Summer Colours with Cochineal

When it comes to natural dyes, it is sometimes hard to get a bright and strong red colour. The main sources for a range of reds are madder root and cochineal. I had this jar of cochineal sitting in my studio for about two years with the intention to use it one day. That day has eventually come.

Cochineal is a beetle which lives on cacti in Middle and South America. Only the female body (!) gives the dye when it is dried out and pulverized.  The substance is called carmine and can also be found in food and cosmetic industry. In the past centuries cochineal was a main dye source for red dyes, today its often used by artists and artisans in their work, who are helping to keep this traditional knowledge alive.

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
dried cochineal beetles

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
in pulverized form

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
For my dyeing session I prepared a couple of silk and wool fabrics, using the itajime shibori technique (clamps).

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
the dye pot

Here are some images of the finished pieces, the colours raspberry like on the wool, a bit more pink on silk.

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffattnatural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
I wonder why I haven’t used this amazing dye source before, I am pretty sure this source will be one of my favorites in the future.

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