Experiments with Cortinarius mushrooms

Every year I seem to be in London when the mushroom season is at it’s peak in Finland, There is a rainbow of colours to dye with in the fungi family and I love foraging them for food as well. When I visited home last month I was gifted some cortinarius semisanguineus and cortinarius sanguineus mushrooms, a small sample of each, but enough for some dye experiments

When I got back to London, I weighed the mushrooms. I had 5 grams of cortinarius sanguineus and 4.5 grams of cortinarius semisanguineus. This might seem like a small amount, but the colours go quite far.

Dried cortinarius sanguineus mushrooms

I started my dyeing with cortinarious sanguineus. I soaked the dry mushrooms for about half an hour, the liquid immediatly went brigth red and afterwards I simmered them for another half an hour. I measured the PH of the water which was 5, a more acid PH than my usual dye baths. The recommended ratio of dyeing with these mushrooms is 1:3 so 5 grams should dye 15 grams of fibre. I had a 20 gram skein of Merino/Nylon as well a silk sample ready (both premordanted with alum) and a small snippet of unmordanted shetland roving so decided try dyeing these. The dye liquid was a strong red, but shifted to a more orange after I added my fibres. I used an aluminium pan although I normally dye in a stainless steel pot. I left the fibres to simmer for an hour and then to cool in the dye bath.

Dye bath after half an hour of simmering
With fibres just added in

These two mushroom varieties can give you several dye baths. I dyed a small secone bath with 10 grams of bfl/bamboo, silk sample (both premordanted with alum) and a tiny piece of unmordated shetland roving. Afterwards I kept the mushrooms, but discarded the small amount of liquid I had left.

Fibres dyed with first bath of cortinarious sanguineus
Fibres dyed with 2nd bath of cortinarius sanguineus
Dried Cortinarius semi sanguineus caps

I then moved onto my cortinarius semisanguineus caps (separating the caps from the stalks yields different colours). The recommended ratio of mushrooms to fibre is 2:3 so I dyed a 10 gram skein of alum premordanted merino/nylon, silk and a snippet of unmordanted shetland roving. I measured the PH of they dye bath which was 7. The fibres were dyed as before and I managed to get a second bath from these mushrooms as well.

Fibres in cortinarius semisanguineus bath
Fibres dyed in the 1st bath
Fibres dyed in the 2nd bath

These mushrooms are truly magical and I feel so lucky to have these gifted to me. I’m hoping one year to be home around the time they start popping up from the ground.

There was a little bit of colour left in the dye bath so I’ve combined the mushrooms together and am attempting to make some watercolours out of them. Fingers crossed it works!


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