On my walk this morning I found a lovely surprise. I was walking along slowly, much to the disgust of my puppy; Henry, when I saw a small brown lump at the edge of the path. This brown lump was a pisolithus arrhizus otherwise known as a Dead Man’s foot. This unassuming little sphere gives lovely rich browns and russet tones to wool in the dye pot… apparently. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Of course I forgot to get a photo of it before bringing it home.
The brownish ball at the front of the photo is my Dead Man’s Foot fungus (such a charming name). The avocado skins and seeds are drying for future use as dye stuff.
I cut my prize in half and put a pot of water on to boil straight away. The two halves of the mushroom were just thrown in and plonked on the wood stove to boil.
You can see the immature spores at the top, they look like little golden spheres. The brownish powder is the mature spores.
After about an hour of boiling, The pot had a lovely deep brown colour. Most fungas dyes are substantive (meaning they don’t need a mordant to stick to wool), so I just wet my last skein of home spun wool yarn and popped it into the dye pot (in a paint bag to protect it from dyestuff).
The yarn was in the dye bath on the stove (at a steady simmer) for two hours. Then I let it cool, before taking the yarn out of the pot.
The colour wasn’t as dark as I wanted, so I popped it back in, along with an avocado seed as a mordant (avocado seeds contain tannin, which acts to mordant and slightly darken wool).
After another two hours simmering, it was taken off the heat and left to cool. Eventually, I washed the yarn in clean water and spun it out. The final colour is glorious! Variable browns and russets and a sneaky flash of yellow.
I love the colours in tis yarn. The yarn is a loosely plyed two ply from some merino fleece I was given long ago. From now on I will be searching the ground for these fungus as I walk, they are apparently fairly common in the Autumn and Winter.
Update: I found another one this morning!
This one is huge. You can also see the remains of the first one, I fished it out and plan on saving it to use again.
This is where I found the first one; growing out of the hard soil of the track.
I found the second one here in the soil at the edge of the road. The puppy is Henry, our newest baby. Look for an origin story soon.