hiking with our Euell Gibbons Stalking the Wild Asparagus and other identification books and "stalk" for hours. We ate a lot of wild plants, which worked out okay because they were both gourmet cooks - I was just an eater. Unfortunately, they have both passed on, and I have been too busy for some years now to do much stalking.

This year, I decided I couldn't wait much longer to stalk some more, even if I just go on short little hunts. I started my hunting on the internet, ordered several mushroom identification books, but I'm finding that none compare to the one I used to use. I'm going to have to hunt through my books at the farm and see if I can't find that good old book. I also acquired a highly recommended book about dyeing with mushrooms - had it here for two weeks before I had enough time to open it. People seem to have stopped using common names for mushrooms, everything is listed under scientific names, which makes it much harder for me to re-learn what I used to know. I have gathered quite a few mushrooms anyway, figuring I'll identify them later.

I'm trying to figure out how to dry the mushrooms before they turn all gooey. I put them in a covered dyepot with some newspaper, then put the pot in the sunshine. I thought the heat would dry them pretty quick, but not so. Three days, so far, and they haven't changed a bit, other than making a good spore print.

While the ones I have collected are drying, I'll have to figure out how many I need to dye. I believe the dye process is basically the same as other natural dyeing, various mordants making different colors, etc. - but I have a lot to learn.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Natural Dyes

I started dyeing this week with some pine cones, gathered from the little pine woods that belongs to my mother. I gathered some brown ones and some green ones, simmered them up for half a day, let the pot cool, removed the pine cones, and put pre-mordanted wool in the pot.
The mordant was alum, but I seem to have lost my cream of tartar, so I left it out. The wool became stiff enough to teach me that cream of tartar is a good thing. The color is a warm brown, however, I should have strained the dye through some muslin because there is some pitch from the pine cones that adheared to the wool (you can see the darker brown spots on the wool).
On the way to the pine woods, I walked beneath a hickory tree that had already dropped a lot of nuts, so I gathered a bagful. I followed the same procedure as with the pine cones, only the dye was hardly present after one day, so I let the nuts, in their green husks, soak for three days. I might have had quicker results if I had chopped up the hulls, but I didn't want to make that much mess.
To make clean-up easier, I used an old enamel spaghetti cooker. It consists of two parts, the inner part is a strainer, so I could just lift it out of the pot and leave the dye bath in the pot.
This hickory dye was not as rich in color as I've had before. The picture shows it a little grayer than the actual color, perhaps because I took the photo when the wool was still wet. The picture shows hickory nuts in the hull and out of the hull on the dyed wool. (addition September15 - I put the wool back in the dye pot and let it sit for a couple days. It turned a much darker soft brown.)

My next project is walnut dyeing. I have an ice chest full of bottled walnut dye that I made last year. I've gathered some fresh walnuts so I can compare year-old walnut dye with fresh dye. If it continues to rain as it has all day today, I should get that project going tomorrow. I'm going to use the walnut dye as an overdye for some textured wools and maybe some plaids.