Dyeing with lobster mushrooms can yeild a wide range of shades from light oranges and pinks, to deep rusts and purple, depending on the fiber and mordants used and the alkalinity of the dyebath.
The lobster mushrooms I have used were found pushing up out of the ground under a huge hemlock tree in my daughter's yard. Usually, I pick these mushrooms in late August or September when they are at their prime in our region, and peel the outer orange skin to use in dyeing, throwing away the white inner parts. This year, I was late in picking. It was the first of October and the mushrooms were black and mush-y with over-ripeness.
|Lobster Mushrooms September 2010|
|Lobster Mushrooms October 2011|
Because of the deteriorated state of the mushrooms, it was almost impossible to peel the outer skin. Much of the orange skin color had already leached through the white inner parts of the mushroom, so after brushing the needles off, I chopped up the whole mushrooms and threw them in my dyepot, covering with water. To this I added 1 tsp. of soda ash to increase the alkalinity of the dyebath. Since I had so few mushrooms this year, I decided to simmer my yarns simulaneously with the mushrooms. I entered a sample dye card and four 10-yard skeins of mordanted wool yarn, simmering them with the mushrooms for at least an hour, tuned off the heat, and left them to steep in the pot overnight.
|Sample Dye Card|
Small hanks of mordanted wool yarn:
Top: chrome (L); alum (R)
Bottom: iron (L); copper (R)
There is a little variagation in the yarn colors caused from the places where the mushrooms were in direct contact with the yarns during the simmering process.
Below are some yarns dyed with the lobster mushrooms in the autumn of 2010.