This is a blog post on fabric dyeing with cochineal. What is cochineal? Cochineal is actually an insect that produces carminic acid. This in which in return gets the vibrant fushia red colour. Here is more information on cochineal. Of course, it is not only used 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 come back as many of the new synthetic red dyes are found to be carcinogenic. However, how true it is up to one to decide.
Fabric dyeing with cochineal
I have used various fibers and chemicals to obtain color from cochineal as it is a ph-sensitive dye. To get hold of cochineal is quite simple is to buy from a natural dye craft supplier. It is possible to forage from prickly pear nopal cactus if there is one nearby where you are. It does yield less strong dyes compared to the cultivated ones. I get mine from George Weil and Sons as they provide a reliable and great service. There are many other suppliers around that sell cohineal. It is more expensive than some dyes but one doesn’t need much to get strong colour. Cochineal supply comes in many tiny shell forms. In my experience, I crush and filter before using it. This is so as to obtain an even color as lumps of concentrated dye products.
In order to obtain the color, 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 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 appeared 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 fibers like silk was the best. Also, Tencel (wood pulp) fiber also turns out quite strong.
Thank you for reading and dropping by. Do have a look at my other fugitive natural fabric dyeing like onion and pomegranate. i am trying to move on with just using fugitive dyes as they last longer given the right amounts of mordant.