It's common knowledge that certain mushrooms are associated with dying. But did you know they can also be used for fabric dyeing?
And if you're thinking, "Sure, but who wants boring brown and gray dye?" think again. There are nearly 38,000 identified species of mushrooms, and many yield colors from pale gold and pink to vibrant red and orange to burgundy and chocolate brown.
|A sampling of fibers dyed with mushrooms, from Colorways.
Like most natural dyes, a number of variables can affect your results. Among them are the species of mushroom, the ratio of mushroom to water, the pH levels, mordants used, and condition of the mushrooms (fresh, frozen, or dried).
In an interactive article "Dyeing with Mushrooms, Earth's Colorful Fungi" in the Spring 2012 edition of the Colorways eMag, Jessica Gates explores the boundless dyeing potential of mushrooms and offers tips on how to find, collect, and test mushrooms for their dyeing ability.
A quick Internet search will tell you what kinds of mushrooms grow in your area, and then it's a matter of hunting for them. Jessica suggests a little hunting kit consisting of a bag or basket for gathering, a knife or big spoon, a few pocketbook mushroom guides, a notebook and pen for recording, and a digital camera to further aid identification.
Through text, images, and video, natural dyer, color enthusiast, and author Carol Lee also contributes her expertise, describing her experiences with mushroom dyeing and offering tips. She takes such delight in her discoveries; her enthusiasm is infectious.
|Fabric painting with pigment.
Photo by John Marshall
You can dig up lots of information on color and fiber in this issue of Colorways. There's a piece on the Japanese silk painting technique bingata, where you learn about how to paint fabric using natural pigments and soy milk (not the kind you drink) as fabric paint.
Another article explains how to dye fabric using woven shibori methods. And quilter Malka Dubrawsky shows how to dye fabric using a resist method known as itajime. There are many other fiber and fabric dyeing articles, videos, tutorial, and profiles of colorful people, too.
I love to see how fiber artists, other than quilters, approach fabric painting and dyeing, and Colorways is so inspiring. This eMag is available for your PC, Mac, or iPad.
Colorways is drenched in color and a feast for the eyes—all of it to dye for, and none in gray or boring brown.
P.S. Have you ever used mushrooms to dye fabric? What has been your experience? What other natural dyes do you use? Share your experiences and preferences below.