Thursday, October 30, 2014

- Time lapse: Watching cochineal develop

I tried something different today: sequentially adding pictures of my cochineal dye experiment to document progress in (sorta) real time. This final top photo is where I ended up ... which will be all for today. Tomorrow, after all the cloth has thoroughly dried, I will wash it and post the results. In truth, the colors are very pastel, and I do have some thoughts about that ... but I'm very pleased with this first attempt at homegrown cochineal dyeing.

One final pass
Second dye trial with "tired" cochineal tea and freshly mordanted cloth (alum + tap water)

2 hours after immersion
Top half: #1 Alum (unrinsed)
Bottom half: #2 Alum + cream of tartar (unrinsed)
Note original scraps of cloth on the mid-left edge of picture

2 hours after immersion
Top half: #3 Alum + lemon juice
Bottom half: #4 Alum + steel wire and rusty nails
Note original scraps of cloth on the mid-left edge of picture

1 hour after immersion
Note addition of new cloth to the right mordanted in alum and tap water

30 minutes after immersion
with recent addition of rusty nails to #4

5 minutes after immersion
#1 Alum only

#2 Alum + cream of tartar
#3 Alum + lemon juice
#4 Alum + steel wire
Original piece of yellow linen used to collect cochineal beetles (unmordanted)

Recap of how it was all put together:

I removed the alum mordanted cloth (still wet) from the canning jars and staged it in bowls. Then I mixed up three additives:  1 tsp. cream of tartar in distilled water, 1/2 lemon freshly squeezed, and steel wire in distilled water. I also cadged a metal sink strainer from the kitchen ...

After heating up the cochineal tea (which had an indescribable, but not unpleasant aroma), I strained it into each jar ...

then added the cloth and mixed in each additive (leaving the first jar unadulterated as a control) ...

5 minutes after immersion
#1 Alum only

#2 Alum + cream of tartar
#3 Alum + lemon juice
#4 Alum + steel wire
Original piece of yellow linen used to collect cochineal beetles (unmordanted)

Color happened immediately, but the steel wire jar didn't seem to be doing much, so I looked around Don's work area for some rustier stuff ...

Grody metal thing found on our road trip ... too big

Assorted Junkology bits, tempting, but ...

That's it ... in the upper right hand corner ... tiny rusted nails!!

Success! Now I'm going to do some housework to keep me occupied so I stop messing with things. Whenever I get the urge, I'll post the most recent result at the top of this post.


grace Forrest~Maestas said...

love the grody thing
this is so Great....watching it go along...and really, you are getting great results for
cotton or linen. I always love what dye does to silk and wool, but alas, i am just
a cotton person so i really really appreciate watching your work...
and what a great collection of metal stuff....

Liz Ackert said...

Hope you noticed the wonky fish in the last photo ... I've been bad about including Don's stuff in my posts lately. Will have to remedy that soon (he has a piece in progress that I'm really excited about ... but as usual, he has gotten ahead of me so I don't have "before" pix)

Marti said...

This is just so great because coming here is like entering a chamber of alchemy and science...cloth dyeing is magic but also grounded in factual observations via notes and boy do you take notes Liz! The colors that you are getting are terrific. One thing that always adds interest is to take a few strands of steel wool and either place in a bundle or add to the liquid; you get those dark mysterious shadings that add drama and delight. (I've sent you an email to show you a few examples.)

Mo Crow said...

I love Don's fish & the Grody thing and look forward to seeing the magic out of the well water

Liz Ackert said...

Well, the notes are selfish ... I'd never remember all this stuff otherwise. And the blog is such a safe place to put them, with pictures to boot.
The photo samples you emailed of the steel wool dyeing are an inspiration ... I am well and truly hooked on dyeing!

Liz Ackert said...

Well, the preliminary results are in ... the unrinsed cloth is very pastel, which may be due to a number of factors:
- Not drying the pre-mordanted cloth
- Using cotton and linen (wool and silk would certainly have picked up more dye)
- The amount of cochineal dye used to begin with
- Or all of the above

I'll let it dry, give it all a rinse and see what happens next ...

beth from still life pond said...

Oh! Interesting. I'd always assumed cochineal had to come from So. America or someplace… Not scraped off cactus in Texas!

Saskia van Herwaarden said...

you mention drying the pre-mordanted cloth, I do believe that dry does influence the result (as I have discovered with soy pre-mordant in black bean dye, dry became blue-grey and wet purple, and of course washing with water and soap brought the definite colours)

silk and wool dye easier than plant based fabrics, as my chemistry friend explained to me the molecular strings of animal fibres have more 'hooks' the hooks are where the dye adheres (in chemistry speak: plusses attract minuses and vice versa)
the pre-mordanting for plant fibre fabrics makes for more 'hooks' in the fabric, I hope my translation makes sense to you, it has helped me a lot

do you rinse with water only, or do you wash with soap and water?
in many of my dye experiments I have to wash really well as the stench in too much - and the soap can change colours dramatically!

Liz Ackert said...

I read that pre-mordanted cloth could be used wet or dry ... but now that both you and Marti have weighed in on the side of drying the pre-mordanted cloth I'll definitely be trying that next time.
I did put soap in with the cochineal cloths ... there was a lot of particulate matter (read: bits of bugs) so I wanted to be sure that got rinsed out.
So ... the washer just beeped and at first glance it looks like most of the color washed away. But I can always re-mordant and re-dye. The important lesson learned was the wonderful range of colors that can be achieved.

Liz Ackert said...

I thought so too ... but when we moved to our home in San Marcos, I noticed the white webs on the prickly pears and wondered if they could be cochineal. A careful poke yielded a dark crimson smear that confirmed my suspicion ... and the blog Natural Dyeing in the Texas Hill Country provided the incentive to give cochineal harvesting a try.