Pretty in Cochineal

One of our favorite natural dyes to work with is cochineal. Maybe you’ve heard (because we can’t stop talking about the wonders of this dye) 😆 but do you REALLY know the dye responsible for the gorgeous hot pink?

From vibrant to soft pink, we love the hues produced by cochineal, called “cochinilla” in Spanish. It is the only natural dye we use that is NOT derived from a plant.

Believe it or not — it comes from the tiny little insects, seen below in white, growing on hanging cactus paddles.

We’ve been importing our cochineal in dried form from Mexico for years, but this image was taken at Lake Atitlán at a new cochineal-growing project. After some trial and error experimentation (because every cochineal population is a little different), we’re so pleased to be using the locally-grown cochinilla for some of our favorite hues!

So… the color comes from bugs?

Yes, it does! Does that creep you out a little bit? If so, you might be even more surprised to hear that the insect-derived dye is FDA-approved for food use, and is commonly used in items that look more appetizing with a little blush, like strawberry yogurt. It’s also a common ingredient in cosmetics.

It’s not vegan, but many traditional art forms that we consider sustainable are not. Like the use of wool fibers – wool is regarded as a sustainable fiber as it is biodegradable and when practiced well, keeping sheep can even lead to carbon-negative farming practices with improved soil enrichment. Wool is not vegan because it’s derived from an animal source, but it can be very sustainable.

What do you use this dye for?

Pretty much everything we make, we offer in a cochineal variant. We started with cotton fibers but have also since been exploring dyeing wool. Cochineal is one of the most colorfast dyes we work with, so we love incorporating the hues achieved. Take a look for yourself:

Want to learn more about this natural dye?

Join us for a hands-on experimental Textile Travel this year! A visit to the cochineal farm as well as dyeing with the natural dye are included in our From Fiber to Fabric itinerary from November 20th-27th.

Another exciting trip this year:

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