Modifying with Iron

left to right: iron modified logwood, lavender and twist-dyed avocado

left to right: iron modified logwood, lavender and twist-dyed avocado

left: pomegranate on eco merino, right: iron-modified pomegranate on eco merino

left: pomegranate on eco merino, right: iron-modified pomegranate on eco merino

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.

IMG_1278.jpg
IMG_1279.jpg
IMG_1277.jpg

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.

iron modified twist-dyed avocado on superwash 80/10/10

iron modified twist-dyed avocado on superwash 80/10/10

top: iron modified walnut + yellow onion skin (twist-dyed) | bottom: iron modified avocado + yellow onion skin (twist dyed) - both on superwash 80/10/10 base

top: iron modified walnut + yellow onion skin (twist-dyed) | bottom: iron modified avocado + yellow onion skin (twist dyed) - both on superwash 80/10/10 base

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.

left: logwood on eco merino | right: iron modified logwood on eco merino

left: logwood on eco merino | right: iron modified logwood on eco merino

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.

Pomegranate + Avocado Peel

experiments with avocado peel and pomegranate

experiments with avocado peel and pomegranate

experiments with avocado peel and pomegranate

experiments with avocado peel and pomegranate

pomegranate on 100% wool (licorice twist base)

pomegranate on 100% wool (licorice twist base)

Over the holidays I came across a pack of pomegranates while shopping for groceries and immediately felt inspired to work with them in my dye pot. Pomegranates are usually expensive here so I don’t buy them often, but knowing I was using the whole fruit (snacking on the seeds and dyeing with the peels) helped me justify the purchase. And while I hadn't had any previous experience with pomegranates as a source of dye material, I remembered reading about their ability to impart a rich, buttery yellow onto fibers. I also read that they make a great source of tannins, which is especially useful in regards to cellulose fibers, which seem to benefit from a combination of both mordant and tannin preparations. 

avocado peel on baby alpaca-tussah silk

avocado peel on baby alpaca-tussah silk

pomegranate + avocado peel on 50/50 merino-silk

pomegranate + avocado peel on 50/50 merino-silk

I also decided it was time to make a second dye bath with avocado peels. This decision was made more out of need for freezer space than anything else, as the peels take up more room than my other kitchen scraps, but I also thought the two colors - the yellow from pomegranates and the pink from avocado peels - would work well together if I decided to experiment with twist-dyeing both colors onto one skein. Turns out, they do!

One thing I’ve noticed about my experiments with avocado peels versus avocado pits is that the colors obtained from the peels tend to be more intensely pink, whereas the pits tend to dye with more undertones of orange/coral. I think both shades are lovely, but it’s nice to know you can get a little variation by separating the parts of the fruit from one another. I experienced something similar when I worked with marigolds last year after separating the flower petals from the rest of the stem/heads (which I'll talk about in a later post). I'd be very interested to know if anyone else has experienced this from separating and isolating different parts of a plant for dyeing as well.

avocado peel on BFL

avocado peel on BFL

After dyeing with silk-blends in the avocado bath, I decided to add four skeins of non-superwash Blue Faced Leciester to exhaust any remaining color. I wasn’t expecting a lot because the silk (about 300g worth of fiber) had already absorbed so much of the color, and I only used 10 avocados-worth of skins for the whole bath, but the color that resulted on the BFL is that quintessential pink color that I associate with avocados and love so much. I’m really happy with how it turned out and can’t wait to cast on with the yarn.

And because I don’t need all four skeins, I’ve decided to keep two for myself and host a little giveaway in my Ravelry group for the other two. I announced the giveaway in my latest video podcast (episode 5), but I thought I’d mention it here, too, in case anyone would like to join in. I’ll be announcing the winner in my next podcast episode on YouTube, which will (hopefully) come out next weekend, so stay tuned for that!