I’d been thinking about using plants from my environment to dye fabrics. Literally a few days later, this large dyer’s polypore was there, steps from my door, a gift from the woods. It was a sign! As a mushroom gatherer, I’m fascinated by theses intense little plants that I find scattered in the woods. I’d read that one could get a range of colours from them I’m resolved to learn more. My first excursion into natural dyes was with turmeric root.
Dyer’s polypore is a shelf fungus that feels velvety to the touch. It’s often found growing on a root near the base of evergreens. This one’s a beauty. It was a bit of pity to cut it, but it will be transmuted to make more beauty, so it seems a fair exchange. Depending on the mordant added, it can yield from creamy yellow through olive and khaki.
After slicing it up and simmering it in water for several hours, I left it to soak for several days. I washed Dorr wool, silk and some beige linen that had been soaked in a solution of alum as a mordant to hold the colour. I set the simmered the dye pot on the stove, along with the fabrics for a couple of hours. A range of really lovely soft buttery yellows emerged. It tuns out dyer’s polypore is a good mordant in itself. So once the dye was spent, I stewed up the remains with some sumac leaves to make a pot of mordant for more linen wool and silk. Here are some of the lovely yellows from this gift of the woods.