Some time back, I started a series of posts using dyes that have been gifted to my Guild–or perhaps just abandoned there! Among the haul of amazing dyes of unknown provenance and considerable age was quite an amount of cochineal. It had so many forms of packaging and so many forms that I brought together all those with similar labels and packages… and this left small quantities of ‘opal cochineal’ (12 g) and ‘ruby cochineal’ (36 g). I was absolutely unable to figure out whether these were marketing terms or actual descriptions of the dye qualities of the dried bugs themselves, and finally I decided to find out.
Step 1: weighing the opal cochineal, consulting the dye books (I went with Rebecca Burgess on this one), and stitching my dried insects into a pouch. I abhor stockings, so they only come my way from other people’s discards. I found an antique nylon curtain in the stash and stitched up a double layer bag for the dyestuff to be sewn into.
Into the dye bath! When the mount of colour released almost immediately is so stunning, it’s easy to understand why this dye was so sought after (and of course, still is in some quarters). I added small quantities of silk embroidery thread at different stages in the process, along side several batches of fleece from ‘Viola’, a silvery-grey English Leicester Cross. The thread looks just great.
I love the colour from the first bath best, but tried to exhaust the dye, with three batches of fibre. Total dyed weight: a whopping 72g. Is it ‘opal’ in some special way??? Let me know if you have a view.
Here is my little nylon sachet after its many steepings and soakings, heatings and coolings. I had a chat with a friend at the Guild and she’s been cochineal dyeing too. Maybe all our exhausted insects will go into one final exhaust bath.