Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mushroom - Trametes versicolor

Trametes versicolor - July 2015
Trametes versicolor is a polypore mushroom found the world over.  It is also referred to as "Coriolus mushroom," "Turkey Tail," or "White-rot Fungus."  This fungus was widely used in both the pulp mill and the textile industries.  Enzymes released by the mushrooms removed colorization which was left by wood waste or from synthetic dyes in the waste water.

While out in the woods with my husband scouting for wild blackberries, I came across a stump loaded with Trametes versicolor.  This was really exciting because I had read about it in the book "Rainbow Beneath My Feet," by Arleen and Alan Bessette, and read that with mordants it can yield colors in the blues and greens.  Their dye notes indicate :  No mordant - light grey, alum - blue; chrome - greenish blue; tin - dark blue; copper - light green; iron - greenish blue.  I could hardly wait to get started!

We were able to harvest 11 oz. of the mushroom.
Trametes versicolor - 11 oz.
The suggestion being to use twice the weight of mushroom to fiber.  I pulled off 5 oz. of some white and taupe mixed BFL wool roving and divided it into four batches.
BFL wool roving - white & taupe mix - 5 oz.
These I pre-mordanted individually, simmering one in alum, one in  copper, one in tin, and one in iron solutions appropriate for the weight of fiber.  I envisioned having four varying shades of blue and green fiber to blend together on my cards and spin into a beautiful variagated yarn. After mordanting each batch, I rinsed each one, then left to soak in clear water until the dye bath was ready.
Pre-mordanted BFL wool, ready for dyeing

I had chopped the mushroom into thumb-nail sized pieces, covered with water and left to soak over night.  The next morning I brought the mushrooms to a simmer and let simmer at least a couple of hours, reading that a longer simmer would yield more color.  After turning off the heat, I left the mushrooms in the dye bath while it cooled.
Trametes versicolor chopped in thumb-nail sized pieces - July 2015

Next I strained out the mushroom and entered my pre-soaked fibers.  Each batch of fiber was in a small net bag to keep the fibers from floating apart in the dye bath.  Then I brought the bath to a simmer and let simmer for just under an hour.  The fibers were left to cool in the pot over night.  The next morning I rinsed and left to dry.

To say the least, I was greatly disappointed.  Nothing but shades of light brown.  Not a speck of blue or green to be seen.  Hmmm.
Left to right:  alum, copper, tin, iron
Note:  Many factors can effect color in plant or mushroom dyes:  soil conditions, time of harvest, water elements.  If I am fortunate enough to harvest enough of this mushroom again, I may try using distilled water.  I may also try shifting the pH to an alkaline solution next time to see what happens.


  1. Only blue-ish Turkey Tail will yield the colors you want, and you need a lot of them to achieve it. The other colors will be the blah brown beige etc.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Deborah. I will be on the lookout for the bluish Turkey Tail.