I'll never forget the first time I spotted these odd bright orange shapes peaking up through the pine needles 3 years ago.
In 2013 was enjoying my 4th year teaching at the New England Fiber Arts Retreat in Washington, Maine and I had only just heard about dyeing with mushrooms.
While on a walk I spotted these brightly colored clumps and brought them back to camp for my foraging class.
As a group we looked them up and found immediately some good info on how to dye with them.
It was a fun impromptu surprise for us all.
Along with just alum mordanted wool you get a pale orange. With a splash of ammonia the dye bath goes alkaline (ph goes up) and more corals come out.
This was a fun picture to take this year as I was just arriving. I took last year off as I had a 6 week old babe. So returning this year was EXTRA special and sweet. That moment when I was walking up the road and seeing everyone for the first time made my heart almost explode with joy.
after locating more this year, (I love how dry they all ready are) I planned a project for my shop yarns.
Though best used at a 1:1 or higher mushroom to fiber ratio, I think I did use more fiber to mushroom. I really wanted to dye 2 skeins at once as that's what I like to do for my shop, to have at least 2 skeins in the same color way. I had about 4oz of whole mushrooms, also from the help of my dear friend Alissa Allen who found me a few and who reminded me of the tips around ammonia. We were blessed to have Alissa join us for a 2nd year at the retreat to teach her mushroom dyes!!
I did try to shave the orange bits away from the mushroom as underneath they are white. But it was just too hard and time consuming. And as I was doing this during nap time, it had to be quick.
I let my yarns simmer for an hour or so keeping an eye on the temp and then took it off the heat until morning. The color was ok, a paler orange but I wanted to shift it into a pinker tone. I pulled out the yarns and splashed in some ammonia and put the yarns back in for a dip. Maybe 15 minutes or so. I learned the hard way in the past not to heat wool in an ammonia bath as it quickly hardens the wool. And as I was dyeing my handspun shetland, I needed to get this just right.
The color did shift to a slightly more red orange. The above picture is when it's wet. Bottom picture is dried and is now listed in my etsy shop.
Also above pic shows my tansy dyed yarns which you will also see here and which I will be writing about next and my purple pansy solar dye which I will also be writing about.
Have you used lobster mushrooms before? It's of my of favorite mushrooms to use. Maybe next time I'll find a better solution to peeling the orange off and get a really good stock pile built up for deeper oranges and magentas. Oh the possibilities!!