Biodesign Work in Progress

More mushrooms

After some reading and searching around the internet for more useful information I felt I should give it a try. How difficult could it be?

  1. Cut your mushrooms  into smaller pieces to enable best extraction of dye possible.
  2. Put them in a pot with water and bring up to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat and let simmer for a while. At this stage the water should have changed its color, the longer you leave it the darker and deeper the color will be.
  4. Soak your textiles in water before submerging them into the dye. Preferably in the same temperature so that the fibers won’t be damaged. They longer they are left in water the better, it enables the fibers to open up and be more likely to pick up the dye better.
  5. Move textiles from water bath to dye bath.
  6. Never let the dye bath with your textiles boil, let it simmer and leave them until you are satisfied with the look.
  7. Rinse in water and leave to dry.


I have tried mushrooms I found in nature, fresh and dried from the supermarket. Most of the mushrooms I tried gave a subtle and earthy looking dye.


Many of the mushrooms documented are best extracted with the help of mordants (different salt solutions to change the pH-value of the dye bath which can either bloom or sadden a color). All the mordants I have used have been organic with one exception of soda crystals (pH-value 12-13). The reason for trying to go all organic is because I want to see if it is possible to dye your own textiles with local products and not in an artificial way that will destroy our environment.


Biodesign Work in Progress

A new method

The outcomes from the first tests worked…but not particularly well.  Mould grew on my first mycelium tests and didn’t have a particular structure in the sealed plastic bags. It was time to speak to a professional. After searching high and low I found Dr Patrick Hickey, based at Summerhall, he completed his PhD in Mycology at the University of Edinburgh and has completed many projects looking into the structure of mycelium as well as the bioluminescent qualities of mushrooms ( Hickey's workspace

He suggested that I need to think about three key components:

1.The type of mushroom mycelium will affect the composition of the final substance and its qualities

  • wood rotting fungus has cord-like mycelium which is tough
  • oyster mushroom has a dense, feathery mycelium
  • some good ones are stropharia aurantiaca and physalacria armillaria (see below).

Stropharia Aurantiaca and Physalacria Armillaria

2. Choosing the substance for it to grow on is important

  • On wood you get white-rot fungi and brown-rot fungi that eat different parts of the tree.
  • White-rot eats lignin which makes up the scaffolding of wood.
  • Brown-rot fungi (like honey fungus or armillaria) decomposes cellulose which is the structural component of cell walls in plant material.

3. The process in which you’re growing the mycelium substance needs to be as sterile as possible so as to prevent other micro-organisms from growing.

  • In order to sterilise things you need to either heat them up so as to kill the bacteria on the surface or spray them with ethanol.

With this new information I have now moved on to work in more sterilised conditions, so as to reduce the risk of contamination. More to follow…


Biodesign Work in Progress

The trip that sparked an idea

When me and Joanna met with Rebecca Yahr at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh in the beginning of October she showed us many different things that all had fungi in common. The one thing that spoke to me the most was the samples of yarn that had been dyed with mushrooms. I had seen textiles being dyed with plants and other natural things but the thought that mushrooms would do the same thing had never crossed my mind. Intrigued to find out more I bought two books on the subject and started reading to learn more.


Biodesign Work in Progress

Exploring, gathering and testing.

Foraging for mushrooms around Edinburgh I found various types of honey fungus (armillaria), petticoat mottlegill (Panaeolus papilionaceus ) and turf mottlegill (Panaeolus fimicola). Having also bought mushrooms from local shops as well as supermarket chains, I had a collection of eight different types of mushrooms (including varying location of source).  I had three different mediums in which the mycelium could grow: cardboard, dead leaves and coffee grounds.

Documenting their features, where I found them and which medium I was putting them into will help in the future to see differences in the samples.

Preparing the collected mushrooms and placing them in the corresponding mediums
Mushroom samples to make mycelium
Eight mushroom samples; some found, some bought.
Table of mushrooms and mediums

I placed all combinations in separate plastic ziplock bags to grow in a dark and warm place (24-27degrees celcius) to grow for a few days…

With all the samples ready, I left them in a warm, dark place to innoculate
With all the samples ready, I left them in a warm, dark place to innoculate
Biodesign Work in Progress

“Why don’t you just make it?”

If I want to work with mycelium and see how it grows and interacts with mediums then I might as well grow some myself-so I did.

Oyster mushrooms have one the easiest and fastest mycelium growth, so I picked some up from an Asian supermarket and after slicing them up  with some soaked cardboard I left them to grow happily*.

Set up:


Setting up my mycelium experiments at the ASCUS lab at Summerhall (see
  1. Found some cardboard with corrugated insides
  2. Ripped it up
  3. Soaked it in water for 20 minutes
  4. Make layers between corrugated cardboard, slices of oyster mushroom and flat cardboard in a plastic box


Four days, seven days and fourteen days

After four days hyphae had formed and were running down the corrugated cardboard. Seven days after the inoculation and the mycelium was growing happily, constructing a spongey circular around the original mushroom sample. Mould grew and spread between days seven and fourteen; probably due to the lack of sterile conditions under which I first inoculated the cardboard medium. Also, from checking on the mycelium growth without being cautious about sterile conditions meant bacteria would easily have flown in.

Positive outcomes:

  • It’s easy when you know how
  • Relatively simple process
  • Could be done with different mushrooms to see a variety of mycelium strains

Negative outcomes:

  • Need sterile conditions, could be difficult to do at home
  • Oyster mushroom mycelium is feathery, so not very strong, to continue might be good to find another more dense and strong mycelium to grow

Next steps…

  1. Find a collection of mushrooms from around Edinburgh
  2. Grow their mycelium on different mediums and document growth
  3. Speak to professionals about the best way to go about my project

*using the instructions from


Biodesign Work in Progress

Mycelium Futures

Back to mycelium! Throughout my research I have been astonished at the amount of research and opportunities that have been discovered with this material…and yet there is still so much more that could be done.

Some of the projects I came across started to get my inspiration cogs turning; first of all I was reminded of the work that Ecovative do in the States (using mycelium as a glue-like substance to hold together agricultural waste and use the product as a biodegradable packaging component). Then I came across Eric Klarenbeeks mycelium chair (filling a 3D printed structure with mycelium spawn on a medium of straw to make a dense but lightweight core) and a collection of work by the organisation Fungal Futures, which continue to open my eyes into the possible advances in material properties when working with mycelium and fungi.

Eric Klarenbeeks mycelium chair
The Hoitink Dress by Aniela Hoitink from Fungal Futures

My concern is that I could easily buy some grow-it-yourself mycelium spawn from Ecovative in New York for as little as $10, but then it would take five weeks, $40 and countless thousands of gallons of oil to transport it across the Atlantic Ocean to my studio in Edinburgh. Especially when I know that one can grow mycelium anywhere in the world depending on strain and medium.

My next challenge is to grow it myself and to discuss variations in how to go about it with those who are in the field, namely professors of mycology, engineers and scientists who have conducted similar research.

Some of the websites I have found most useful as part of my research so far:



There is a (Musical) Fungus Among Us