mardi 15 février 2011

Sunny Day Dye Hunt

I recently bought a copy of "The Rainbow Beneath My Feet" after seeing the lovely mitten kits on this site.  I've always loved mushroom hunting.  I'm thrilled with the idea that I can hunt for both edible and dye mushrooms.  Today I had my first chance to go out on a hunt.  It's been very cold and I wasn't sure that I would be able to find anything, but I took my mushroom knife and paper bags anyway. 

My first find was a dead oak tree covered in these mushrooms.  I think these are "trametes versicolor".  They may not give me any good color, but finding mushrooms in the dead of winter was a triumph.  I only harvested enough to do some tests.  

A little farther down the road I struck mushroom gold.  I believe that these are "phellinus tuberculosus".  They look very promising.  I'm hoping for a warm golden brown.  Their flesh is a nice dark shade of caramel and is very dense in texture.  They weren't easy to pry off the trees.

The baby and I began to get tired of crashing through the underbrush and so we did a little lichen picking. 

 This is a hedge of prunelles a.k.a. sloes or blackthorn.  They seem to be particularly attractive to lichens.  Prunelles are also a good dye source. 

I turned over a fallen branch and, surprise, more mushrooms!  These are too little to use for dyeing but I love their color against the soft blue green of the lichens.

This blue gray lichen has a hammered looking surface.  My most recent test on this lichen is looking very promising.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a possible source of purple dye.  I won't be able to identify most of my lichens until I can find a good lichen book.  It's frustratingly hard to identify lichens.  They really are very subtle creatures.

We wandered back toward the house and on a whim I decided to cross through a field where I knew I might find some wild cherry bark.  I found the cherry tree, and we also found more little orange mushrooms. 

These last photos are of some mushrooms that I found on an earlier hike in the valley of the Vers.  I'm definitely going to go on more valley hikes when the weather gets a little warmer. 




 Here's one last photo of some spring flowers.  Just a few short weeks.......

dimanche 13 février 2011

Skein Show

I finally had the chance to take some pictures of my first round of natural dyeing.  There are two skeins of each color shown here.   All of the skeins are my own handspun Shetland or BFL.

Colors from ivy berries, onion skins and St. John's wort.

The ivy berry bath.

I mixed two of my exhaust baths to make this soft peachy color.

Both exhaust baths from the onion skins and the St. John's wort flowers.

The St. John's wort flowers had been sitting in a cupboard for at least two years, but they still made a lovely pale mauve dye.  I can't wait to try them again this spring.

St. John's wort flowers.
I actually made three baths with 200g onion skins.  You can find the details in this post.

The second onion skin bath.

The first onion skin bath.

mercredi 9 février 2011

Lichen Experiments

It's not very easy to take pictures of a murky dye solution in a small jar, but I thought a few pictures might be helpful.  I'm going to re-post some pictures from a previous post in order to make it clear which lichens are fermenting in each jar.
I have 6 jars with six different kinds of lichen.  They are all macerating in the same solution of one part ammonia to two parts water.  I have them sitting out on the kitchen counter so that I remember to shake them as much as possible.  Four of the jars are making lots of color, while two of them look like failures.

Oak moss growing on a branch.

This first jar is the oak moss solution.  It turned a brilliant yellow green within seconds of coming into contact with the ammonia solution.  It's now an intriguing yellow orange color.

Oak moss fermentation.
    Because I have so much of this lichen I'm probably going to use it mostly for a more traditional water bath dye extraction.  Oak moss has a lovely strong smell and is used as a fixative in perfumes.  Wool that is dyed with oak moss keeps this smell for years.  I'm not sure if the ammonia fermentation ruins the smell, but I have a hunch that it will.
This is my most promising jar.

Yellow lichen turned brick red.

Yellow Lichen on an almond tree.

    This is most certainly a lichen that contains the magical orchil acid.  I had read that most lichens containing this acid grow on rocks and are very slow to grow.  This was a wonderful surprise.  After a couple of months fermenting I should be able to get a magenta dye.  The best part of this discovery is that this lichen grows on many trees in my area, and I know it grows quickly because in two short years it's covered a young almond tree I planted.

The next two jars are two different shades of brown.  They look like they're making some nice rich dyes, but I'm on the hunt for purple right now.

A rich dark brown broth.

    These last two are probably failures.  They were both types of lichen that, when wet. have an algae like texture and color.   You can't win them all. 

Algae looking lichen.


A little bit of color, but not enough for a dye bath.

mercredi 2 février 2011

Lichens of the Lot

The Lot is a wonderful place to go lichen hunting.  Our forests are so covered in lichens that the bare trees look pale green.  I've been thinking about lichen dyeing for a couple of months now and was inspired to go ahead and try it when I saw this beautiful blog post

Yellow lichen on a maple tree.

Slimy black rock lichen.

I spent an hour today collecting 7 different types of lichens from around the yard. 

Lichen growing on moss.

A very common lichen that grows on oak trees.
 I'm fermenting my lichens in a mixture of two parts water to one part ammonia.  Three of the jars are already turning beautiful shades of pink and orange.  I'll keep shaking them daily for three or four weeks to get enough color for a first dye bath. 

Large dark brown lichen growing on moss.

Oak moss and other lichens growing on an oak.

 Three weeks should give me the time to identify my lichens.  It's important to remember that many lichens are slow growing and some are protected by local laws.  When you collect lichens, try to collect only lichens from fallen branches.  If you're collecting lichens from rocks it's a good rule of thumb to collect only a very small portion of the total number of lichens.

Another mystery lichen.

 Here are a few rock lichens.  Some of them are much too thin (or slow growing) to scrape off of the rocks, but I thought you might appreciate the pretty pictures.

Beautiful patterns made by several different kinds of lichens.

A common bright orange yellow lichen.

A small white lichen.

A spotted rose colored lichen.

A delicate peach lichen.