Fabric dyeing with cochineal

This is a blog post on fabric dyeing with cochineal. What is cochineal? Cochineal is actually an insect where is produces carminic acid. This in which in return gets the color red. Here is more information on cochineal. Of course, it not only use in fabric dyeing but it has other use in food coloring and lipstick. I would focus on fabric dyeing as I have used it to get a strong vibrant red color. Cochineal is quite an old dye and in recent years it has made come back as many of the new synthetic red dyes are found to be carcinogenic.

Fabric dyeing with cochineal

I have used various fibers and chemicals to obtain color from cochineal. Io get hold of cochineal is quite simple is to buy from a natural dye craft supplier. I use George Weil and Sons as they provide a reliable and great service. They aren’t the cheapest around in the market for some of their products. Cochineal supply comes in many tiny shell form. Some recommend to crush it before using it. This so as to obtain an even color. As lumps of concentrated dye products. My plan was either to crush it or use muslin to filter the lumps.

fabrics in cochineal dye bath

Obtaining colour

fabric dyeing with cochineal

In order to obtain the color is to boil some water over the cochineal. It depends on how concentrated you want the cochineal to be and also how much fabric is dyed. The technical term is called the weight of fiber (WOF). Don’t let this term put you off it’s just a way how the dyers use them. Then leave it to seep overnight. As I was using a small amount of cochineal for this being my first time, the colors just appear immediately after pouring the boiling water. I expected it to be nice red guess what it came out to be a dark purple?!! After some google search said to add some lemon juice/ citric acid it will be bright red viola. Also, alum helps. Do adjust the ratio as you experiment. I have tried with various fibers. The effect on animal fibres like silk was the best. Also, Tencel (wood pulp) fibre also turn out quite strong.

Fabric dyeing with cochineal
Bottom left silk, middle cotton right tencel, top left lyocell, fibres silk (left) and wool (right).

Thank you for reading and dropping by. Do have a look at my other fugitive natural fabric dyeing like onion. i am trying to move on with just using fugitive dyes as they last longer given the right amounts of mordant.

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