Saddening with Iron

It seems appropriate on a driech day like today to post about ‘saddening’—using iron to darken and mute the colours of naturally-dyed wool. ‘To sadden’ really is the best verb for it.

Because iron can damage fibres, it’s best to only use a very small amount in proportion to the fibres, such as 2% weight of goods. I don’t have a particularly accurate scales, so in order to weigh out the right amount iron I need to have a substantial amount of wool to experiment on—and it might as well be as many colours as possible!

DSC_0400

The difficult bit is making sure all the skeins of yarn and hanks of fleece are properly labelled so I can identify what was what afterwards—which I did with the numbers of knots tied into scrap yarn attached to the skeins.

DSC_0414

The saddening itself is a pretty simple process—iron powder dissolved in hot water, added to lukewarm water then heated to about 70 deg C. The pre-soaked dyed wool is added then left for about half an hour. This time round I wasn’t satisfied that the colours had changed enough, so I added a bit more iron, seeing as the wool was for experimental purposes I didn’t mind if the fibres were weakened. Then the dyebath smelled of a familiar yet discomforting smell—blood! This added to the witchy sense of the magical transformation of the colours.

From left to right: indigo 1st, indigo 2nd, indigo+safflower, safflower, oak, safflower 2nd, lichen (no mordant), pale madder+weld, madder exhaust, brazilwood exhaust, madder roots exhaust, madder exhaust, madder, cochineal+madder, cochineal, cochineal exhaust.

BeforeDSC_0411

AfterDSC_0436

 

As you can see there’s quite a considerable difference in most of the colours, though not the indigo. As I’m more drawn towards bright colours, I expect that the only ones I’ll deliberately try to achieve in future is the purples gained from the reds and pinks of the cochineal.

CochinealDSC_0452

However, looking at the saddened versions paired with the originals, I’ve come to appreciate the more subtle ochres, taupes and olive shades, and I they may come in useful for getting the right colours for needle-felted birds and beasts.

MadderDSC_0459.JPG

Cochineal exhaustDSC_0461

SafflowerDSC_0469

OakDSC_0472

Safflower 2ndDSC_0483

Lichen (no mordant)DSC_0481

Madder roots exhaustDSC_0477

Brazilwood exhaustDSC_0478

Dried madder exhaustDSC_0479

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