More Natural Dye

It’s been a frighteningly dry fall and winter so far which aside from the obvious problems, also means that mushrooms aren’t flourishing either. For Xmas, Colin got me David Arora’s two mushrooming books and so I had to head out to Mt. Tam after only one day of rain. It looked like other shroomers had beaten me to everything edible, but fortunately, I can be contented with collecting some of their color yielding cousins.


Among the treasures I picked up were a big basket full of more Phaeolus and a grocery bag of Omphalotus.

One cluster of Omphalotus

Another interesting find was an abundance of small coral fungus. I brought a couple samples home, but even after over an hour with my books was unable to positively identify the cool little shrooms. One thing that Arora notes in his book is the difficulty of identifying coral fungi. There are so many kinds which are microscopically distinct, but macroscopically indistinct that it is a challenge which the amateur mushroomer is unlikely to gain any proficiency in. Fortunately, this type of fungi are usually unpalatable, so I can be content to just admire their fascinating structures.

Unidentified Coral Fungus

After returning home with a dyer’s bounty, I immediately took to dyeing with my finds. See below for descriptions.

Naturally Dyed Fibers

From Left to Right:

  1.  Norwegian Wool dyed with Carrot tops in an Iron pot
  2. Merino Wool dyed with Carrot tops in an Iron pot
  3. Norwegian Wool dyed with Omphalotus exhaust and a small amount of Phaeolus in Aluminum pot with copper/vinegar mordant
  4. Merino Tencel Blend dyed with Omphalotus in Aluminum pot finished with copper-vinegar dip
  5. Norwegian Wool dyed with Omphalotus in Aluminum pot finished with copper-vinegar dip
  6. Norwegian Wool dyed with Omphalotus in Aluminum pot
  7. Merino Tencel Blend dyed with Omphalotus in Aluminum pot

First into the pot were the Omphalotus with some Norwegian Wool and Merino-Tencel Blend (Numbers 4 through 7). I was not satisfied with the muted color and hoped I could bring out more violet tones, so I added a few glugs of vinegar to my exhaust and set in some of the fiber (Numbers 4 and 5) for a couple hours at room temperature. I removed and rinsed to find that I had I had in fact changed the blue and violet tones to green greys. Not at all the change I was going for. As it turned out I had used the vinegar which had been made into a copper mordant by accident and the copper brought out the greens instead of the violets. The change was not drastic though, and I think I’ll be carding the two colors together for some variegation in my yarns.

The exhaust bath still seemed to have quite a bit of color in it, so I tossed in more Norwegian wool and left it to sit over night. The next day I put it over heat and tossed in a couple small crumbles of phaeolus for good measure. The product(Number 3) is actually much more of a saddened green than it appears in the image above.

The 2 other greens are also much richer than they appear in the photo, more of an olive color and only a shade darker than the Omphalotus exhaust bath, though these were achieved in a different way. At the produce store, I peeked into the big waste bins and spied three hefty bunches of carrot tops. Yay! I must have looked a little crazy, digging through the bin destined for compost to extract the sprigs of greenery that no one wants. At home I set them into my cast iron dutch oven with plain water. I heated the tops briefly, then left them to sit overnight. the next day, the pot had released a rusty film which coated the top of the liquid, and the leaves had turned almost black. the water was however still very pale which had me worried. I put my fiber into a nylon mesh bag and set the into the pot along with all the plant material. I then kept it at around 120°F for a full day(the whole apartment stank of overcook carrot, but we suffered through. I let the whole pot cool overnight and drained my fiber the next day. I rinsed it to find it had taken a gorgeous olive green with some dark spots where it had been touching the iron of the pot. I am very much lloking forward to spinning up this fiber!

Speaking of spinning, I’ve spun up some of my previous natural dye projects and will be adding them to my etsy this week.

All Natural

Starting on the bottom then moving clockwise: Phaeolus dyed faux cashmere from various batches, Phaeolus dyed faux cashmere plied with phaeolus and other stuffs dyed merino, and lastly Norwegian wool dyed with red cabbage(blue), pomegranate skins (cream) and pomegranate skin overdyed with cabbage and baking soda to adjust pH(yellow-green).

Dyeing Fiber with Natural Materials

As a knitter, I have a great appreciation for luxury yarns, especially ones that are in some way unique. As a spinner, I have the ability to create such yarns myself and supply other knitters as well as myself with something special.

Dye-pot of Polypore and Roving

Last week I collected several pounds of Dyer’s Polypore on Mt. Tamalpais. I was able to dye close to one pound of Merino-Tencel blend and almost one pound of Faux Cashmere, a superfine nylon fiber which is as soft as the most expensive luxury fiber available but is about 1/7th of the price.

Four Dyelots from Polypore and Jack O' Lantern

Above From Right to Left: Unmordanted polypore hot dye on merino-tencel; unmordanted jack o’ lantern hot dye on merino-tencel; unmordanted polypore hot dyebath on faux cashmere; unmordanted polypore exhaust dye on faux cashmere.

Later in the week I also dyed with some pomegranate skins and fresh Tumeric from the Berkeley Bowl, my local natural food store. This produced a vibrant yellow reminiscent of sunflowers.

Dyeing with Household Items

Above from Top to Bottom: unmordanted pomegranate skin hot dye on norwegian wool; alum mordanted raw tumeric hot dye on norwegian wool; alum mordanted raw tumeric hot dye on merino-tencel; alum mordanted raw tumeric hot dye on faux cashmere

I’ll be spinning these up in the next week and posting them on etsy as the skeins are completed. The question is should I blend different dyelots of the same fiber type and make several consistent skeins or should I spin them up separately and make a unique skein for each dyelot?