The tall Bearded Iris are almost done, a short two weeks or so of bloom. Iris sibirica ( or siberica) likewise. You have to move fast to eco print or dye with them fresh or faded; alternatively, you can freeze them. I have done both and that's what I would like to share with you mad eco dyers out there – it will take a couple of posts. To start with: Iris hybrida, which is a heritage variety in Eastern Canada, probably imported by early settlers and still plentiful in gardens here. Iris do hybridize freely and most likely descend from ancient varietiies such as Iris pallida and Iris germanica, of which florentina is a cultivar. The latter two, I. germanica and I. florentina are most likely the irises available to medieval and Renaissance painters and manuscript illuminators. These artists used their iris to obtain not blue but green pigments. Art historians and popular art history writers have been a tad vague about exactly which varieties were used, so one has to dig…but cheap and available is what artists usually go for…”The Techniques and Materials of Medieval Painting” by Daniel V. Thompson (Dover Books) tells rather vaguely of how green was obtained from iris but is even vaguer about blue or purple. Thus experiments have to be the way forward for contemporary eco dyers.
..and cutting to the chase: this is the range of colours obtained from the Tall Bearded Iris, above. The colours are shown on papers and on cotton string. Greens are obtained when the substrate, paper or fabric, has been pre soaked in alum (alum acetate is what I used) then steamed as usual for eco prints. Blues are obtained when NO alum is used in the steamed bundle or stack. Purple and bluer- blues are obtained from pounding with a rock etc, treading (yes, treading), grinding in a mortar, or simply smooshing hard with the fingers – NO cooking, just resting for a period of time. BTW, the string was dyed in a crock pot with alum and blossoms. The photo colour is far from true. I obtained a lovely moss green on the cotton string