Cochineal is another of the dyes I received from the Guild and used at the workshop a while back. In fact, there was a choice of cochineals. In what I realise now was my ignorance, I chose ‘carmine cochineal’ because it was ground up and I was unsure how I could adequately grind the whole dried insects I also have. As you can see, after an initial period of being dull ornage, the dye bath was an impressively shocking pink. It turns out that ‘carmine cochineal’ is not a shade of cochineal but a preparation of cochineal boiled with ammonia or sodium carbonate. I borrowed Frederick Gerber’s Cochineal and the Insect Dyes 1978 from, the Guild and found that the deeper red colour I had in mind when I saw the term ‘carmine’ could only be obtained from this preparation with the application of a tin mordant which I am not prepared to use. the colours we achieved with alum were well within the range indicated by the included colour chart of wool samples (those were the days!)
The colour range on this card (with madder beneath for comparison) is impressive even without tin.
We dyed organic wool. I dyed silk paj and twined string (the orange string was dyed with madder).
I brought the vat home with me and dyed a lot more fibre in an attempt to exhaust it. Here is grey corriedale mordanted with alum and overdyed with carmine cochineal.
And spun–three plied. This is my first ever crocus flower, by the way!
The magenta silk embroidery thread had maximum time in the bath, since I fished it out when removing the dyestuff (in its recycled stocking) prior to disposing of the bath!