If it has not become perfectly clear, I am a novice dyer. For a long time I have flirted with the idea of dying. I just had no time and or place for it in my life. With small kids, I did not want any chemicals around them, as they grew so has my curiosity with dyes. I LOVE the idea of natural dyes. The gardener in me LOVEs the idea that I can grow stuff in my yard that will dye my fibers. It’s like planting seeds… it’s magic. I am also lucky to have a friend who is an AMAZING natural dyer and is willing to answer my endless questions and to hold my hand virtually while I play in the world of color.
I have had two 100g bundles of undyed superwash/nylon fiber in my stash for 6ish years…. it might be more, boy does time fly. Anyway, I have been spending so much time production spinning thanks to my oldest that I decided it was time to pull it out and dye it. I mordanted it with the other yarns last month. Before dyeing, I put this fiber and 2 white skeins of the CVM in a bucket of water to become wet. (that sounds silly, but they need to sit in water for a couple of hours to make sure all the fibers have had a chance to absorb the water pre dying)
My good friend and natural dyer Ric Rao passed along some of his cochineal. For those who do not know, cochineal is a beetle that is used to produce red dye. It is indigenous to Mexico and was domesticated by the natives there hundreds of years before Columbus came to the Americas. I love the idea of domesticating a beetle. It eats prickly pear cactus. There is still a wild version, and they are super tiny. You could try to harvest them….. I will just buy mine.
I used the recipe in Harvesting Color: How to find plants and make natural dye, by Rebecca Burgess. She says to use 1 part cochineal to two parts wool. Luckily I had a bit more than 100g cochineal and 200 g of the wool. The first step is to crush the cochineal in a mortar and pestle. I then put the crushed bugs into a nylon stocking and added it to my filtered water. Ric told me filtered water is important with cochineal as the chlorine makes the color come out pale and insipid. I wanted a deep crimson. I also added 3Tablespoons of white vinegar to the water this should push the color towards crimson.
Following the method in the book, I brought the pot up to a low simmer for 30 min then cooled it for 15 and repeated this 3 times.
At the end of the 3rd cooling cycle I added my fiber and brought the pot just under a simmer for an hour. I then took out my fiber. It’s AMAZING!
Then I put two of my CVM skeins that were pre-mordanted and let them simmer and sit in the exhaust pot.
So far cochineal is my favorite dye I have done. It turned out just like it was supposed to. (that is always a bonus for me) and the color is just stunning!
As an aside, while I was waiting for pots to boil yesterday I decided to use some iron to modify the color on my CVM skein I dyed with Cota.
This picture makes it look more washed out than it actually is. It’s a greenish khaki color. Not quite olive drab. Like the original gold, this color is growing on me. To do an iron afterbath, you use 2% of the dry weight of fibers of ferris sulfate dissolved in water. Again, I wet my fibers first and then I brought them up to a simmer in the iron water solution. I simmered for about 15 min. Jenny Dean’s book suggests 30 min, but I was afraid the fibers would go towards brown if left that long.