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Western Red-dye at last!

Posted on Jan 31, 2011 by in mushroom dyes, natural dyes | 2 comments

At the recent SOMA Wild Mushroom Camp I learned more about finding mushrooms in the wild, and I recently put that new knowledge to the test with good results. It really pays to know the favored habitat of the mushroom you are seeking. Sounds obvious, but I haven’t always done my homework regarding habitat. I certainly will from now on!

I learned that the red dye mushrooms of the Dermocybe or Cortinarius species favor pine trees, especially when there are huckleberry or manzanita growing nearby. And that’s exactly where I found a number of dye mushrooms (Dermocybe phoenicea, Dermocybe cinnamomea, and a yellow Dermocybe that I don’t have a name for) on a recent hike in the Point Reyes area.

Dermocybe phoenicia, the Western Red-dye mushroom

Here’s an article that explains the relationship between mushrooms and trees.

The red dye mushrooms are often found in the duff below pine trees, especially when huckleberry or manzanita is growing nearby.

I haven’t yet had the time to do a dye bath, but the mushrooms are patiently waiting for me in the jars where I am steeping them in rainwater. I hope to find more mushrooms this weekend so that I have enough to dye some handspun yarn for the Fibershed Project. More on this to come.

bottles of red and yellow dye mushrooms awaiting the dye bath

Handspun yarn by Heather Podoll, of 50% wool from Woolly Egg Ranch, and 50% Alpaca from Renaissance Ridge. Soon to be dyed with mushrooms!


  1. Hi Dustin,

    I recently found a big stasth of the brown dermocybe’s that I keyed out as incognitus. I dyed up to big skeins that I had handspun and they came out as a light camel color. I’d be interested to see your results and see if they are similiar. I also found a good stash of Omphalotus in Tiburon and got some lovely purple! The dye bath exhaustes pretty quick and then went to light grey. It made me think of your dye results. Cheers, Christie

    • Hi Christie, Glad to hear you were able to get a lovely purple from your Omphalotus! I am determined to keep experimenting until I get that color. My latest theory is that I simply didn’t have enough pigment for the amount of yarn I dyed, which makes the most sense.

      As for the Dermocybes, I believe the ones I collected will yield oranges and reds, like the ones we used in class at SOMA camp. I’ll let you know, as I am going to do a test very soon. I am in the process of mordanting the yarn today.

      Thanks for staying in touch!