Cochineal (4 gram) on silk (93 gram)

15 Dec

Earlier this fall I collected cochineal as soon as it appeared in October. Last year I collected it after a couple of freezes. The big question, is there a color difference before or after a freeze. How motivated do I need to be to collect before a freeze?

Here is last year’s cochineal on wool/alpaca, the one on the left had cream of tarter (acid) added to push the color:

Here is this year on silk before washing, no cream of tarter:


I have to say I am not a fan of this bright fuchsia, but an indigo dip or an iron bath will sadden it for my eye. Part of this silk is also destined for a Texas madder root over dye. Here it is after rinsing and drying, color toned done some.   Can you believe only 4 grams of fresh cochineal gave this depth of color on 93 grams of silk?


Some folks have asked me if I collect all at once, nope! I collect a little at a time until I have about half a pudding cup. I keep that cup secured in a jar on my dye patio to protect it from bug hungry marauding raccoons and wrens.


The entire harvest goes into a slow simmer and is strained and processed at least 3 times thru my coffee filter. You can see how it gradually sinks as the web gives up the bug color.

I will say if one decides to collect your own cochineal, take your time, listen to the cactus wrens and watch out for the snakes!





4 Responses to “Cochineal (4 gram) on silk (93 gram)”

  1. shiborigirl December 21, 2014 at 4:12 am #

    a great accomplishment, lots of time, and beauty start to finish.


  2. jschubertdesigns December 21, 2014 at 4:14 am #

    You’ve inspired me to collect my own cochineal! I’ve only ever used Mexican or Peruvian….. but it grows here too, in limited quantities (the kids and I used it as ‘war paint’ when they were little 🙂 )


  3. rsmalbin December 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Deb, This is a wonderful presentation of a colorful study. I need to look for bugs!


  4. Christina Palafox October 28, 2018 at 1:32 am #

    Thanks, Deb. Beautiful colors!



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