Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Many times, natural dyeing is all about experimentation --- being willing to try new plants and accept the failures along with the successes. The photo above is one of those experiments.
When I was in the papermaking workshop, we cooked iris leaves to make a pulp for paper. The instructor explained that the reason for the cooking was to break down the fibers and remove the tannin from the leaves. As a natural dyer, my training is that tannin is good --- it is a natural mordant --- so if you use a plant that is high in tannin for dyeing, you save a step by not having to pre-mordant your fibers.
As I watched Leandra strain off the liquor from the cooked iris leaves, it looked to me like a fabulous dyepot was about to go down the drain, so I spoke up about the possibility of dyeing with the strained liquor. Leandra graciously volunteered to save it for me to take home and experiment. The unknown variable, at least to me, was that this liquor had washing soda added to it, and I wasn't sure how that would react in the dyeing process. While I did get gorgeous neutrals out of the dyepot, the fibers are nowhere near as intense as the liquor, so the washing soda definitely had an adverse effect on the dyepot. Another lesson learned.