Whole Cochineal – Whole dried cochineal is a scale insect that invades the nopal cactus and is about the size of a grain of Arborio rice with a silvery purple hue. The best cochineal is dark and full of carminic acid. We obtain only the finest grade cochineal on the market. Purchase includes instructions for extraction. You will also need a small amount of Cream of Tartar for the extraction process.
100 grams of cochineal bugs will dye about 900 grams (2 pounds) of fiber to a deep shade.
Extracting the Dye
- Measure the bugs and grind in a coffee or spice mill to a powder.
- Place the ground cochineal powder with 1/2 to 1 quart of non-mineralized (distilled) water in a non-reactive (stainless steel or enamel) saucepan and bring to a boil. Add cream of tartar as indicated in the table above and boil for 10-15 minutes.
- Using a cheesecloth and strainer, strain the colored dye solution into a non-reactive vessel like a 5-gallon bucket and reserve the bug pulp.
- Place the pulp in the saucepan with fresh water and repeat Step 2. Strain this second solution into the bucket.
- Repeat Step 2 until the bugs are no longer yielding much color (the dye solution will be light pink). Usually, this takes 3-4 extractions.
- The reserved bright red liquid is your dyebath. Pour the dyebath into a dye pot and proceed to dyeing. There is usually enough cream of tartar in your dye bath at this time to create a beautiful vibrant fuchsia. If you want a flag red shade, add a bit more cream of tartar to the dye bath. If you want a more purple shade, add dissolved iron to the dye bath.
We regret that we cannot ship insects internationally.