Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cochineal , The Color That Bugs You

This amazing unusual  dye is obtained from  female Cochineal bugs and  produces vibrant strong reds and pinks. 
Dactylopius coccus, the botanical name for Cochineal, is a beetle like insect that lives on prickly pear, nopal cacti, in Central and South America. These insects are similar to that found in the  Old World dye known as Kermes.

                                             Dried Cochineal Insects

Cochineal insects are cultivated on farms, with the cochineal being harvested and extracted for use in food, as it is an approved food coloring by the FDA.

To extract the dye for home dyeing, the cochineal insects can be used whole or ground. 
Place the insects in a piece of muslin or muslin bag and tie securely closed.
Put the packet of insects in a plastic container and poor boiling water over the dye packet. 
Let this set overnight.
 Drain off the dye liquid and use it with your favorite natural  dye recipe. 
The dye packet should be saved and can be soaked again to remove more dye.

Cochineal, like all natural dyes will yield colors that will vary depending on the mordant used to make the dye color fast and the Ph of the water used in the dye bath.

Cochineal can be purchased through our website as well as wool yarn dyed with cochineal.

Yarn samples dyed with Cochineal, Mordants left to right, Alum, Tin, and Chrome

Wool Yarn dyed with Cochineal with Alum Mordant.

Natural Dyes and Mordants are available on our website.
                                                                              © 2014 Brush Creek Wool Works