Cochineal Dye Recipe

Cochineal is a natural dye substance that comes from the crushed bodies of insects, Dactylopius coccus, found on prickly pear cacti. Cochineal can be used with or without mordants and produces reds, pinks and purples.
Time Required:

12 hours

  • Weigh out the amount of cochineal that you need.
  • Crush and grind the cochineal into a fine powder. (You can use an old coffee grinder.)
  • Place the ground cochineal into a small glass jar and cover with water.
  • Add tartaric acid to the cochineal/water mixture to release more of the colour.
  • Let the cochineal mixture sit overnight.
  • The following day, fill a dyepot with hot water, sufficient to cover the fibre completely.
  • Bring the water to a boil and add the cochineal mixture.
  • Boil for 15 minutes, and skim off the froth and cochineal that has risen to the surface.
  • The cochineal can be dried and reused.
  • Add the clean, wet fibre or yarn to the dyebath.
  • Let the dyebath simmer for 35 – 40 minutes.
  • Remove the fibre/yarn, rinse in warm water and dry. 
  • Tips:

  • Cochineal with no mordant gives pinks/magenta.
  • Cochineal with tin mordant yields reds/oranges.
  • An ammonia afterbath will result in purples.

    Wool dyed with Cochineal
    Alum Mordant

  • Peruvian Women Demonstrate Cochineal Dyeing – You Tube

    Natural Dye Recipes

    Madder Dye Recipe
    Sandalwood Dye
    Osage Orange Dye
    Logwood Dye
    Mushroom Dyes
    Brazilwood dye
    tin Mordant
    Rhubarb Leaf Mordant
    Alum Mordant

    Where to Buy Cochineal

    Agrofarma Peru
    A wholesale supplier of cochineal.

    Natural Dye Books

    Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
    This comprehensive book outlines all the necessary equipment, how to select fibers and plant parts, choose the right methods for mordanting and dyeing, test color modifiers and the fastness of dyed colors, and obtain a range of gorgeous colors from every plant, from alter to woad, shown in more than 250 swatches.
    UK: Wild Color

    The Dyer’s Garden
    This comprehensive guide walks readers through a garden season from design to planting to harvesting for the dyepot.
    UK: Dyer’s Garden

    Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles
    Using dyes of the leaves, roots, and flowers to color your cloth and yarn can be an amazing journey into botanical alchemy. In Eco Colour, artistic dyer and colorist India Flint teaches you how to cull and use this gentle and ecologically sustainable alternative to synthetic dyes.
    UK: Eco Colour

    Natural Dyes
    UK: Natural Dyes

    Natural Dyes – EBay Watch


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    This page last edited on January 9, 2013


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