Yesterday my friend Linda and I did some natural dying with cochineal and indigo. She had purchased a kit with several kinds of natural dye stuffs and instructions. We decided on cochineal and indigo so we could get fuchsia, blue and purple. cochineal is easy enough to prepare you boil it strain it and then reboil what’s left and strain 4 times to get you dye solution. It was a lovely deep pink. you have to mordant your things to use cochineal. For cotton you have to first soaking in tannin and in then in alum. For wool you just use alum.
Here are a couple of the pieces after they came out of the cochineal
The indigo is a little more involved to get ready and it stinks. first you make up a concentrate using the powder and chemicals. Indigo is used in an alkaline solution. You stir it together and then have to let the purple solution turn yellow/green.
Then you have to carefully, under the alkaline water in your bucket, pour the solution in. You do not want to add any oxygen to the dye bath. Then you have to wait another 1/2 hour or so for it all to goes completely yellow again.
When you add your wet articles to dye you have to carefully lower them into the bucket so as not to add any oxygen to the solution.
The pieces that were in the cochineal where a disappointment. when we added them to the indigo all the red disappeared and only the blue took. We discovered after doing some research that we were supposed to used the mordent for 24 hours. That would be 2 days of soaking for cotton and one for wool before you can start to dye. a couple of the cotton gauze pieces did keep a little pink
and these twice. The very dark ones are a natural dark gray Norwegian wool.
The other thing I tried was my hair it has gotten long enough that it is becoming hard to handle so I am going to get it trimmed soon. So I thought why not have some fun with it first. I stuck it in the cochineal and then in the indigo.
Unfortunately the cochineal washed right out in the indigo and the indigo did not take at all. In the end Linda had some stuff called panic manic that she used to give me the purple I was looking for.
This was a fun day but I think I will go back to my acid and fiber reactive dyes, so much simpler to use and predictable results. If anyone knows why the indigo didn’t work on my hair I would like to know. I though with hair being a protein fiber it should work.