Natural Dyes – Cochineal: how_dye_cochineal

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


Difficulty Level:


Time Required:

12 hours

Here’s How:


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



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

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