Monday, August 8, 2011

Insects to dye for


 Bug collecting 101  

Cochineal was once a prized insect valued for its crimson color before chemical dyes were available. The color of the cochineal was found on the uniforms of the British soldiers during the revolutionary war and some historians believe Betsy Ross’s red on the first United States flag was the red of the cochineal. Cochineal was in the paints of Michelangelo's paintings. The Canadian Mounted police red coat was cochineals. So as I collect these little insects I realize that I am not merely collecting a insect but a piece of history.

 Cochineal Road
Last evening Maulie, Hubby and I went on our nature walk for the cochineal. It went better then I thought. As we walked by a neighbors house I watched as they're rooster frantically ran by us on the outside of the yard.Their horses stared at us as we walked by quietly munching they're dinner. I saw several ground squirrels running  in front of us I guess there is courage in numbers if your a squirrel. . We arrived at the prickly pear cactus and Hubby watched as I got out a knife and scraped the cochineal off the cactus like a pro. I may not be a Julia Child at cooking but I sure can collect bugs and cook them. I asked Hubby to scrape the cactus near the ground for me. The look he gave me was priceless! What a trooper how many men would go along with a wife searching for bugs?

I was busy scraping the cochineal at eye level happy to find that the bugs were coming off the cacti easily. In the future I would use a spoon since as you scrape the cochineal they tend to fall on the ground. They aren’t too bad a insect to collect and it was kind of fun. I had some gloves but they weren’t necessary. The cochineal looks like little bits of cottage cheese and you can’t even tell it’s a bug. I was trying to get about an ounce but this is all I could collect. You can only get as many that are available.

It takes a lot of insect bodies to get the true crimson color.So today I will squish and then it will take a day to get the wool to obsorb the color.

                                                   Maulie was happy to go on a walk.
Squish of the cochineal
A rolling pin works well to achieve the color.
                             more pics when the wool is dyed...........
                           from Cheri the cochineal killer.


Kim said...

I admit, I was scared to open this post. I was expecting to see yucky squishy bugs - the kind that gross me out when I accidentally step on a big juicy June bug. Ewww.
It's not that bad. Lol

Larkrise garden girl said...

Hi Kim, No they don't even seem like bugs. I swear it was like squishing cottage cheese. I would not even think they were bugs. I am off to get the distilled water.I never saw any bug movements. lol Cheri

...Miss...Maddie's... said...

Maulie has a perfect vantage point to watch what you're doing.
Can't wait to see the yarn.
I used walnut hulls for a dye project once... the colour was wonderful but it took at least a week to fade from my fingers!
Have a great week.
Susan x

Courtney said...

This is a totally fascinating post! I love that you use these natural things to dye wool. The rolling pin rolling over the bugs is kinda gross, but the color is so pretty! I like all the history you shared!
Can't wait to see the wool!

Larkrise garden girl said...

Hi Courtney, right now the cochineal pot was simmered for 20 minutes and then I put it outside to keep obsorbing the color overnight.I used a old sifter to keep bug bodies out of the wool.Cheri

Farm Girl said...

I just can't even begin to tell you how impressed I am at your abilities and then your know how. I would have never known what they were. I just can't wait to see what it looks like when you dye your fabric. It looks pretty under the rolling pin. Just think I had those things in my rosemary and I could have gathered them and I threw them away. I did touch them and they don't really feel like much.
You have a very sweet husband to do that too.
As my husband is always telling me as he us looking for tiny trees and seeds, " There is treasure every where if you just look."

Larkrise garden girl said...

Thank you for the nice comment Farm girl. You need alot more cochineal to make more of a red and also a different mordant but I am happy.It's fun when Hubbies put up with our crazy hobbies.LOl! Now I can make dinner, Cheri