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Cochineal - All Fiber Arts

Cochineal dye recipe


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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
    More Natural Dye Recipes

  • Information About Using Natural Dyes

  • Natural Dye Books

    The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use
    Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
    A Weaver's Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers
    Craft of the Dyer: Colour from Plants and Lichens
    A Dyer's Garden
    The Chemistry of Natural Dyes (Palette of Color Series)
    Natural Dyestuffs and Industrial Culture in Europe, 1750-1880 (European Studies in Science History and the Arts, 2)
    Colour Cauldron
    Mushrooms for Color
    The Rainbow Beneath My Feet: A Mushroom Dyer's Field Guide
    Complete Natural Dyeing Guide

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