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the magic of mushroom dyes

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 by in mushroom dyes, natural dyes |

As the days shorten and become cooler, my thoughts turn to the amazing variety of fungi that can be found in local woodlands. It was about two years ago that I visited the annual MSSF Fungus Fair and learned that mushrooms can produce a rainbow of dyes! At the fair I met Dorothy Beebee, illustrator of a book by Miriam C. Rice called Mushrooms for Dyes, Paper, Pigments & Myco-Stix. Dorothy studied with Miriam for many years, and has been teaching about mushroom dyes herself, so I decided to sign up for her hands-on class at the annual SOMA camp here in the Bay Area. The class was really fun and interesting, and I was amazed at the range of colors the mushrooms produced.

fibers dyed with Dermocybe semisanguinea from Oregon

fibers dyed with Gymnopilus spectabilis

fibers dyed with Pisolithos tinctorius

fibers dyed with Phaeolus schweinitzii

fibers dyed with Omphalotus olivascens

fibers dyed with Dermocybe semisanguinea from Cape Cod

Since then I have done a few experiments on my own with mushrooms I have collected: Ganoderma applanatum, Omphalotus olivascens, and one other mushroom I haven’t identified. As soon as I finish the scarf I am knitting with the beautiful blue yarn I dyed with Japanese indigo, I plan to work on a few projects combining yarn dyed by plants with yarn dyed by mushrooms.

And I’m looking forward to the upcoming SOMA camp in January, for deeper exploration into the magic of mushrooms. If you want to learn more about their many uses, visit the website of a mushroom club near you. In the Bay Area we have several: the Bay Area Mycological Society (BAMS), the Mycological Society of San Francisco, and the Sonoma County Mycological Association.