Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Closer Look -- Mushrooms For Color Sweater

This post is part of a series taking a closer look at award-winning entries from exhibits at Northern Wefts.

Julie Hurd's "Mushrooms For Color" Sweater
Julie Hurd of Bellaire, Michigan won the Traditional Heritage award in the fashion show at Northern Wefts. Her "Mushrooms For Color" Sweater shows the wide range of hues and shades that can be achieved with fungi in the dyepot.

"I have used natural dyes, primarily from plants, on my handspun yarns for decades," Julie says, "and I never tire of the rich and unique colors that I can coax from flowers, weeds, trees, and shrubs." When she learned of a mushroom dying class offered at John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, she registered immediately. The instructor was Susan Hopkins of Saranac Lake, New York.

Shortly before the class, Julie's spinning guild had assisted at a shearing. Julie was assisting in skirting the fleeces as they were shorn and packaged for sale. She knew when whe touched a Bond fleece from "James" that he was the one. Julie took the fiber to Stonehedge Fiber Mill in East Jordan, Michigan for processing into roving. She spun almost seven pounds of James' coat into a two-ply bulky weight yarn on her Ashford Traveler using a Z twist and a supported long draw. The singles were 19wpi. She S plyed two singles with a twist angle of 25 percent. Her yarn, after washing, measured 10 wpi. In preparation for her class, Julie mordanted 1/2-, 1- and 2-oz. skeins with alum, tin, iron and copper.


Most of the 12 species of fungi used in the class were dried specimens collected by the instructor. Special attention was paid to the pH of the dyebaths to produce desired colors. Some species are also sensitive to temperature. "The hues that can be obtained from mushrooms encompass the full spectrum," Julie says. "The shades obtained are typically rich and complex and resistant to fading with light and washing.

Sleeves in process
Back home after her class, Julie chose an Ann Borgeois pattern from Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified. She designed the colorways as she knitted, starting with the sleeves. "I wanted the sleeves to be identical so I measured my colors and saved half of each skein for the second sleeve," Julie says. "Fair Isle knitting generally uses only two colors per row; a peerie band might use four to five colors total."


This project left Julie wanting more experience with mushroom dyeing. "Mushrooms are seasonal with most of the dye producers appearing late summer through fall." Happily, she says, there is little overlap between edible mushrooms and dye-producing species. "Those choice morels can go directly into the frying pan as they have no value for dyeing."

1 comment:

Sarah Helene said...

A true HEIRLOOM knit sweater with lovely "natural" dyed yarns in such an array of colors. Looks like a labor of LOVE . . . BEAUTIFUL indeed! and worthy of the award.