Sunday, February 2, 2014

Cochineal; a dye tutorial

Last week I worked with some Maine raised Shetland wool and cochineal liquid extract. When I want a bright red, I always go for cochineal and cream of tartar. With cochineal only, a lilac/ mauve will appear. When you add cream of tartar, it shifts the color to bright red- sometimes more pinky red if not enough cream of tartar is used. Though this day, I wanted purple. If your curious about cochineal, you can read more it here. An interesting insect, the cochineal beetle has a stunning history going back to before the Aztecs. 

1st dye bath.

left- 1st dye bath of shetland wool. right- teeny skein and vintage silk hankie dyed with cranberry. You can read more about that tutorial here

1st dye bath.
2nd dye bath. 

In person, the lighter color is more pinky like in the above picture than in the bottom picture. 

Want to try this at home? 

This is what you need:
stainless steel pot
large stainless steel spoon of stirring utensil 
stainless steel measuring spoons
kitchen scale
natural fiber
ph neutral soap

*for alum, you'll use 6% of W.O.F. (weight of fiber)

Prepare your fiber: 
Weigh your dried fiber in either grams or ounces- whatever works for you. Then write it down.

Clean your sink really well, or use a basin and fill with very hot water. After water is done running, add a touch of soap. Don't let suds form. Let soak for at least 30 minutes or longer. 

(if soaking for only 30 minutes- when you prepare the dye bath, do so with the same temperature water as the soaking bath so that the fiber will not be shocked.) 

Prepare your dye bath: 
Fill your stainless steel pot with the same temperature water as your soak bath.
Look at the note you made for the weight of fiber- multiple by 6%- this is how much alum you'll use.  

weighing the alum in grams is sometimes easier here as it's such a small amount. If it's easier for you, convert into tablespoons. This is what I do sometimes as it's just easier than weighing. 

Another helpful hint that I like to use: Use 2 Tablespoons for every pound of fiber. 

Dissolve alum in boiling water and add to pot. Then weigh out your cochineal- depending on the color- add a few tea spoons and experiment- take notes on what you add so that you can duplicate it again if you want to. Add to your pot- and stir. 

Add your fiber and set heat to medium to allow heat to raise slowly. 

Don't let your fiber go over 180f so keep a close eye on it checking with your thermometer about every 1/2 hour. Each time you check, take your large utensil and make a big stirring motion so that you bring the bottom fibers up to the top. *if you don't do this- your yarn will dye unevenly* 

Once it's cooked for 1-2 hours, turn off heat and let cool in the pot into the next day. 

Washing your fiber: 
The next morning (this is my favorite part) your fibers will be cooled and you can reach right in and pull out your fibers. Set something up so you can let your fibers hang and drip into the pot- catching extra dye to save for the next batch. 

When it stops dripping- and feel free to keep squeezing the liquid into the pot. Once dripping has stopped- fill up the sink or basin with cool water and only a teeny bit of neutral soap- again after water stops running. 

Let your fiber soak in the cool bath for again about 30 minutes. This will help remove any extra color sitting on top of fiber- it shouldn't alter the color at all. It will also keep fiber soft. 

2nd Dye Bath:
You will probably have more dye left over. This will give you another round of beautiful color. It will be lighter- but offer more tonal depth to your projects. 

Follow through with Preparing your fiber. 

I'd love to see how your cochineal turns out, feel free to share here with any links. And let me know if you have any questions!

oxox, Rachel

p.s. if your interested in purchasing this yarn for your projects, you can find it here.

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