Tag Archive: cochineal

Once and For Always. . . .

I just rediscovered my spinning wheels. *insert big mushy heart and ecstatic arm waving here* It’s been so long since I’ve spun just for “pleasure” or on a spur of the moment thing. After working on some silk laceweight, I have Bing Crosby in my head singing, “Once and for always, let’s say that it’s agreed. . .” He sings it to his lady love in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and it pretty much sums up my feelings toward the wheels at this point.

On the one wheel I have this gorgeous stuff. It’s the laceweight silk I promised my sister a year ago.

And on the other I have this. Cinnamon alpaca laceweight that will probably wind up in Filigree Willow Laceweights. (Sorry about the nasty photo. I have concluded that TV rooms are out to sabotage photography everywhere.)

Round Two

Hello, world! I still exist. :) Last month was absolutely nuts with traveling, housesitting, visitors, and a cold, so I’m just now getting my feet back under me. But before I went off to Colorado for a writers’ conference I got to do another indigo vat!

IndigoLite And if there’s anything scarier than doing a natural dyeing pot, it’s doing it for the second time. Because things can go differently. And this second pot of indigo decided to change whatever could be changed. The indigo didn’t dissolve as nicely, the bloom took longer in forming, and the actual vat decided to get oxygen in it a couple times. I tell you. It was crazy.

Well, it still behaved fairly well. Although it seemed a lot stronger than I’d planned. I wound up with a nice medium chunk of fleece.

Wool Gathering

Believe it or not, I haven’t fallen into a fiber-induced coma and vanished off the face of the earth. I’m still here trying to make time for spinning and fiber in a rapidly filling schedule. (While juggling a change of work, vacation plans, writing, and getting ready for a friend to come visit.)

Every single scrap of Iowa fleece I have left (except for one chunk that had lots of VM) has been pre-soaked twice. All of it. Excuse me while I go collapse.

I spent I don’t know how long outside in the backyard hauling pots of water, wrestling fleece, spinning out the excess water, and shooing away any curious insects. It wiped me out. I have this feeling that the neighbors think I’m some sort of odd person — constantly lugging pots out there, whirling around spraying water in every direction — yeah. Well, if they want some wool they can have it. I just want to get it all washed by the second of August.

Why the reason for this sudden haste? A certain special friend is coming to visit next month, and she’s bringing a toy with her. Something very beneficial for those who have lots of fiber to process. Any guesses?

Hobo Toes

Look! Look at that. I almost have the entire foot covered in stripy material. Whoo-hoo!


I took it along to work, and the best part was a small friend’s conversation with me while babysitting.

Sam: “Why does that have so many needles?”
Me: “That’s just the way they need to be to help me knit this sock.”
Sam: “Whoa, that’s a sock?”
Me: “Yes. Wait just a minute
(the row needed to be finished) and I’ll show you.”
*time lapse while row is finished and sock wriggled on*
Sam: “Whoaaaaa, that’s cool. If I’d known you made socks I’d have had a pair by now.”

(I don’t know what he was implying by that statement. Just because I made that red scarf for him earlier.)

Anyway, it’s currently giving a great impression of a hobo’s sock, and if I can just figure out where the pattern went I can finish it up and knit the second one. It’s been long enough since I started the first one that I’m not worried about the second being the same old same old. Definitely a bonus.

Indigo Dyed Yarn

Prepare to feast your eyes on the myriad of blue shades I got out of the indigo pot. Gorgeous!

DSC01816 This is the skein of heavy worsted I spun on the drop spindle. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, which is unfortunate because I love the color. I dunked it in the dye only once, so it’s relatively light in color and actually has a little variegation going on.

So far the indigo doesn’t appear to be crocking. Hooray hooray. Dye leaks are something that occurred with dismal regularity during the cochineal dyeing. Which reminds me, yet another reason to like indigo dyeing is that it doesn’t smell bad like cochineal. It does have a strongish smell, but nothing like dead beetles with vinegar in them. (How’s that for ruining your yarn appetite? )

DSC01818 Here is another skein that I dunked three or four times. I think three. It’s one of the three Iowa fleece skeins I spun on the Walking Wheel.

Fleeced Out

The week of fleece washing didn’t accomplish as much as I was hoping, but I did get a pretty sizeable pile of fleece washed. And while there is still a whole garbage bag full of dirty fleece, I think this will keep me busy for a while.


I actually got a pretty fair amount of this carded, but the carded got used in another project before I took any pictures of it and is now hanging out to dry. I did decide to break out of my usual “rolag” carding method and turn the carded fluff into these nice little balls of homemade roving. Not quite as smooth and buttery as store bought, but it’s fun to use and spins nicely.


The pink and purple are from cochineal dyed fleece. Yes, I still have that fleece laying around. Two nice chunks of it.

Cochineal: The Finale

It had to end sometime. It eventually became a question of what would exhaust first. The dye pot or me. But, after a long day of dyeing, I had this lovely assortment of reds. (Plus the two batches of fleece.) All from two ounces of cochineal, some alum, cream of tartar, and vinegar.

The Final Assortment

The Final Assortment

I’d say it was almost worth all the effort.

Cochineal: Part 3

I tell you, this pot of dye was like the Energizer Bunny! It just kept going and going and going!

The first batch of wool came out a sort of mauve color. And the bag seemed to have worked!

Darker Fleece

Darker Fleece

Then I popped in a second batch to see if I could get a lighter shade for two-tone purposes.

Cochineal: Part 2

The Continuing Saga.

Everything was going well. The yarn was in, it had already turned pinkish, then I decided to give it a gentle stir to make sure it was getting evenly soaked. Up comes a section of yarn mingled with beetle parts! There was nothing for it but to keep going and plan on rinsing and picking them out later. Ugh. But, on a brighter note, after a good forty minutes of simmering—possibly an hour, I don’t remember exactly—look what came out of the pot!

Red Red Red

Red Red Red

A little pinker than I’d imagined, but still pretty. It’s hard to keep in mind that this is only the first step. I still have to crochet the sweater! And, interestingly, the color isn’t quite even. I must have not mordanted it properly, or maybe some beetles got stuck in it.

Cochineal: Part 1

I was all set to wake up early, crush the beetles, put them to soak, drain the mordanted fiber, rinse it, and generally get things ready before breakfast. When I woke up about eight, the room was rather dark and there was the drip drip of rain outside.

Off to a rip-snorting start.

So, after some thought and trying to decide whether I really wanted to do this, I plunged ahead. (Now, you have to understand, I literally had a bad dream about doing this a couple nights ago, and a wonderful sinus infection to deal with.)

I started with the cochineal. You can either use them whole, grind them up, crush them slightly, or convert them into powder.