I’ve been playing with iron water over the past couple weeks, dipping skeins I’ve previously dyed using alum or tannin-rich plants as a mordant and comparing the results. Most books describe iron’s effects as a saddening of color, and although I don’t necessarily agree with “sad” as the descriptor, iron does seem to dull the brightness at the very least. In many cases, it completely transforms the color into something intense and rich, yet somehow muted. In short, iron color modifying is right up my alley.
For my first iron experiments, I dipped four skeins of ultra alpaca that had been dyed with logwood exhaust into the pot and left them there for 20-30 minutes over low heat. I’ve read that you’re not supposed to leave animal fiber in the bath for much longer than that because it degrades the quality of the wool, but it doesn’t seem to take very long for iron to work its magic. This wool transformed from a light purple to a muted, inky blue within a matter of minutes.
In the same bath, I chucked in a skein of avocado twist-dyed superwash yarn just for fun, and ten minutes later emerged a skein of pure variegated magic. I can’t help but wonder if some of the logwood molecules from the ultra alpaca were somehow absorbed by this fiber in the bath because I reused the water, or if the variation in color would have occurred regardless. Further testing required.
The only color the iron didn’t have much influence over was this skein of merino richly dyed with logwood (first run). It changed ever so slightly to a more blueish-purple, but you can only tell when the skeins are held next to one another in natural light. It’s a similar tone change to the ultra alpaca from the first experiment, but with less pronounced effect. I confess, this was a surprise and a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting dark blues, grays and maybe even blacks.