Oh my, the dye machine is winding up now. I am poised to go into fast and furious production. There will be a few breaks this summer as we have a couple three trips planned. Here is the final results of the Cutch dyeing on the left. I really like what I got. The lightest colors start out as a lovely light caramel and then they gradually darken into cinnamon, finally ending with a burnt sienna. This picture represents two batches. The first and darkest colors were obtained with the addition of hydrogen peroxide to the final simmer. The second batch was just straight forward Cutch, no additions. As mentioned previously, the soda ash rinse did not work for me. Yesterday I also dyed with Pomegranate. The colors don't move me but they are a nice neutral. I will have pictures of the Pomegranate tomorrow.
What I have been looking forward to getting to is the red dyes and I am starting with Cochineal bugs. I have read that the Cochineal bugs and the extract give different reds. I will be finding out! Yesterday was the first time I have done my own extraction and I am having way too much fun! To the left is a picture of the whole cochineal bugs in the coffee grinder. Cochineal has a long and fascinating history. It is too long to get into here but I will give you this tidbit; "It is said that 70,000 bugs, all female, are required to yield one pound of dry dye" (Wipplinger, Michelle. The Reds Collection. Earthues).
Here is what the bugs look like when they are pulverized. The bugs are dead and dried when you purchase them. They actually don't look much like insects. All of the dyes have an aroma. The aromas are natural smells unlike the chemical smell of chemical dyes. My favorite so far is the sweet woody smell of Pomegranate. Cochineal has an interesting odor. It reminds me of making Horehound candy. It is a kind of bitter, tangy, astringent smell with a note of sweetness, like a nectar.
I was able to make the dark DOS extraction last night. It needs to sit overnight after extracting the color. This morning I was able to dye the first batch. On the right is what it looked like when I first added the yarn. You will have to wait until Monday for the final results. I will say this much, the final color looks good enough to eat! In fact, Cochineal is a major red colorant in our food and cosmetics. We eat bugs!
The extraction process is pretty straight forward. You grind the bugs (amount depending on WOF and DOS)*, and boil them for 15 minutes, adding a bit of cream of tartar. You then strain the mixture and place the strained bug bits back into a fresh pot of water and repeat the process for a total of 3 times. The final time the bugs and water are all placed together to steep overnight. Then it is a matter of straining and proceeding with the dyeing. I have the extraction of light and medium DOS almost finished for tomorrow.
So, If you could get paid for "playing" what would it be?
I wouldn't mind making the same salary as the least NFL football player (or insert any male dominated professional sport) to do what I do. The true test is to ask if you would continue to do what you do if you won several million dollars, or would you do it for "free". I would have to say yes! -Renee