I finished this deceptively simple piece today - it's an Amanita muscaria mushroom, one that I've always loved for the beautiful color and elegant silhouette. In the Eastern U.S. we get this yellow variant (technically A. muscaria var. guessowii) but this mushroom grows through much of the world, and Europe and the Pacific Northwest sees the beautiful red cap with white warts:
I wish we had the scarlet ones here, but the yellow are just as pretty, I suppose. Amanita muscaria contains poisonous ibutenic acid as well as muscimol, a minor hallucinogen. They can be edible (or medicinal) when properly prepared but there are plenty of other tasty things out there that are easier and safer. So far we've had winecaps, black trumpets, reishi, and milkies. We've also seen deadly Destroying Angels, bioluminescent jack-o'-lanterns and made leather from tinder fungus. There are several common species that many collect (morels, chicken or hen of the woods, yellow chanterelles, oysters) but I have had no luck with any of them. Perhaps next year I'll spot my first morel. When I do, I'll be ready!
Glowing Jack o'lanterns by Etienne Charles
Keeping track of where and when to find all these mushrooms was enough of a project to have a little notebook set aside for the purpose. That way I can keep notes for each species, and hopefully one day have a little calendar of what's likely to be around - it will make it easier to come home with a full basket.
On the embroidery side of things, this was a simple if tedious project. The mushroom itself was first embroidered with long and short stitch, which is a wonderfully smooth technique that blends colors well. The warts on the cap and base (remnants of a veil that covers the whole mushroom while it's developing) are clusters of french knots, and the mossy ground at the base is done in cretan stitch. I was afraid that the gills would look a little greenish, being in shadow, but I think the mossy stuff underneath ties it all in. I worked this in more strands of thread than I normally would - it is just going to go out in the woods, after all - I think the colors blended well and the texture from the french knots was perfect for the ragged pieces of veil.
Now to fill up the inside! If anyone's got a good patch of morels or chants, I'll happily take submissions. I might even trade a few black trumpets for such privileged information!