Since it is too dry to collect lichen I’ve been pulling cochineal off of our opuntia cactus.
We have prickly pear cactus. I can’t be specific about the cactus, there are several kinds here in Blanco county, no thorns, thick thorns, long thorns. I need to stare at the cactus more but here’s a link to all the types of cactus. The Hibbitt’s family has given a good start on cactus id.
Meanwhile back to the cochineal….I’ve tried to leave cochineal on the cactus so I have some next year. The first harvest yielded about 7 grams. Figuring out how to harvest was quite amusing. I went thru several tools. Harley was very patient during his catwalks, while I scraped cactus, he sniffed for birds.
After collecting a small amount I was curious as to how much was “not enough” so I started with 7 grams of fresh cochineal and web for 100 grams of substrate. I used Lana D’Oro Cascade Yarn which in this case is 50% superfine alpaca and 50% wool. Yike, .07% dyestuff for the yarn, would it work? AND would the superfine alpaca portion hold up to the dye pot? Well, first I needed to extract the color. After reading thru some references and listening to suggestions to blog readers I went with my basic path of least resistance and did it the easy way. Dump the dyestuff into my rainwater and simmer away. I did about 3 extractions after simmering and sitting and filtering.
I went with two skeins so I could see how they deep a color they struck. They were premordanted with alum sulfate. Within 5 minutes I had a nice bright fuschia tone. Wanting to see if I could push it to a different red I added cream of tarter to one of the skeins and it went towards a deeper rose. Now this is impressive for just 7 grams of color. I don’t particularly like pastels so next time I’ll try more fresh cochineal and try a light iron dip to push it darker. I can always muddy these skeins with iron also. Stay tuned! Ah! And the alpaca/wool mix held up well to a dye pot. Live is Good!