A Cochineal Dye Workshop

Rocio's scarves

a

aDid you know that you can get a beautiful natural dyed RED from bugs? Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) grows on cacti of the Opuntia family (prickly pear cactus) and is native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico.

triad

from left: Irene (me),  Rocio, Robin

a

a

a

Recently, Cotton Clouds sponsored a Cochineal Dye Workshop at Meridian Jacobs Farm with owner, Robin Lynde. Rocío Mena Guitterez (our gal from The Natural Dye Project: see her blogs) came from Mexico City to share her knowledge of the process of turning dead bugs into RED! aaa

a samples3

a

First we tried our hand at stamping fabric with varying concentrations of mordants and then immersing them in the cochineal dye bath.  Note that the background on these remain white because the fabric was not pre-mordanted prior to stamping and when immersed in the bath only the stamped areas took the dye. 

Greenhouse-Cochineal-Farm-Oaxaca-India

a

Cochineal is grown on farms in Oaxaca, Mexico. The males are separated from the females and discarded since it is only the females that give the red dye. (No one could figure out how they knew male from female!) aaa

a bugs 2

a

Lots of tiny Cochineal bugs are ready for us to grind up into a fine red powder. a

a

a

a

ground bugs2 Traditionally, a mortar and pestle is used to turn the dried cochineal bugs into a fine powder, but these modern-day gals resorted to their handy coffee grinder to do the trick in a flash! aaaa

a

a

a

boiling bugs Once the water is hot, the fine powder goes into the pot along with a few natural chemicals and is simmered for about an hour.  Although we were all anxious to get our cotton and silk scarves into the dye bath, we took a lunch break and patiently waited for the magic to begin!

a

a

a

liquid cochineal

Ah, pure gold, but this time it’s pure RED!    The bath is strained, removing any residue cochineal powder. We goofed, and dropped the strainer and cloth and had to start all over again, but the results was well worth the extra labor!

a

a

a

a

dyed fabric

Now the fun of dyeing our pre-mordanted silk and cotton scarves, that Rocio provided, is about to begin!  We were so anxious to see the results that we started to pull the fabric out of the dyepot, but Rocío kept warning, “No, no, no!  You have to wait!”

a

a

Now the fun of dyeing our pre-mordanted silk and cotton scarves, that Rocio provided, is about to begin! Into the dyepot goes our stamp-designed cotton scarves. We were so anxious to see the results that we kept lifting them out of the pot.  “No, no, no!” said Rocio, “leave them in the pot!” a a aa a

At the end of the day, we were all very happy cochineal dyers!        Thanks Rocío!

happy dyers

a

friendship-towel-photo-from-hw

Friendship Towel with Tintes Naturales Kit

If you don’t have time to dye your own cochineal yarns, order our Friendship Towel with Tintes Naturales kit to make towels, vests, jackets, baby blanket and more!  The cotton yarns are dyed with cochineal, osage orange, madder and indigo!

Advertisements

My New Adventure in Guatemala!!!

June 11th, 2014

Come Along with Me

I would like to invite you to come along with me on my new adventure in Guatemala…!!!

IMG_4763

My name is Rocío Mena, and I will be spending the next two months in San Rafael, Guatemala, helping a community of Mayan women dye cotton yarn with natural dyes.

 

 

 My Love of Natural Dyes

Natural dyes are my passion! And for me, they represent magic on earth!

Seeing the process that transforms a plant into a dye color, observing the alchemy that takes place in an indigo vat or the way a cloth turns from green to blue when in contact with oxygen! Those are the things I enjoy the most.

“Alchemy is a rainbow which bridges the gulf between the earthly and the heavenly realms,between matter and spirit. Like the rainbow, it seems close enough to grasp, but it will retreat if you pursue it solely so that you may find a pot of gold…”                       – Stanislas Klossowski de Rola –

Image

Oxygenating indigo leaves to make the pigment

Image

Organic Indigo vat (banana)

Image

Eco-dye

Image

cochineal: different colors, different mordants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

Silk scarve dyed with: weld+indigo+myrobolan/iron stamp

A Dream Come True!

But let me tell you a little bit more about myself and how I ended up doing this…

I’m originally from Mexico City, where I studied fashion design, and then I continued a Master’s degree in Lyon, France. I was studying in Lyon for a year and a half, and then instead of doing an internship in a Fashion Brand in Paris, I decided to go south.I went to a very small, charming town called Lauris, located between Avignon and Aix-en- Provence.

I stayed there for almost 6 months! Learning about Natural Dyes at a Natural Dye Organization called Couleur Garance

Being there was a dream come true!!

Image

Castle and gardens situated in Lauris

Image

Sunflowers

I learned a lot about natural dyes, and I had the chance to meet and learn from Michel García, a natural dye expert, recognized worldwide.

Michel Garcia has released 3 DVD’s, you can find them at Natural Dye workshop. The newest one is “Colors of Provence”.

DSC03023Image

Lauris association and boutique

I was supposed to do a fashion internship! But it was amazing how I ended up involved with chemistry and botanic. I was in contact with the dye plants in the botanical garden, and I could really see the process that goes from the plant to the color in the cloth. That was very important for me, because it made me realize that sometimes we don’t know where things come from, or how they are made.

Living and growing in the city keeps us away from the essence of things.

Image

Lauris, France

There are some interesting videos , one is called “La route du Pastel” and the other  Michel Garcia talking about the gardens in Lauris  (these two videos are in French but well worth watching!).

Image

My view of Lauris, France

The Natural Dye Project

A year later, I met Catharine Ellis and Annalisa Jensen, back in the Natural Dye Symposium in Lauris. They told me about a Natural Dye Project in Guatemala, and that they needed someone who could speak Spanish and work with the women involved, to help get consistant natural dye colors dyebath after dyebath so that these yarns could be sold to weavers in the United States.

I was very interested in it, and after talking to Catharine only about five minutes. I ended up joining them in Guatemala last March 2014. It’s amazing how we meet people, and how the universe sends us opportunities where we couldn’t ever imagine they would be!

More to come!

Coming next….My initial visit to Guatemala and what I learned.

Please be sure to register to receive my blogs so you won’t miss out on any of my new adventures in Guatemala with The Natural Dye Project.

Rocío Mena