Just a moment of thankfulness…that I am neurotic about marking my skeins with knots and making notes so I know which skein was submitted to what process. I also prep labels with the date mordanted and knots represented by dots so I may look at the label after the dye pot frenzy is done and add the dye process. I usually have a plan written down so I don’t vear off in another direction while at the dye pot.
In November, between the holidays, I processed the last of my fresh indigo in a fructose and a traditional thio pot AND used my fresh cochineal AND tried to salvage my Hopi seeds AND mordanted some silk skeins. Skein craziness arises as one rinses and dries the skeins. Wet skeins all look alike. Trust me, once you are done with the dye process you are happy to wash the pots, clean up the dye area for the winter season, rinse the skeins and walk away and let them dry.
It is March now…I am returning to the skeins and matching labels, pot notes and skeins. Yikes, confusion reigns until you match the dots on the labels to the skein knots and dye pot notes. How did I get this color?
Success!! Now I need to reel some of this off and weave! I worked on understanding lampas this Jan/Feb on my playcation with weaving friends so I do have focus and a goal.
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!
Harley & I are making the unscientific observation that when the Lindheiemer Senna go to seed, the acorns start dropping and the cactus tunas fade, the cochineal white webs start to appear on the cactus pads. Let the cochineal scraping commence!
When you are walking a tripod cat one has plenty of time to scrape cochineal off the cactus. I collected about 4 grams the first pass. We’ll get a couple more days of scraping and then see how much red I can pull. The question of the day is it an oxymoron to wish one had their computer glasses when scraping cochineal? The real question is how to filter the white webbing out of the dye bath.