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success with red-dye mushrooms

Posted on Feb 8, 2011 by in mushroom dyes, natural dyes | 4 comments

The  red, orange and yellow Dermocybe mushrooms that I collected recently sat in jars of rainwater for just over two weeks, developing a white scum on the surface of the water and giving off a decidedly fermented odor. I finally found the time to make three dye baths: Dermocybe phoenicea, Dermocybe cinnamomea, and the unidentified yellow Dermocybe, and I was not disappointed with the result!

Dye baths of three varieties of Dermocybe (Cortinarius) mushrooms: D. phoenicea, D. cinnamomea and an unidentified yellow variety

Wool/alpaca handspun yarn, mordanted with alum and cream of tartar, and dyed with Dermocybe (Cortinarius) mushrooms

Clockwise from top in the photo above: Dermocybe phoenicea produced a deep pink, and a lighter pink in the after bath; Dermocybe cinnamomea produced a rich orange, and a soft orange in the after bath; the unidentified yellow Dermocybe produced a buttery yellow. I later combined the three dye baths, and the skein that I dyed with it came out a light coral pink.

I am wishing that I had made spore prints from each of the three varieties, so that I could compare the color of the spore print to the color of the yarn. The other step I omitted is weighing the mushrooms to compare the weight of the yarn to the weight of the mushrooms used. I tend to get caught up in the excitement of creating, and I forget the practical aspects which will be of use later.

A recently purchased book that I have been learning a lot from is the new edition of Wild Color by Jenny Dean. It doesn’t cover mushroom dyes, but it has lots of good information on mordants and plant dyes.

Okay, now my confession: I am embarrassed to admit that I over mordanted the yarn with alum and cream of tartar, which makes it somewhat sticky. I won’t even go into the details of how I managed to do that, but I sure wish I hadn’t made that mistake on such beautiful handspun yarn! We’ll see how it knits up.

In the meantime, I am experimenting with a non-native plant that is abundant in my area: the Privet tree (Ligustrum spp.). Stay tuned for a color surprise.


  1. just discovered your blog, and i’m delighted to see your mushroom dyeing experiments. i also recently got jenny dean’s book and i’m eager to start plant dyeing, especially with all the mushrooms we get on vancouver island. your dye results look great!

    • Hi k, Thanks for the comment. I just visited your etsy shop (, and I love your creations. Have fun with plant and mushroom dyes. I look forward to seeing hand dyed cloth in your crafts.

  2. I am forwarding your info to the organizers of the 2nd Annual Ireland Mushroom Festival at Killegar House in County Leitrim. Thankyou for sharing your exsperiences! There is a book called “Lets try Mushrooms for color” by Miriam Rice. It is a lovely resource for those interested in dyeing with these incredible beings!

    • Thanks, Mycogoddess. I have a book by Miriam Rice called “Mushrooms for Dyes, Paper, Pigments and Myco-Stix” which is fabulous. Unfortunately it’s out of print. Happy mushrooming!