I live in a rural area and live way at the back of my house so I was surprised when I heard a banging at my door one night. Who on earth could that be at this hour? I wondered. It was a neighbour bringing me a bag of lobster mushrooms. I'd been wanting to do some dyeing with lobster mushrooms so it was like rubbing the lamp and having the magic genie appear to grant my wish!
The lobster mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum) is interesting - it's a parasite on a common white mushroom Russula brevipes which is edible. This is wonderful - no fighting over who gets the mushroom - dyers can peel off the outer red part and gourmets can eat the rest. This photo is taken by Ann Harmer, our Sunshine Coast mushroom guru. Mushroom Annie's website has a wealth of information and beautiful pictures of mushroom dyeing.
Lobster mushrooms are not only red like lobsters but also smell like lobsters. Definitely something to be cooked on my deck rather than my kitchen stove. I cooked up the mushrooms and then transferred a bit of the dye bath to another pot. The bit of yellowish wool in the middle is from that dye pot. I added some washing soda to the main dye pot to make it alkaline and the rest of the wool and silk were dyed in it. The photo doesn't do justice to the absolutely scrumptious coral/apricot colour of the silk, which interestingly, comes out of the dye pot pink like the wool but looses the pink when washed. Since this picture was taken I've done 2 more dyeings and there's still a bit of colour left in the bath.