“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.

Last two weeks

Made some more eggs, some were attempts to copy Lithuanian drop-pull eggs, while others were inspired by Lithuanian patterns. A number of dyes – two of coreopsis (extract and fresh), elderflower (dried), sappan wood, madder, saskatoon berries (frozen), I think that’s it though I might have forgotten something. Mainly with alum, one egg had sappan wood with iron on background.

And the season is over for now…

All of these colors were achieved with the combinations of saskatoon berries (blue), sappan wood (red, pink), buckthorn (yellow), buckthorn with iron (brown), gardenia (yellow/gold), coreopsis (gold), elderflower (yellow) (except emu where no dyes were used), plus the natural variations of eggshell color and vinegar for etching.

I’m becoming more comfortable with drop-pull technique, seeing more possibilities. While most of these eggs are trying to be strictly traditional as much as possible (mostly Ukrainian, some Lithuanian), a few patterns have just appeared out of nowhere, non-traditional (though not necessarily anti-traditional) which is nice. To write “my own” design is something that almost never happened to me in the other more common technique, so to have it happen in drop-pull after a relatively short time is rather surprising and even inspiring. 🙂

I’m getting ready to put away the dyes and tools for now, but there might be some more posts of close-up shots, and who knows when the next time will be…