Cochineal from Canary Islands

13,00 75,00  (included IVA)

Dyeing with canary cochineal (Natural dye magenta):

MORDANT: It is not mandatory, but you will get brighter oranges.

QUANTITY: 3-10% of the weight of the fibers depending on the intensity you wish to achieve.


If you add:

  • 25% weight of the fiber in cream of tartar to the dye bath, the color will be redder.
  • 100% weight of the fiber in citric acid to the dye bath, the color will be more orange.
  • 25% weight of the fiber in alum to the dye bath, the color will be more purple.


Crush with a mortar and add to the water. Boil for 1 hour and let cool. Once you have the dye bath prepared, you can dye the fibers once the water has been filtered or you can leave the cochineal powder to obtain a more intense color. Then introduce the fibers, boil for 60′ at low heat, turn off and leave the fibers in the dye bath for 24 hours. so that the dye penetrates more, and of course, if the water remains after removing the fibers somewhat colored, take advantage of this dye bath to dye a lighter and lighter color.

Note: you can do cold dyeing if you do not boil the dye bath when you introduce the fibers, you will only have to leave the fibers in the dye bath longer.

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Natural dye magenta

What is Cochineal?

It is an insect of great economic importance from which the natural colorant is extracted, composed of two famous substances, carmine and carminic acid. The cochineal, as it is known in the Canary Islands, is a parasite of plants such as the tunera and comes from America. The Canary Archipelago is one of the most important cochineal production sites in the world.

“Once there was a color so valuable that emperors, kings, cardinals and conquerors coveted. Artists went crazy for him. Pirates plundered ships to steal it. Scientists competed with each other to investigate its mysteries. Desperate men even risked their lives
lives to obtain it. This highly prized product; a small dried insect that produces red
perfect is the grana cochineal.” – Amy Butler Greenfield.

Other options to obtain magenta color and its derivatives for dyeing fibers are: hibiscus flower, avocado, cherry, currant, bloodroot, blackberry, birch, blueberry, mallow, beet,…

History and interesting facts about cochineal

The cochineal is a scaly insect that has been widely used as a source of natural dye for centuries. This small insect has left a significant mark in the history of natural dyeing, especially in America and Europe. Through a process of extraction and careful preparation, cochineal produces an intense red dye known as “carmine” or “cochineal red”, which has been prized for its beauty and durability.

The cochineal is commonly found in hot, dry regions of Mexico, Central and South America. In Spain it can be found in quantity in the Canary Islands. It has been cultivated and collected by indigenous people for thousands of years to obtain the valuable dye. Adult female mealybugs, called “nymphs”, feed on the sap of certain plants, mainly of the cactus family. These nymphs contain a chemical compound called “carminic acid”, which is responsible for their dyeing ability.

The process of obtaining cochineal dye begins with the collection of the insects. The nymphs are extracted from the plants and dried in the sun or by an artificial drying process. Once dried, the nymphs are ground to a fine powder, which is pure carmine. This powder can be used directly or can undergo an extraction process to obtain the liquid dye.

The carmine obtained from cochineal is prized for its high quality and its ability to dye fibers durably. It has been traditionally used in the dyeing of textiles, such as wool, silk and cotton, as well as in the cosmetics and food industries.

In addition to its value as a dye, cochineal has also been the subject of scientific interest due to its chemical properties. The carminic acid present in cochineal has been investigated for its potential as an antioxidant and its possible application in the pharmaceutical industry.

However, despite its historical importance and unique qualities, cochineal production has faced challenges over the years. The discovery and production of synthetic dyes in the 19th century reduced the demand for natural dyes, including cochineal carmine. In addition, cochineal breeding and harvesting is a laborious process and requires specialized care.

Despite these challenges, interest in natural dyes has experienced a resurgence in recent decades, and cochineal has regained recognition and value. Natural dyes are valued for their sustainability and connection to history and culture. Cochineal, with its intensity and beauty in red color, continues to be an attractive option for artisans and designers looking for natural and authentic alternatives in their projects.

In conclusion, the cochineal is a scaly insect that has been used for centuries as a source of natural dye. Its ability to produce an intense and long-lasting red dye has left a significant mark on the history of dyeing. Despite the challenges and changes in the industry, interest in natural dyes and cochineal in particular has resurfaced in recent years, highlighting its value as a sustainable and culturally rich option in the dyeing world.

What colors can be obtained from cochineal?

Cochineal dye is known to produce a wide range of colors, although the most prominent and recognizable is deep red. However, it is possible to obtain a variety of additional shades and colors such as:

  1. Intense red: The vibrant red color is the characteristic shade obtained directly from the cochineal. It is a deep, bright red that has been appreciated throughout history in various cultures.
  2. Light pink: By reducing the amount of cochineal used in the dyeing or by diluting the resulting dye, it is possible to obtain light and soft pink tones. These shades are usually more delicate and subtle than deep red.
  3. Purple: By mixing cochineal dye with other natural dyes, such as indigo or indigo, purple shades can be obtained. Depending on the proportion and mixing process, darker or lighter purples can be achieved. Also by modifying the ph of the dye bath.
  4. Orange: By combining cochineal dye with other natural dyes, such as saffron or turmeric, orange, rather coral, shades can be obtained. These colors can range from bright orange to softer, warmer tones.
  5. Brown: By modifying the dyeing process, such as adding a mordant or using different concentrations of cochineal, it is possible to obtain shades of brown. These browns can range from lighter, warmer tones to darker, deeper shades.

It should be noted that dyeing results may vary according to several factors, such as the quality and origin of the cochineal, the type of fiber used, the dyeing process, the pH of the water (explained below) and the handling of the mordants. In addition, the dyer’s skill and experience can also influence the final color result. Therefore, it is important to test and experiment to obtain the desired colors when dyeing with cochineal.

Dyeing with cochineal, how does it affect the PH?

The pH plays a crucial role in the cochineal dyeing process, as it directly affects the resulting color. The change in pH can influence the solubility of the carminic acid present in the cochineal, thus altering the shade of the dye. Some of the ways in which pH can affect cochineal dye are explained below:

  1. Acidic pH: In an acidic environment, i.e. with a low pH, the cochineal dye tends to become redder and brighter. This is because carminic acid is more soluble in an acidic medium, which allows a better extraction of the intense red dye.
  2. Neutral pH: In a neutral pH medium, the cochineal dye retains its characteristic deep red color. A neutral pH does not significantly alter the color of the dye, making it a common starting point for many dyes.
  3. Alkaline pH: As the pH becomes more alkaline, i.e. with a higher value, the cochineal dye tends to become more violet or even shift towards shades of purple. This is because carminic acid becomes less soluble in an alkaline medium, which affects the shade of the dye.

It is important to note that the pH change must be made in a controlled and gradual manner, since an abrupt or extreme change can affect the quality of the dye or even cause it to degrade. Therefore, it is advisable to adjust the pH gradually and perform small-scale tests to evaluate the results before proceeding with the complete dyeing of a project.

In addition, it is necessary to take into account that the pH can also interact with other factors in the dye bath, such as the mordants used. Some mordants work better in certain pH ranges, so it is important to consider and take into account the interaction between pH, mordants and the dyeing matter, in this case, cochineal, to obtain the desired results.



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