Mushroom Dye

The Puget Sound Mycological Society presented a hands-on workshop this weekend, Mushrooms for Color; Using Mushrooms as a Natural Dye Source. The class, held at the lovely University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture, was educational and fun-- and we split our time between the classroom and our workspace outside. I love getting my hands dirty.


To facilitate sample dying, we started by adding the mushrooms and warm water into mason jars (one species per jar, some frozen, some dried) to keep it all separate. To some of the jars we added a dash of mordant; either alum (buy it bulk in the kitchen section of your market), iron, or sodium bicarbonate (more commonly called soda ash or washing soda at the hardware store). The mordant produces color changes beyond the range of mushroom pigment in some species and also helps pigment bind to fiber.


Once all 14 jars were filled with samples and mordant if applicable, we lowered them into the water and began the process of slowly heating the jars. It's important to avoid sudden temperature changes and agitation if you like your yarn as yarn and not felt.


And after about an hour we carefully removed each sample skein from its jar, cooled to air temperature, thwacked out the extra dyestuffs, and then rinsed and thwacked some more. The nearly dry results are shown below on my sample card.Wonderful!


And a note to self: if a dye recipe calls for 1 oz of dried mushrooms, the fresh equivalent is about 10 oz.

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