Gymnopilus Experiment

Gymnopilus mushrooms

These Gymnopilus sp. mushrooms sat on my new picnic table (built by my husband) for a few days before I noticed mold forming on the caps. They had to be used. And my rain barrel was overflowing from our first storm of 2015. Lots or rain water, mushrooms going funky real fast – despite have three stir crazy kids at home – it had to be  a dye day.

Gymnopilus mushrooms


Our new kitty expressing how we all felt
Our new kitty expressing how we all felt

While the kids were hurling themselves through the house, playing handball in the living room,  watching the cat swipe at the dog and the dog chase the cat –  during all this crazy – I tore up mushroom caps and added them into a pot of rainwater. I didn’t use the stems because (I hate to say this) I just had too many mushrooms. I felt like I didn’t need them.

I let the mushrooms simmer in the dye pot for about an hour, until a golden froth formed on top of the water. I added my 3 ounce skein of wool (alum mordant), and forgot about it for another 30 minutes.

Gymnopilus Mushroom dye

At this point I decided to try a little experiment. I remember adding washing soda to coreopsis flowers, and the yellow-orange dye darkened into an almost orange. Would that work with Gymnopilus, too? Also, I read a comment that some dyers add a pinch of iron at the end of the dye to sadden the color. If iron mordanted yarn with Gymns make green, would adding iron afterward give the same result?

I poured hot dye into two mason jars. In one jar I added a pinch of iron. In the other a quarter teaspoon of washing soda. After a good swirl, I added a pre-mordanted wool yarn sample to each jar. Each sample has one strand of  alum and one strand of iron .

The results:

Gymnopilus dye

The washing soda washed out the deep gold, and turned the iron sample brown. Meh. The pinch of iron turned the alum sample green-ish. Interesting – which produces the best green: premordanting the wool with iron, or adding iron directly to the dye bath?

I have a lot of dye left, but I’m saving it for another day.  As I write this,  I have a Cortinarius dye on the stove, plus the acacia are in bloom. Oxalis, too! And my ivy has purple berries… do they make a dye? My quest for new colors continues.



    1. I agree. Leaving the color as is (with just alum or iron pre-mordant) is my favorite, too. I’ve also made green with Gymnopilus spectabilis using gray wool, alum pre-mordant

  1. Wonderful shades! In German the name of this fungus is Fämmling. If it will have mushrooms here again, I’ll look for it. I like all greens very much , but the colors all together combine form a magnificent range.

  2. Thank you for sharing this information. I appreciate artists sharing their ideas and experiences. pay it forward!

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