Logwood chips

I have tried logwood essence in the past and was not overly happy with it – it only gave black, was prone to “caking” (I think that’s what it can be called, when the dye accumulates on the surface of the egg but comes off easily whith the wax), sort of found a solution – placing the back egg into another dye (I think I used red Sappan wood), to seal the black of logwood more to the surface of the egg, and didn’t make it again even though I do still have some of the essence powder.

Then, me being the restless experimenter, I saw the logwood chips being sold in one of the online shops, and could not resist buying them and trying them out.

According to Cardon, logwood (Lat. Haematoxylum campechianum) was the Mayan black dye, the word for logwood tree and for the color black are the same in Mayan language. It was brought to Europe along with the other South- and Central American dyes, and at the beginning caused some confusion – the lilacs, blues and purples achieved with logwood were extremely desirable but not lightfast, so at some point there was even an attempt to outlaw the logwood dye. When the Europeans finally got over their fashion desires and started using logwood for the black, the ration of quality per price of it ended up being much better than other sources of black, including the later non-natural version. It kept being used long after the invention of the chemical dyes, the last shipment of logwood logs came to England around the beginning of the second world war, and the last of that was milled sometime in the 1960-s. Logwood essence was already in use for a while and was more economical to bring over. It is still used now in medical pathology, haematoxylin which is made from logwood is a common stain used in histology.

So, here are some of my first logwood chip result. I have soaked them in boiling water with some calcium, and the first batch of dye was this soaked water, the second one was the same chips simmered in new water again, giving a very similar if not the same result. The dye I got was a bit brown-looking, and was giving a sort of cream to meauve to purplish brown. With strong yellow it produced the mustardy-green, and with alum – dark almost black purple. Some of the instructions said, if it looks brown, then the acidity of it can be reduced to result in a more bluish color, so I did add some baking soda since I did not have the suggested ammonia, and indeed the changed the outcome towards greyish-blue with alum and black with iron. Similar results on turkey eggs.

I’ll try to get some ammonia and play more with it.

“Polish cochineal”

Making a note about a useful resource more than anything. This resource: https://craftatlas.co/natural-dyes/polish-cochineal gives some description of natural dyes, and while one could find more information on the “Polish cochineal” elsewhere, this one has an intriguing (though it’s hard to tell how accurate) color comparison of different natural dyes at the bottom of the page.

If it is indeed accurate, then one could claim that the shade of current Mexican cochineal is very close to the “Polish cochineal” traditionally harvested, sold and exported from Ukraine, unlike, for example, the “Armenian cochineal” – the closer relative of the Ukrainian bug, the shade of which is quite different.

Of course, even if this was an accurate reference point, it would still apply to fabrics and to the most generic/common recipes, since different shades and colors can be obtained from the same dyestuffs under different chemical conditions, and, of course, the colors sometimes work quite differently on eggs than on fabrics. Still, I thought this was interesting and wanted to save the reference.

Dried Cochineal (whole bugs)

About a month ago we went to a local art shop which is the home base of the amazing water-colour paints (https://stonegroundpaint.com), and as we got talking about colors, paints and dyes, the owner, Eric, brought out a container of dried cochineal and gave me some to take home. So yesterday I finally got to it and cooked up some dye with alum and cream or tartar (as suggested by some fabric dyeing recipes). The pink you see on these eggs is that cochineal dye.

The other coral-like reddish orange is coreopsis extract with alum on top of the fist cochineal. The brown is the same cochineal-coreopsis sequence finished with a dip in iron water.

I will have to play more with the next batches of the dye (I only used about a teaspoon of bugs, which I then ground not very finely), I will likely use more bugs next time (to make the color more concentrated), I’ll grind them better, and will start with no mordants, and add cautiously.

For the first experiment with the whole bugs, I think this is not bad. I have tried cochineal extract before but didn’t have a lot of it, so I used it in combination with madder.

The next few months I will be experimenting more with cochineal, both the whole bugs and the extract. My parents gave me for Christmas a gift certificate to the Maiwa online store, so I’ll order some cochineal from them.