I've been interested in natural dying for quite sometime. It appeals to me the fact that you can go and gather dye materials from nature like mushrooms, tree bark, berries, flower heads, leaves.. food leftovers like onions skins, tea bags, black beans brine..oh and do you remember my beetles ? Also I tend to prefer hues and gentle coloring other than bright strong colors.
I had in my stash few hanks of this soft undyed loopy mohair so when my friend Mary, a keen natural dyer offered to teach how to dye in exchange for some advanced knitting techniques from me ,I gave a big Yes.
There are few methods to dye with cochineal beetles , Mary's method is first to soak the whole beetles in water to soften them . That makes it easy for their crimson juice to drift into the dye bath later on. The mordant for all our experiments was alum 8% (of wool weight) plus cream of tartar 7%, the white wools and fibers were soaked in that for about hour.
Mary brought her own dye stuff; chamomile flower heads which gave light yellow, and logwood bark which gave a beautiful dark purple.
After mordanting, the pots with the wool , dye and cold water were very slowly starting to warm up, it should take about half an hour to warm to gentle simmering. The Chamomile and logwood dyes stuck to the wool quickly but the beetles dye (9% in weight) was very slow to appear . Only after hour of simmering the dye started to come out nice and red but the shade was pink, not my favourite colour . We left it to soak for about 4-5 hours more and its become even more vivid shade of pink. When buying the cochineal beetles , I saw samples of colors achieved and it ranged from deep purple, crimson, red, pink and even orangy, I need to experiments with other type of mordants ..