Sunday, September 27, 2015

More Mushroom Excursions

At this point, you may be a little sick about hearing about mushroom and lichen dyes. I get a little one-track minded when I discover something new and exciting. The thing is, mushroom and lichen dyeing involve three things that I love. 1) I get to go on treasure hunts in the woods, foraging for useful plants and materials. 2) I get to experiment/become a mad scientist as I learn how to make the dyes and how to use which mushrooms in which ways. 3) I get to craft and create! Once the dyes are discovered, I get to use my new yarn/fabric to create something beautiful and/or useful.
So, yesterday, I headed out on another excursion to collect some of those dye mushrooms I discovered last week. On the right, in the photo below, are Strap Coral Fungus, Clavariadelphus ligula, and they can make dyes from beige, light green, light brown, to greyish purple, depending on your mordant and pH.  To the left of those are possibly a form of Turkey Tail, Travetes versicolor. I'm not sure if these will make a dye, but I will check. I haven't seen them with purple on the underside before... And to the left of those are Fomes fomentarius, Tinder Polypore, which should give browns or olive. I am setting them out to dry until I have my fibre to dye.
 On this tray, I've got Rosy Gomphidius, Gomphidius subroseus. They should make beiges and browns.
I haven't been able to identify this one yet. Isn't it an amazing colour?
 Strap Coral Fungus up close.
There are so many kinds of mushrooms out there and growing in all sorts of places!

 Look at the purple edges.

 I saw this crevice in a bank and when I looked closer, I found a bird's nest inside.
 I wonder what kind of bird built their nest in there? I'll have to make inquiries.
And at the beginning of my walk, I stumbled upon this happy face! Some bug out there has a sense of humour. I'm so glad it wasn't a frowny face.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lichen and Mushroom Dyeing

My lichen has been fermenting away in ammonia. The Peltigera aphthosa has turned a beautiful colour in the jar. It has gone from a reddish-brown colour, like in the picture below, to a deeper red that is veering towards purple.
All this from a green lichen! (Pictured below)
 In my other jar, the colour remains a muddy brown. I suspect that I misidentified the species as Alectoria sarmentosa, when it might be an Usnea species.
Yesterday, I found a branch broken off of a tree, covered in wolf lichen (Lethoria vulpina). What a score! I also found some rocktripe lichen and xanthoria. It's nice that they can sit and dry until I find more, detached from their substrate (it's going to take awhile before I have enough to dye with!).  I plan on dyeing small groups of yarn in the different lichen colours to make a Fair Isle sweater. For the main body though, I'll use mushroom dyes, so I don't overdue it with lichen.
 Mushroom dyes? Yes, that's right. You can also make dyes with mushrooms. This is a recent discovery (1970s), so there isn't a complete amount of data on it. And I'm sure there are many types of mushrooms that have yet to be tried. Now, I don't think I could identify a single species of mushroom, so I've been learning all about how to identify them. Mostly I feel totally lost (which is why I will never eat wild mushrooms- a little mistake could be deadly), but it is fun to try to identify them! One of the surest ways to help identify them is to make a spore print with the caps. You set some mushroom caps on paper overnight and the spores drop from the gills onto the paper, revealing the colour of their spores and giving you a pretty cool image. Check out some of the spore prints I made last week:

 On a hike yesterday, I was able to find a few different mushrooms that may make some dyes. Below is Suillus tomentosus (I think!) which may make a yellow dye. Experiments to follow.
 And I think these are Gomphidius glutinosus, Slimy Gomphidius, which would make brown dyes. Gomphidius subroseus, Rosy Gomphidius, which make beige and brown dyes.

 This is Strap Coral Fungus, Clavariadelphus ligula, which can make beige, light green, light brown, or greyish purple, depending on the mordant used. I didn't harvest any of these, but maybe I'll make a trip back.

 Oh, there was also a view from the top, which I barely had time to notice as my eyes were fixed to the ground looking for mushrooms and lichen.
Now, I just need to get some yarn to dye with and I'll be set. I wish I knew how to spin!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Lichen Excursion

I recently discovered the world of lichen dyeing. I stumbled upon it on the internet and have since taken out many books and lichen guides to conduct my research. And I got my friends hooked on it as well, so on Saturday, we took both our families out for a lichen excursion in the forest up the North road. 
Lichens are very slow-growing organisms so it is very important to harvest them responsibly. Use only lichens that are abundant. Don't take more than 1/10 of a lichen in an area. Use any that have fallen off their substrate first. If you do harvest them when they are still attached to their substrate, make sure that you leave part of them still attached to their tree/rock/earth, as this part will still be able to grow. Finally, you don't need much to make dye. One cup of lichen is enough to make a dye vat. 
Some lichens make a red or purple dye and these need to be fermented in ammonia for 3 months. Others you can use right away in a boiling water dye batch.
Peltigera aphthosa, Freckled Pelt, is an abundant lichen in our area. It is supposed to make a pink dye, using the ammonia method.
 We found this interesting fungi on our hike, but have no idea what it is. Anyone?
 Pyxie-cup lichen? This one doesn't make a dye, but is cute to look at.
 Baneberry. These berries are highly poisonous.
 After scouting around one location, we headed to a new spot, high on a ridge, with some old coniferous trees. It was the perfect location to find some wolf lichen.
 Letharia vulpina, wolf lichen. This lichen makes a brilliant yellow dye, using the boiling water method.
 Wolf lichen is poisonous and it was used to kill off wolves in Europe, by sprinkling it on wolf bait.
I believe this one is Cladina rangiferina, or Grey Reindeer Lichen. As far as I know, it doesn't make any dye, but it is a beautiful looking lichen. My plant book says, "The stomach contents of freshly killed caribou (partly digested reindeer lichens) are considered a great delicacy and are eaten immediately without cooking. They are said to taste like fresh lettuce salad; we have no doubt this is true." Hahaha.
 Our next stop was a short hike off the road to an old bear's den. Apparently it hasn't been used for hibernation for the last 10 years. Kesten and his buddy crawled right in and made themselves at home. I was surprised by how tiny that entrance was. I was expecting something bigger for a bear.

 We hiked a little further past the bear den to see a transition zone. Four-hundred year-old coniferous trees suddenly give way to 100 year-old aspens. A fire had gone through the area, long ago, and where the coniferous trees were killed off, the aspens quickly grew up. It was stunningly beautiful to see.
 Can you spot the little Robin Hood in the forest?
 And a treat on our way up the road- a garter snake! There are so few reptiles this far North. I've only seen two other snakes here before- one of them was squished. Garter snakes are about the only reptile that survives the cold winters here; not even turtles can make it. The downside to being cold-blooded, I guess.
 Back at home, I sorted out my lichens and set them up on my mantle.
 I've got two ammonia vats going for two different types of lichens. They need to be shaken 5-6 times a day for the first week, and gradually less and less every week for the next 3 months.
 Wolf lichen, ready for dyeing. I plan on dyeing my other silk semi-circle scarf with the wolf lichen.

Hopefully I'll be able to post some more in the future about my lichen dyes!
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