Scenes from a Dye Class: Madder and Cochineal
Linen scarf, ombre-dyed with madder and cochineal
Today at the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center in East Rochester, NY, four fiber enthusiasts and I spent several hours playing with madder and cochineal, seeing what reds we could achieve with these two ancient dyes.
We had some surprising results! Using cochineal bugs purchased online from Wild Colours in the United Kingdom -- and following their directions -- our fibers came out in vivid purples and lavenders! I bought a 100 gram bag of bugs (sounds nice, doesn't it?), ground them up in my coffee grinder, doused them with boiling water and soaked them overnight, strained them in the morning, and divided up the dye solution between two dye pots. So I used about 50 grams of ground cochineal for maybe 300 to 400 grams of fiber. Here are some results.
Wool yarn on left, cotton on right
In my experience, cochineal produces magenta, rose, and salmon-red colors. How did this happen? Our water is hard -- perhaps that changed the chemistry. I used a high concentration of dye powder, which might have had some effect. Does anyone out there know how we got purple from cochineal, using nothing but alum mordant?
More results below, from both cochineal and madder, with an alum mordant. By the way, I had to increase the intensity of the madder dye, because our results at 10% WOG were lackadaisical. I upped it to 20% WOG (that's dyeing jargon for a ratio of 20 to 100, weight of dye to weight of fiber).
Wool roving dyed in madder, alum mordant
Skeins on drying rack: madder on left, cochineal on right
Different fibers, same vat, different results: Tencel on left, silk on right
Many thanks to Barbara Clements, Eleanor Hartquist, Joyce Leary, and Gretchen Wheelock for a wonderful afternoon!