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.

The shades of coreopsis

We have some tickseed coreopsis hybrid, the non-tinctoria variety, and so I had a chance to continue my coreopsis experiments from last year. I used some semi-fresh mainly wilted flowers and cooked them up in a usual way, then added alum. It gives colors that are very similar to the fresh flower of the tinctoria variety which I grew and then cooked up last summer. The shades are different from the coreopsis dye extract. While the extract gives what I would call a true gold, the dye from fresh flowers gives at the beginning a proper dark orange, almost pumpkin, and after a short time wears out and begins to give a pastel orange, a bit cold, towards coral.

In the photo left to right: coreopsis extract, then first egg from coreopsis fresh flowers, then third or maybe fourth egg in the day from fresh flowers that’s a few days old.

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…

Saskatoon berries (Amelanchier alnifolia)

Berries are special, tricky but special. I didn’t even know this berry existed before I moved to Regina, but it was very much used by the natives here (it was supposedly one of the ingredients of pemmican). It looks a bit like a large blueberry, though it is supposedly more closely related to apple, it tastes a bit more like black currant maybe, and once you cook it, it smells beautifully of cooked sour cherries. And it dyes. This was made from cooked frozen Saskatoon berries with alum.

Shades of blue are just the Saskatoon berry dye, and other shades are over-dyed with other colors. The dye is rather strong and tends to overpower the colors under it, but if you put it into red or yellow after the blue, shades and even different colours can be achieved. The purple egg is sappan wood over sask berries, the green ones are coreopsis and elderflower over sask. The yellow on the light-blue egg in the bottom is elderflower, then the egg was etched with vinegar back to white, and the light blue is a quick dip (maybe 5 min.) of a white egg into sask berry dye.

The question is, how long will the color last? Berry dyes tend to be not very lightfast, so I’ll need to do some experiments and wait and see what happens.