Russula sp. of mushrooms are fairly common here in the West Coast and pop up near Oak and Pine trees in October. Russula atropurpurea caps are red to pink on the outer edges becoming more purple as you go towards the center of the cap. They have a heavily gilled pale creamy underside and a stalk that breaks easily like chalk…hence the name “Brittlegills”. Russula diverged away from most gilled mushrooms by developing circular cells as opposed to the elongated ones found in most gilled mushrooms. I’ve read that this is what makes them so brittle.
They are listed in “A Rainbow Beneath my Feet” book as dyeing various shades of beige. We collected 8-10 specimens last Fall and dried them. My simple experiment was done on a variety of plant (cellulose) and animal (protein) fibers. The plant fibers used were unbleached cotton, hemp and linen thread; they were treated in a tannic acid (mostly from powdered Quebracho) bath first and then in an alum solution. The animal fibers used were recycled cashmere, handspun corriedale wool, thrifted handwoven mulberry silk and some Eri silk thread; these were only treated with alum.
I used both the stems & caps at a 8:1 fungi to fiber ratio only because these shrooms are so heavy & I had a lot of them. I boiled the mushrooms for several hours, reduced heat to a simmer and added my fibers. I simmered for several more hours them let them steep covered overnight and the next day (a little over 24 hours). The fibers were then rinsed in cool tap water and air dried. Everything was done at a neutral pH range.
The plant fibers resulted in a steel grey color…not that attractive to me. The animal fibers were orangey-beige to a subtle gold on the silks. Overall, I would not dye using Russula again only because of the poor color payoff. I’ll let the slugs feast on them instead! 😉