Natural Dyeing: Mushrooms (Webcaps)

There is a one area of natural dyeing that I haven’t tried yet and that is mushroom dyeing. I have never liked eating mushrooms and so I have never been really interested in mushroom picking. Also that is why I’m pretty bad at naming different types of mushrooms. Chanterelle and  fly amanita  where the ones I knew for sure before my great mushroom adventure.

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I have been reading a lot about mushroom dyeing lately and I have been especially interested in different cortinarius species (webcaps).  These mushrooms are not edible, in fact most of them are poisonous and some are even lethal but for dyeing they are excellent. In the end of September I packed my bags and traveled to my parents place where there is a lot more forest and asked my dad to show me his best mushroom places. And this is what I found:

Cortinarius semisanguineus (In Finnish: verihelttaseitikki)

This is the bad boy that I most wanted to find. In Finnish its name means “the blood gill webcap” which pretty much sums its appearance up. Wikipedia says that in English it’s called either surprise webcap or red-gilled webcap.

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At first it was very difficult to recognize it, but towards the end I got pretty good at spotting it. All webcaps have this little tip at their hat, many of them look similar from above, but when you turn them over you can check from the colour of the gills which one it is. In this case the gills are blood red although they turn more brow when older. The stem is firm and at the bottom it has a hint of red. This red-gilled webcap is an interesting dyeing mushroom because the hat contains red colour and the stem yellow. So you can have two colours from one mushroom or mix them up and make orange! In Finland these mushrooms grow in pine forests and I noticed that I could find more of them from dryer spots.

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Cortinarius cinnamomeus (In Finnish. Kanelihelttaseitikki)

I’m pretty sure these mushrooms are cinnamon webcaps. They like to hang out at the same places as the red-gilled webcaps do. They also look very similar to them except for the cinnamon brown colour. They are more common that red-gilled webcaps so I found quite a lot of them. I heard that you are supposed to get brownish colour from them, but either my source is wrong or I didn’t pick the right mushrooms, because I don’t think I got any colour from these. Now I don’t even remember where I read about these.

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Cortinarius sanguineus (In Finnish: veriseitikki)

I was so surprised to find these bloodred webcaps. They are named so because they are completely red, you can’t mistake them to anything else . I heard that this has not been a good year for them (too dry) and that they are more common in the more northern parts of Finland than here in the south. And that might be true as I only found seven of them. Mostly they were hiding under fir trees as they like to grow in old fir tree forests. This is amazing webcap, it gives out an amazingly strong colours.  Apparently only 33 g of dried bloodred webcap will dye 100 g of yarn and even 5 g will get you a pink colour. Sadly I didn’t find enough of these to have a try.

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 Cortinarius croseus (In Finnish keltahelttaseitikki)

I also found a few saffron webcaps which have yellow gills. The mushroom is yellowish overall and surprise, surprise you can also get yellow colour from them. I only found a few of these.

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I have understood that most of these species are European and some of them grown also in North-America. Correct me if I’m wrong. I mostly found cinnamon webcaps and red-gilled webcaps and I quickly realised, that you need quite a lot of mushrooms for dyeing, several kilograms. Because the mushrooms need to be dried before dyeing the weight decreases considerably. Unfortunately I wasn’t very lucky with the amount of mushrooms I found.

First I chopped the mushrooms into little pieces (the smaller the pieces the quicker they dry) and laid them on newspapers (some kind of airy net would have been better). You can use ovens or boiler rooms or even special vegetable dryers for dryeing but I used a sauna (being Finnish). Apparently you shouldn’t use too hot temperatures, I lifted the temperature to 40 °C and then let the sauna cool off.  The mushrooms dried quite quickly over night. I must say though that the smell of the drying mushrooms is not the nicest. In the end I ended up with 26 g of dried  red-gilled webcaps together with the few bloodred webcaps I found. I also got 44 g of what I though where cinnamon webcaps.

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For dyeing I used a large 10 liter pot. I put the dried webcaps on the bottom and added little water (apparently the colour will dissolve better like this then with lot of water).  I boiled the mushrooms for 30 minutes and after that I sifted the mushrooms away from the dye.  I added water to the dye so that in the end I had 5 liter of dye. I had some lambswool yarn that I had mordanted with alum and cream of tartar beforehand.  I wet that yarn and squished most of the water away and then added the yarn to the dye bath. I put the mushrooms inside old tights (pantyhose) and added them also to the dye. I used thighs so that the mushrooms would not be in direct contact with the yarn and make the colour uneven. I kept the temperature below 80 °C and kept moving the yarn every once in a while for one hour.

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This is the colour that I got from the red-gilled webcaps, 26 g of them dyed 100 g of lambswool. I really really love this colour and I think its gorgeous. Very similar to the yarn I dyed with beetroot.

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The cinnamon webcaps didn’t work so well. I did exactly the same thing with them, but I noticed that I wasn’t getting any colour out of them so I added to the dye the leftovers from the red-gilled webcap dye. I think that is where the most of the colour really came from.

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Most of the information I found about mushroom dyeing I got from a Finnish mushroom dyeing book (Sienivärjäys) written by Anna-Karoliina Tetri. She has an online shop where she sells all kinds of things you need for natural dyeing and she has written several books  on the subject (in Finnish). I met her briefly last spring before my natural dyeing adventures started and her shop is where I bought the alum and stuff to get started with all of this. Visit her web shop Tetri Design here.

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I feel like I might need to point out one thing. I know that there are people from all around the world who read my blog and I have understood that in some countries it’s illegal to do mushroom picking or it’s regulated. However in Finland and other Scandinavian countries as well as Baltic countries we have a thing called “every man’s right” or “freedom to roam”.

In Finland this means that it is every man’s (or woman’s) right to walk, ski or camp in nature as long as you don’t disturb people or destroy nature. You are also allowed to pick berries and mushrooms as long as they are not protected species. I’m now talking about both public and privet forests and also National parks with the exception or protected lands. It’s prohibited to collect moss or lichen without permission from the owner though. I mention this because I wanted to make sure my mushroom picking is all right and actually very popular hobby in Finland. The best thing about mushroom dyeing was the part were I walked in the forest, enjoyed the nature and found places I otherwise would have never found. 

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Natural Dyeing: Beetroot in two different ways

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METHOD 1:

For my first try I used about 500 g of fresh beetroots. I peeled and chopped them and then I boiled them in water for little under two hours (I needed to keep adding water because it was drying out). After that I sifted the dye and added a 13 g skein of white wool yarn that I had pre mordanted with alum (read about it here). I boiled the yarn for 1 hour in the dye, this is basically the same method I used when I dyed with lupine. I did add a bit of vinegar to the final rinsing water to help stabilize the colour. I knew that the result would be orange and not the pink colour you would expect from beetroot. I really like this orange, it’s not the brownish orange you get from onion shells (although that’s pretty as well). I think there is still a tiny hint of that pink left in this one.

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METHOD 2:

My second try was a bit more experimental. I have been doing a lot more cold dyeing lately and I wanted to try that with beetroot as well. For this I used some pre boiled beetroots that you can buy vacuum packed. I put the beetroots (three of them) to the food processor and made mince out of them. I must say this method was much easier and much less messy then the previous one. I poured the mince in to a glass jar and filled it with water. I let the beetroot mince soak in the water for 24 hours, before sifting it from the dye.

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After sifting the amount of dye decreased considerably.  I put in 35 g of white wool yarn that I had previously mordanted with alum. I let the yarn soak in the dye for 24 hours (stirring it every once in a while) before rinsing and drying.

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The result turned out to be this baby pink colour. Has anyone got any experience with beetroot? Does the colour stay or does it fade away? I also thought it was interesting how two different methods got me completely different results.

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Natural dyeing: Heather, Onion Skins and Birch Leaves

I took class on natural dyeing in the beginning of the summer and I though I share some of the things I dyed there. All of the plants I used for the colouring where collected in the beginning of June. Beginning of the summer is a great time for plant dyeing because the colours are more vibrant the earlier it is in the plants growing season (at least here in the north). The yarns I used where all 100% wool yarns and they were mordanted with alum. Read about mordanting here.

HEATHER

I used about 280 g of heather and dyed 108 g of wool yarn. First I soaked the heather in water over night. Then I boiled the heather in the same water for two hours. After that I dyed the yarn by boiling it in the sifted colour liquid for one hour.

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ONION SKINS

For these yarns I used the liquid dye that was made out of onion skins. This was the third time that liquid was used. I added 3 g of madder powder and 1 g of cream of tartar to the liquid and I dyed 40 g of yarn. This really brightens the orange colour up. Check out my post for dyeing with onion skins here.

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BIRCH LEAVES

I used 319 g of birch tree leaves and dyed 73 g of wool yarn. You do need a quite a lot of leaves for dyeing a lot of yarn. I boiled the leaves in water for two hours and then I dyed the yarn by boiling it in the sifted colour liquid for one hour. To get a bright green colour like this, it’s important to use early leaves from the beginning of the summer.

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Natural Dyeing: Onion skins

I think onion skinss are amazing. It’s incredible how much colour they have in them. I used about 115 grams of onion skins to dye these yarns. I got the skins for free from my local supermarket. I might have gotten couple of strange looks while I was going through the onion box, collecting loose onion shells but it was definitely worth it.

I let the onion shells soak in water for one day before boiling them (in the same water) for two hours. For dyeing I used a variation of old wool yarns that I had mordanted earlier with alum. After shifting the dye bath I boiled the wool yarn in the dye bath for one hour (I kept the temperature at about 80 °C). After that I rinsed the yarn. Onion tends to release a lot of excess colour so it’s good to add some vinegar to the last rinsing water. I used wool yarns that I had previously mordanted with alum.

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The first yarns on the left are from the first dyeing batch (88 g). I saved the dyeing liquid and dyed another batch of yarn in it(100 g). This batch is the yellow one in the middle. After that I used the colour liquid for the third time but added one teaspoon of madder powder and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar. These are the yarns on the right(77 g).

I think this is a good example of how different yarn qualities effect the dyeing result. I used both white and grey coloured yarns. With white yarn I got lighter oranges and yellows and with grey yarn stronger oranges and greens. I used ordinary onion shells but I also want to try red onion shells. I hear you can get a beautiful green from them. Has anybody tried red onion skins?

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