Dyeing With Cochineal

Cochineal are insects, they live on cacti. And yes, that’s my fingers…

A few weeks after we discovered the cochineal in her mother’s back garden Pilar and I spent a long, lovely Saturday dyeing yarn on her rooftoop terrace in Gran Canaria.

  • Soak the hanks of yarn (silk, merino wool, baby alpaca) in water and mordant
  • Prepare the dye
  • Add the wet yarn to the dye, heat and simmer
  • Drink coffee and chat
  • After cooling, rinse the yarn
  • Dry the yarn

Was it really that easy? Yes, almost, but you might want to read some more comprehensive description of the process:
Dyeing with Cochineal, Knitty.com
Dyeing with Cochineal, The Knitting Genie

After removing some of the hanks we added lemon juice to dye pot, this made a small but significant difference in hue. This is the lemon-enhanced yarn:


3 thoughts on “Dyeing With Cochineal

  1. Hi, The colours are beautiful! We also have actual plants with cochineal on them – the other instructions refer to buying dried cochineal, but it seams that you used it fresh from the plants. How did you go about extracting the dye from the cactus pads? How many pads covered in cochineal did you use? And did you use alum for the mordant? Thanks so much for this inspiring post!

  2. Hi Lizelle, thanks.
    Yes, we used alum as mordant.
    We didn’t use the actual cactus plants, only collected the cochineal (you can scrape them off). They went into a little net bag before we added them to the dyeing pot.

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