Natural Dyes – Cochineal

How to Dye pinks and reds with Cochineal

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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

    Natural Dye Books
    Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
    Botanical Colour at your Fingertips
    The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home
    A Weaver’s Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers

    The Rainbow Beneath My Feet: A Mushroom Dyer’s Field Guide
    Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes
    A Heritage of Colour: Natural Dyes Past and Present by Jenny Dean (2014-06-10)
    Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
    The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

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