Dyeing with Cochineal

Last week my long-time friend, Irene (owner of Cotton Clouds) visited with new friend, Rocio. Rocio is an expert natural dyer and she showed the rest of us how to dye with cochineal. IMG_4336We started in the theater (aka garage) to watch a PowerPoint presentation about cochineal.DSC_6136Cochineal is an insect that lives on a particular species of cactus. It is harvested and dried.DSC_6137The red color becomes obvious after the dried insects are ground.DSC_6170

These are some of the scarves that Rocio has dyed.

Dyeing with cochineal is a multi-step process and those steps differ depending on whether you are dyeing protein fiber (wool, silk) or cellulose fiber (cotton). Participants were able to dye both.

DSC_6126Preparing mordant bath.

DSC_6130 Squeezing out fabric.

DSC_6135 Mordanted scarves and sample pieces hanging to dry.

DSC_6145 Adding ground cochineal to the pot.

DSC_6147 Stirring one of three pots we had going. These pots simmered while we moved on to the next step.

DSC_6150 Rocio showed us how to use varying concentrations of mordant solutions to create different shades of color. From two “mother” solutions, one with iron and one with alum, we ended up with nine different concentrations.

DSC_6156 When stamped on fabric you get those shades seen in the squares.

DSC_6160 When the cochineal pots were ready they needed to be strained.

DSC_6191 Fabric was dyed…

DSC_6196 …and rinsed.

DSC_6202 Leftover dye was saved and now is in my freezer waiting until I have time to use it.

DSC_6219 Rocio and Irene with some of the scarves dyed that day.

DSC_6223 Since I was the hostess I didn’t have time to dye scarves but I did make a sample using the different mordant concentrations. Rocio says that if I wash this in a wheat bran solution the gray areas will turn white. I need to try that.IMG_4346Happy dyers at the end of the day. Oh..dogs were there too. Look at Rusty’s blog for photos.

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2 thoughts on “Dyeing with Cochineal

  1. Thank you for this photo essay. I have always been fascinated with cochineal reds and it is very interesting to see all the different colors that can be done.

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