Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lobster mushrooms

Lobster mushrooms are actually two kinds of fungi: a white mushroom, usually Russula brevipes, parasitized by the bright orange fungus, Hypomyces lactifluorum.
Hypomyces turn purple with a chemical indicator (see below).

Hypomyces lactifluorum will make a good dye, which is why I care about these funky, contorted, parasitized, stinky, mushrooms.
Some people care about lobster mushrooms as edibles. I've actually never eaten one though I plan to some day.
I care about them for dye...and I must care a lot because I have gone through the most disgusting tasks to get them into the dye pot. Unfortunately, it's mostly my fault.
To illustrate:
I got 2 boxes of past-their-prime lobsters from a mushrooming friend.

They sat outside rotting and collecting flies for 4 days until I had time to cut off the red/orange Hypomyces. This (handling rotting, slippery, raw-meat-like mushrooms pieces) in and of itself was disgusting, but it continues...

Then I boiled them (mistakenly) in our house on our stove. They put off the most horrible chemical rotting smell I have ever experienced. I also dried some of the less rotten parts for winter dyeing.

I put the whole dye pot outside to cool while I aired out the house...for 7 days.
Using a cloth bag (after work, in the dark, wearing a headlamp), I strained the chunks from the liquid and had to throw the straining bag away and wash my hair in the shower (my hair had absorbed the horrible smell).
3 weeks later (last night) I attempted to use the dye. Over the 3 weeks, I had time to plan how to use the dye. Not what to use it on - that's easy - but how to actually get through the dyeing process. I still needed to heat the dyebath and let the wool soak in the warm dye.
My idea: use our car camping propane stove at the nearby neighborhood park, hahahaha!
Ideally, wearing a hazmat suit.

Though Adam and I had a nice night at the park
on the slack line
while the dye pot simmered,
I must say I am bummed to not have gotten the dark purple colors I was hoping for. Many people mention getting cinnamon pink colors, which it probably a fitting description for what I have.
I dipped half of the skein in iron mordant (blue while wet, orange when dry) and the other half was alum mordant.


tappens said...

yeah that did smell pretty bad! you should go back to the park and see what wildlife you killed off where you dumped it :)

homegrown said...

Hahaha, yeah, I should. I hope I don't have to do any damage control....


Have you tried cold dying with an addition of an alkaline? I had a fungus I had a lot of success with this way using washing soda.I would do some sampling with this and perhaps alcohol to see what results you get. Cold stink is way better than hot stink.