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brightening up the winter with mushroom dyes

Posted on Jan 30, 2012 by in mushroom dyes, natural dyes | 10 comments

I have been having lots of fun experimenting with mushroom dyes the last few weeks, both at the annual fiber arts classes at SOMA camp, and at home.

The mushrooms that I have been dyeing with are Dermocybe spp. (pink to orange), Omphalotus olivascens (purple and green) and Gymnopilus spp. (yellow).

I finally learned how to get a reliable lavender with Omphalotus olivascens by adding a splash of vinegar to the dye bath. And with the same mushroom I got gorgeous greens by adding iron water to the dye bath. (By iron water I mean water from a jar that I keep filled with old rusty objects, water and vinegar for an iron rich liquid.) Several of the green yarns in the photo below were small skeins of a boring tan or light gray color that I over dyed, so I got quite a nice range of greens.

Mushroom dyes on wool: Dermocybe spp. (pink-orange), Omphalotus olivascens (purple, gray or green), Gymnopilus spp. (yellow)

Last fall I found some Pisolithus tinctorius and got great shades of gold and brown on wool and silk.

Pisolithus tinctorius on wool and silk for beautiful golds and browns

It has been a very dry winter here, so I’m not sure how mushroom hunting will be for the rest of the season, but yesterday some friends and I were lucky in finding a fair amount of Dermocybes (now recategorized as Cortinarius), both the red variety and the gold variety. I decided to dry these for use later in the year, so I spread them out on some small window screens and have propped them over the heater vents. My house currently smells a bit like mushroom soup. Yum!

Red Cortinarius mushrooms

Red Cortinarius mushrooms drying for future use. I have separated the caps from the stems for different color dyes.

I am building up a nice stash of mushroom dyed yarns, so I look forward to some knitting projects soon. Some of the brighter colors will probably become accents in projects made with natural colored yarns.


  1. Hi Dustin,
    With your knowledge you could really teach classes!

    Love how the colors turned out. I never would have imagined a mushroom making such bright beautiful colors…lavender! J.

    • Thanks, Janis. I know what you mean about not imagining such colors from mushrooms. I was amazed when I first started studying mushroom dyes. Classes may be a possibility at the point where I have enough mushrooms saved up.

  2. Such a lovely array of colors, Dustin! And I see that nice drying rack of yours serves multiple purposes. I like the way you’ve used screens over your heater vents (and am sure I’d like the smell of your house now too). Congrats on your dermocybe score!

    • Hi Liann, Nice to hear from you! The leftover dye pots from SOMA camp were put to good use, as you can see. Some of the Dermocybe skeins had been dyed light pink previously, and that extra dip in the dye bath really gave them some punch. Hope to see you at SOMA camp again next year. Happy mushroom hunting in your new home state. I’ll bet you can find lots of Dermocybes there!

  3. GREAT blog! I used to live in San Anselmo..small world 🙂

    • Thanks, Teresa!

  4. Gorgeous colours!! This season seemed to be pretty dry for us as well, which was disappointing. We’ve only gathered a few handfuls of edible mushrooms this season, a big difference from last season. I’m wanting to branch into mushroom dying and your blog is inspirational!!

    • Thanks, Zoé! Good luck with your mushroom dye experiments.

  5. I really need to go to SOMA camp. I’m fascinated by mushroom dyeing, but don’t have good mushroom foraging skills.

    • Yes, mushroom dyeing is fascinating. Registration for SOMA camp starts October 1st, and I will be teaching a beginning mushroom dye class. There are also group forays, where you can learn to find and identify mushrooms. Here’s the website: