Dyeing with Fungi

This lovely photo, kindly supplied by Leena in Finland, shows the fungus Cortinarius semisanguineus. I love this image – I can almost smell the musky aromas of the earth & the woods as I look at it. Thanks to Leena, who sent me some of this mushroom dried  & ready for dyeing, I’ve been able to experience the delights of fungi dyeing for the first time, apart from some very primitive efforts many years ago.

 This photo shows the results of my experiments. The skeins on the right were mordanted with alum & those on the left were unmordanted. The uppermost skein on the left was dyed in the same dyebath as the skeins on the right. Otherwise, all the left-hand skeins were dyed in the exhaust dyebath. From top to bottom, the skeins on both sides show no modifer, acidic modifier, alkaline modifer, copper modifier & iron modifier. I simmered the mushrooms for about 1 hour to make the first dyebath, then simmered  them again for a second batch of fibres.The dyestuff went a long way & I was able to dye about 400gms of wool with only 100gms of dye. 

 This photo shows some more of the skeins I dyed using Cortinarius semisanguineus. Some skeins were mordanted with alum & others were left unmordanted. I was amazed at the lovely rich colours from this mushroom, which contains similar pigments to those in madder.

 I am certainly a convert to dyeing with fungi & will now keep my eyes open for any I can harvest. When the season is right, I’m sure I’ll find something worth trying, especially as we occasionally have various kinds of fungi appearing in our garden. All I need now is a good reference book to help me identify whatever I may find.

6 replies
  1. Carol
    Carol says:

    Oh, such gorgeous colours! Do I need to arrange a holiday in Finland now, to get some of the fungi myself!

    Happy New Year, btw.

  2. Leena Riihelä
    Leena Riihelä says:

    I am glad you enjoyed the mushrooms and got so lovely colors from it. I have dyed with them for years and never tried the alkaline modifier with them, how nice pink you got with it. I think the colors dyed without any mordant are little less lightfast than with using alum, even though many books say that you can use mushrooms without mordants. Which is true of course:)

    I look forward to reading your blog this year, too. I am so glad you started it!

  3. Helen Melvin
    Helen Melvin says:

    Hi Jenny happy New year. Fabulous colours you have got . Leena sent me some of these mushrooms too and I am dying to have a go but not as ready to start dyeing as you are, although as always I have plenty of plans! Thank you for sharing these rich colours -have you a plan for them or do they go into your stash. (Now that is something I would love to see!) Best Wishes Helen

  4. Kirsten
    Kirsten says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog and (to be honest) I do envy you having dyed with Cortinarius semisanguineus. The colours are gorgeous! Last year I startet experimenting with mushroom dyes and had some great results with Phaeolus schweinitzii but I didn’t have the luck finding Cortinarius semisanguineus in our woods. Hopefully wishing I’ll do this year.

    With best wishes for a colourful New Year.

    Kirsten from Germany

  5. cedar
    cedar says:

    Wonderful colors and great research, we all benefit, so glad Leena was so generous…I have bags dried and when this deep freeze passes and I can trust my drains again, I shall be dyeing and so appreciate the colors I can try and achieve…Happy New Year to you all and I love your new book, concise, and well done thanks so much…

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