Natural Dyeing with Cochineal

25 different colors from cochineal.

The first step to natural dyeing is adding mordant, if you’re going to do it.

For this project I chose to mordant 20 of the hanks.

There are 5 hanks of each mordant; no mordant, alum, copper, iron and tin.

Most mordants you can’t see but some you can, like copper, a light green and iron, a rusty brown.

After the mordant is added, all the hanks go into a pot with the crushed cochineal. The mixture is then heated to about 180F for 30 minutes.

I then rinsed the hanks and hung them to dry.

I now have 5 different colors of yarn.

I take a hank from each of the 5 piles and make 5 new piles. One pile is set aside because they are finished. The remaining 4 piles get put into 4 different modifiers. A chemical to change the color after dyeing.

Each chemical is mixed with water and the yarn is placed in the mixture. Modifiers don’t take much time and I don’t heat them up. I used iron, ammonia, vinegar and copper.

These hanks are then rinsed and hung to dry. This whole process took me about a week.

Whole cochineal bugs.
Partially crushed cochineal bugs.
Crushed cochineal, ready to add color.
No mordant or modifier on either hank. The mini is 100% wool. The larger hank is 100% super wash wool. The scales being stripped off in the super wash process make this yarn ready to more dye. This hank was put in the dye bath after I had dyed the other 25 hanks.

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