My Mushroom-Dye and Crochet Obsession

Mushroom-dyed yarn

I love multitasking.

It’s my children’s fault. Before kids, I had mastered laying on the couch to a science; I excelled at lounging. Then I had my daughter. And two years later – surprise – twin boys! For almost a year, I was a stay-at-home mom to three children under the age of two. For almost a year, I had three children in diapers. I learned very quickly how to split my focus three ways, to get as much done in my free time as possible. (Honestly, a lot of my free time was me slumped into a chair staring at the wall from exhaustion.) I learned to multitask. And now I’m addicted.

Those sleep deprived, heaped in diapers days are long gone. My kids are now all in school, and I blissfully sleep through the night. However, lounging still isn’t an option. When I’m not rushing the kids to and from school, gymnastics, or play dates, I’m a college student. When they go to bed at night, if I’m not studying, I’m hopefully crocheting. And now once a week while the kids are at school, I go to my Mom’s house to dye wool with wild mushrooms.

Mushroom-dye samples
Dye samples (wool and silk) attached to note cards, which describe what process we used to make the various shades of color. Yes, those are a lot of samples. We've been busy.

My Mom Dorothy Beebee has created natural dyes from plants, lichens, and mushrooms for the last forty years. She is also the illustrator to the original mushroom dye book “Let’s Try Mushrooms for Color” written by the late Miriam C. Rice, the true mushroom dyeing extraordinaire. I grew up searching the forest floor for mushrooms, smelling those mushrooms drying behind the wood stove, or simmering on the kitchen stove. (Not a good smell, by-the-way.)

When my daughter was a baby (before the twins came along…) we would go to Grandma’s house, and while she napped, Mom and I’d dye silk scarfs and camisoles to sell at the annual winter fungus fair.

Mushroom-dyed camisoles we sold last winter.

Dyeing silk was fun, but for some reason I wasn’t yet hooked on dyeing. Then I taught myself to crochet last year, and my Mom handed me a basket of vibrant mushroom dyed yarn. I was entranced with the various shades of yellow, red, and blue-green. I became obsessed on how to combine those colors into stripped hats. The more I worked with the yarn, the more I wanted to learn how to dye the yarn.

My passion for creating color took off at lightning speed.

These last few months, I’ve spend a day a week with my Mom experimenting with mushroom-dyes, and giggling over the dye pot while we created color. She’s teaching me each step of the process: from how to skein wool, mordant wool, to dyeing the wool.  Then I go home, and during my “free time” I crochet the hats.

Mushroom-dyed Hats

This blog is dedicated to my experiences as a novice dyer and crocheter. Hopefully, I’ll even talk my Mom (the expert dyer) into also writing a few posts.

Thanks for reading!

~Myra

2 thoughts on “My Mushroom-Dye and Crochet Obsession

  1. I’m so happy to have found your blog – please give my best regards to your mom, whom I haven’t seen in a few years. I’d like to follow your posts but don’t see a way to do so. Am I missing something? And I have to ask – what gave the beutiful blue on the silk camisoles? Thanks.

    1. Thanks for the comment and letting me know it wasn’t easy to “follow” me. I made a few little changes on the front page. It should now give you the option to follow me through email, RSS Feed, or my Facebook page.

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