Hello and I hope you are well!
It has been awhile. I am SO inconsistent, especially because I have been drawn into a place and time sans social media or blogging or even e-mail. Of my own choosing… I didn’t go to an off-grid camp or anything like that (although.. I would love to :))! Sometimes, I just love to detach and it’s beginning to feel like such a luxury, so wonderful to be “offline.” It’s funny because I feel as though going back online is returning to “the real world” when in fact, it’s anything but! But… it’s the reason why I feel like I’m not alone in my musings, my hobbies, the way I see this world!
Alas! I have SO much to share. The first is that our dear orange tabby, Petey, is well! After my last post, we had to bring him back to the vet. He was put on a catheter and had to stay at overnight : ( I was so worried about him…. but knew that we could not do what the vet could at home. He is much better and is drinking fluids and peeing. He slept curled up against me the whole night that he came home <3
I have been making and gardening quite a bit. Jamie and I planted garlic this morning. Our wood is almost completely split and stacked and we had our first frost and consequently fire yesterday. I love fall so much, it’s so fleeting. On our walk this morning, most of the bright red sugar maple leaves were already under our feet. The earth is damp and the north winds strong. Henry and I have been walking down a beautiful wooded path to the river that we live by every day. The mossy parts of this wood are replete with beloved mushrooms.
Mushrooms…. the reason why I write to you today. What amazing specimens they are! Not only are they adorable and surrounded with fairy lore, they are beyond healthful and practical! A couple of months ago, I posted on instagram about wanting to dye a pair of socks with lichen. A user suggested that I use a type of mushroom: Cortinarius Semisanguineas or red-gilled webcap. On one of our walks, I was looking very closely (okay, on my belly in the moss looking up at the gills…not weird at all) and noticed how beautiful the colours of this mushroom was and it clicked. It was the very mushroom that the user had suggested! I got so excited and went back to the spot with my knife and a basket to collect and experiment <3
And so! What did I do? Welllllll, I first collected mushrooms. I have read a lot about dyeing wool and nothing intrigues me more than using what grows close to you rather than what you can buy from a grocer. I am not despairing the use of avocado or yellow onion skins (I plan on trying both!) I just don’t find the process as exciting, rewarding and directly engaging with this eco-region! Something that naturally finds its home and is nourished by the same rain water that falls on my skin, on the earth that grows our food. I want so badly to be more entrenched in the land around me. Dyeing is such an ancient way to connect to the land, to even represent the region you live! I remember as a Celtic Studies student, learning that Scottish tartans began to be associated with certain clans simply due to the plants that were available in their region!
I first boiled some water with Alum and Cream of Tartar. Once boiled, I added the wool and let it simmer for a short while (This is a mordant. A mordant is the chemical composition that holds the natural dye to the fibre, otherwise you could end up with very washed out colours after exposure to the elements or a wash). I used pure white wool from MacAuslands here on PEI and an angora wool from We are Knitters. once this wool was dry, I collected a small basket full of mushrooms (I only like taking a portion of what the earth provides), boiled them on the fire in the backyard and added the wool with the boiled mushroom broth in a mason jar. Cortinarius Semisanguineas are actually poisonous so be cautious when handling! They will not harm as a dye but they are not edible and I wasn’t crazy about having them in the house for long, especially with 4 wild ones about. I repeated this process 3 times, hanging the experimental wool in a crab apple tree to dry.
I have looked at quite a few pictures online. I believe it was the amount of the mordant that made my end result significantly paler than what I have seen and the amount of mushroom caps that I used. Other examples are such a deep orange or red! I really like the salmon shade that these turned out. I did try one strand of wool without a mordant and it was significantly darker.
There you have it! My first experiment with a close to home fungi! I am SO excited about this project. It was a lot of fun and very inspiring. I hope you enjoyed this, even if you just looked at the photographs! In our yard is a beautiful horse chestnut tree and I hope to use the husks to actually make a pair of fingerless mitts using the two colours 🙂
Autumnal blessings to you and I hope this post finds you well, inspired and happy <3 I would love to hear about your own experiments or even desires with natural dyeing!