Mushrooms are incredible organisms. You probably knew that some of them are edible, while others are poisonous; some of them have incredible health benefits, while others are deadly. You may even know that some of them glow in the dark; but did you know that many mushrooms can be used to make dyes? Keep reading; in this article, we’ll discuss how to dye with lobster mushrooms, one of the most recognizable mushrooms around.
What You'll Learn Today
Can You Use Lobster Mushrooms to Dye Fabric?
Many different types of mushrooms can be used for dyeing fabrics. But what about lobster mushrooms?
You might think that, with their bright red-orange coloring, lobster mushrooms would be great for use in dying; and you would be correct. Lobster mushrooms can be used to dye fabrics and fibers a wide range of different colors depending on mordants used and how acidic or alkaline you make the dye.
To make your lobster mushroom dye, it is best to use old and deformed mushrooms that are beginning to decay, as these will give you the best results in the shortest amount of time. Older mushrooms produce brighter, more concentrated dyes, but it’s worth noting that they smell really bad, like dead fish; so you may want to work outside or have your windows open and fans going while making your dye.
If you want to use fresher mushrooms, you can, and they won’t smell as bad, but you will need more of them and may have to allow more time for the dyeing process. If you enjoy eating the mushrooms but also want to use them for dyeing, you can cut off the red outer shell for dyeing and eat the white interior of the mushroom.
What Color is Lobster Mushroom Dye?
Lobster mushrooms can produce a variety of dye shades depending on the acidity of the dye, as well as whether your fabric has been mordanted and with which compounds. With a little experimenting, you will find you can get a color range from bright orange to yellow to pink to magenta.
First, let’s talk about mordants.
Mordants are chemical compounds you add to your fiber or fabric to help it hold the color after it has been dyed. The most commonly used mordants are:
- Aluminum potassium sulfate: This mordant reacts with the dye to create extra bright shades. If you’re working with lobster mushroom dye, this mordant will produce bright orange to red colors.
- Aluminum acetate: This mordant also creates bright shades, similar to the one above.
- Iron: Iron mordant produces darker or more drab shades. An iron mordant will produce darker orange and yellow shades when used with lobster mushrooms.
- Copper: Copper mordants will generally give your fabrics a more blue or green tint.
In addition to using mordants, you can also add substances to your dye to make it more or less acidic.
For example, you can add vinegar to the dye to give it a high acidity of around 2.0 to 3.0 pH; this will create a more yellow shade when dying with lobster mushroom. Alternatively, you can add baking soda to increase the alkalinity up to 9.0 or 10.0 pH, which will create a more orange to pink color.
Mordanted fabrics will take on different shades when put in the acidic and alkaline dyes than they would if placed in a pH-neutral dye.
Check out this article from Canada’s Sunshine Coast Fibreshed, particularly the photos included. They give you a great visual of the various shades you can get just by using different mordants or adding various substances to change the pH of the dye.
How to Dye Fabrics and Yarns with Lobster Mushroom?
First off, check out this video for a summary of the dying process.
Follow these steps:
- It works best to use 1:1 mushroom: fiber ratio; in other words, if you have 50 grams of fiber or fabric to dye, use 50 grams of mushrooms to create the dye.
- Place fresh or dried mushrooms in a cooking pot. Dried mushrooms tend to produce a stronger dye, but fresh ones will also work if you don’t have dried ones or don’t want to take the time to dry them.
- Fill the mushroom pot with enough water to cover the mushroom pieces. Allow them to simmer between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour.
- If you’re using pre-mordanted fabric or fiber, soak it in room-temperature water for an hour while the mushrooms are simmering. If it is not pre-mordanted, then add the desired amount of mordant to a pot of water, add the fabric or fiber, and simmer between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour.
- Remove the mushroom pieces from the water.
- At this point, you can add other substances, such as vinegar or baking soda, to change the acidity of the dye. Add it directly to the pot of simmering mushrooms, experimenting with different amounts to get different color shades.
- Place the fabric or fiber in a mesh bag, making sure it is loose enough to move around in the bag. Submerge the bag in the pot of mushroom water, adding water if necessary to completely cover the bag.
- Allow the bag of fiber to simmer in the mushroom dye for an hour, making sure the temperature stays between 140 and 160 degrees.
- For darker or brighter colors, remove the pot of dye from the heat and allow the bag of fibers to soak in it overnight or up to two days.
- Remove the bag of fiber from the dye, and remove the fiber from inside the bag. Lay it out on old towels or drying racks to allow it to dry, checking to make sure it has been dyed evenly.
Lobster Mushroom Dying Tips
- Keep your dying equipment separate from cooking equipment: Once you’ve used cook pots, bowls, or other kitchen equipment for dying, you won’t want to use it for cooking. Make sure you use only old or cheap equipment for dyeing; never use your best stew pot or your favorite bowl.
- Wear gloves and old clothes: It is easy to stain your skin and clothes while working with mushroom dye. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands and old work clothes that you aren’t worried about ruining.
- Best to use animal based fabric: Mushroom dyes take best to animal fibers such as wool. Plant fibers such as cotton and linen will also work, but the colors produced will be lighter and have a more faded appearance.
- Cut or crush for more dye: You will get a stronger dye in a shorter amount of time if you break up the mushrooms first. The more surface area you can expose, the better.
- Don’t let the dye get too hot: When making your dye, it’s extremely important to keep it between 140 and 160 degrees. If it gets any hotter, the dye may lose its color and turn an ugly brown.
- Soak longer for brighter colors: The longer you let your fabric or fiber soak in the dye, the more the dye will soak into it. You can soak for shorter periods of time for lighter or more faded colors, but if you want dark, bright colors, you may have to let the fabric soak in the dye for up to a couple of days.
You can create many beautiful shades of yellow, orange, pink, red, and purple when using lobster mushrooms to dye fabric. Experiment with different mordants and additives to see what shades you can make!