Dye With Me


by Brady and Erin Raymond

As the rains begin soaking in and temperatures start to drop don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled this fall for dye mushrooms.  We often get so consumed with finding the consumables we forget that mushrooms have other uses too.  If you are into cooking and you like crafting, specifically with animal fiber, dyeing with mushrooms may be right up your alley.  Here’s a quick run down and if you’re interested check out the links at the end of the post for more info.


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Mushroom Dyes 4 – Projects


Excellent results from our most recent dye day.

by Erin Raymond

Happy New Year!

Now that you have mastered the mushroom dyeing process from the previous posts (part 1, 2, 3), you might be wondering what you will do with all your beautiful yarn. I have this problem too and have a tendency to hoard my yarn, waiting to come up with that ‘special’ project that I keep putting off. Since it’s a crafting time of year, I thought I would try and share some ideas of what I have done in the past with my dyed yarn.

One of the problems I have is figuring out what to do with small amounts of yarn I have dyed.  This happens a lot, especially when I am doing a dye test with a new mushroom and want to see how saturated of a color I can get.  But what do you do with 1/4 ounce of yarn?  Tapestry is a great way to use these small bits.

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Mushroom Dyes 3- Experimenting


by Erin Raymond

Once you are comfortable with the dye process, starting to play around with changing colors is really fun and adds a whole new level of excitement when dyeing with mushrooms.  Adjusting your mushroom dyes is most commonly achieved by altering the pH.  This can be done directly in the simmering dye bath or after in a separate bath, in which case no simmering is needed.  To do this, you will need pH paper (I got mine on Amazon) and something to make your dye more alkaline or acidic.  To increase the pH, I use washing soda and to decrease the pH, I use white vinegar.  Ammonia can also be used to make an alkaline bath, but you need to be sure not to breathe in any of the vapors and the dye bath tends to become more neutral faster than with washing soda.  When using washing soda, be sure to only add 1/8th tsp at a time, checking the resulting pH.

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Mushroom Dyes Part 2 – Dyeing Process


Ramaria sp. found in the spring.

by Erin Raymond

In the last post, we talked about getting ready to dye with mushrooms.  Now that all the prep work is done, we can start getting into the actual dyeing process!  Remember, don’t be discouraged if your results are mixed, especially at first.  Many dye mushrooms are quite prolific and you can no doubt solicit some of your mushroom hunting friends to collect for you to bulk up your supplies.  It is also worth noting once again, as in the first article to label all dye mushrooms as such and keep away from edible mushrooms you may have stored.  It is also recommended that you use separate pots and grinders (coffee grinder) than what you would use for food.

Dried mushrooms are typically used because you can accurately measure the weight of the mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms can also be used, but it can be hard to reproduce results because you do not know the water content of the fresh mushrooms. Typically a 1:1 ratio of fiber to dried mushroom weight is used.  Some mushrooms require you to use more or less, but a 1:1 ratio is a good place to start. Continue reading

Mushroom Dyes Part 1 – Getting Started

Yarn Drying

A variety of different colors can be derived from fungi.

by Erin Raymond

Throughout written history, humans have documented the use of plants, insects and lichens in the coloring of natural fibers. For whatever reason fungal dyes seem to be missing from the records of mankind, possibly lost in the many voluminous accounts of bygone times, not garnering the attention of translators, or maybe, being the knowledge of peoples with no written language at all, lost in the ether. It seems inconceivable that somewhere throughout time these secrets were not known by someone, yet culture, geography and time have no doubt played a roll in concealing this knowledge from the modern practitioner.

It wasn’t until the 1960’s that books were published, at least in the english language where we can begin to learn the ways of fugal dyes. It was Miriam C. Rice who’s teaching was the driving force in the use of fungi for dyeing, Here is a link to a short History of Mushroom Dyeing.

This, and upcoming dye posts, are a general overview of the dye process.  There are a number of excellent resources with more information that are listed at the end of this post.

Unless otherwise stated, these posts describe the process for wool yarn.  Different types of animal fibers can also be used.  I will go into these further in a later post.

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Local Lichen: Lobaria pulmonaria

Thanks to the excessive amounts of moisture on the west side of the Cascades, Washington is a great place to find and learn about lichens. Many might not realize that lichens are fungi, but they are! In fact, lichens are the product of a symbiotic relationship between a fungi and green algae and/or cyanobacteria. The fungi provides a home and protection, while the “green stuff” provides nutrients via photosynthesis.

Today we’ll be talking about one particular local lichen, Lobaria pulmonaria.

2015-04-26 13.04.30

Lobaria pulmonaria (left) next to one of its common look-alikes, Lobaria oregana (right). L. pulmonaria has much smoother edges and is not so white on its underside.


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