Mushrooms for Color


Drawing by Elsie Burkman






October 24 , 2008

The mushroom dyeing workshop at "The Breitenbush Mushroom Gathering ~ 2008 ", was held in the afternoon of the first day of the conference. Consequently there was not much opportunity to collect many dye mushrooms ahead of time. But what was found was a perfect mirror of the intense Fall color of the broadleaf maples, oaks and vine maples in the woods surrounding steaming Breitenbush Hot Springs. In subsequent forays, after our workshop, more dye mushrooms began to appear, even the highly sought-after Dermocybes!  Some of these we are STILL trying to identify, and I have posted some of the dye results that I have done from home with these specimens. Thanks you to all of you who collected so diligently for this event! And please send us more photos to post!  

  Dorothy Beebee, International Mushroom Dye Institute



Phaeolus schweinitzii
("Dyer's Polypore")

Many fresh autumnally colored "dyers polypores" were found in abundance around Breitenbush Hot Springs - some young with yellow rims, others without. All were broken up into small chunks and added together into the dyebath. Four dyebaths later, the dye was still yielding strong color in the "after-baths"!

Photo by Dorothy Beebee


We used wool and silk samples pre-mordanted with alum (1 knot,> notch in silk) and iron (4 knots,< notch for silk)

Hypholoma fasciculare
("Sulphur Tufts")

This was the first mushroom that Miriam C. Rice used to make her first mushroom dye over 40 years ago.So it was appropriate that a huge clump was found on a nearby stump, broken into small pieces and added into a dyepot.

Photo by Darvin DeShazer

We simmered this dyebath for about 45 minutes, adding in the alum pre-mordanted mohair roving contained in a net bag.

Hypomocyes lactifluorum
("Lobster Mushroom")

We peeled off the bright orange outer skin which is reputed to contain anthraquinone pigments, and used only that for the dye.

Photo by Dorothy Beebee

This was one of the dyes that we processed by having the dyebath in a wide-mouth Mason glass jar, (stuffed with mushroom bits and fiber samples), in the boiling canning kettle for 55 minutes. In order to heighten the hues, we added a dollop of white vinegar (changing the pH from 6 to pH4) and decided to let the fibres steep overnight to intensify the colors.



Gomphus clavatus
("Pig's Ears")

Drawing by Dorothy Beebee

The only color to emerge from Gomphus clavatus was on wool and silk fibers pre-mordanted with iron(above). Alum pre-mordanted fibers showed no dye colors. The group decided that the color was deep enough after only 8 minutes.  This was another one of the dyes that we processed by having the dyebath in a wide-mouth Mason glass jar in the boiling canning kettle.




Please send me some more mushroom photos!!!



Tom Volk and Dorothy Beebee modelling the latest in Phaeolus schweinitzii hairpieces!

Photo by Paul Stamets

The mysterious red Dermocybe!

Photo by Melanie Bjorge

These Dermocybes were "con-colorus" (cap, gills, and stalk all the same color) dark red with an orangish cast to it in the sun.

I found another group of the same species at Breitenbush the next day, (guided to them by Kathy Biskey!) The gills were a brilliant iridescent red, and the stalk was much darker than it appears in this scan to the right, which was done 11 days after mushrooms was found. (They have been kept refrigerated.) More scans and a detailed description of habitat and the specimens that we found on October 26th may be seen at

Photo by Kitty La Bounty

The wool samples have been pre-mordanted with alum (1 knot) and iron (5 knots), as have been the notched silk samples. >=alum, and < =iron. The wool yarn sample at the top is unmordanted, and therefore has no knot. Mushrooms and fiber samples were steeped overnight together in a small jar of very hot water on the back of my wood stove....Nov. 3, 2008.




All rights reserved, Dorothy M. Beebee

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(This Website page was updated November 04, 2008)

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