Cochineal – Grana de Cochinilla – Carmin

Red has been a valued colour in so many cultures. It carries importance since it has been used to symbolize power and gave status only to those that could afford to wear it. Since ancient times it has always been some sort of a quest to find a natural source that yields such colour. Ochers, Iron Oxides and Cinnabar were some of the pigments used to get reds, but technically they are not considered dyes since they don’t chemically bond to the textile. Generally speaking, dyes comes from an organic source, like plants and insects and only a handful of them yield a deep red colour. Madder, Shellfish Purple, Lac and Kermes are some of the examples of those natural dyes used and traded throughout ancient history. In Mexico a scale insect called nocheztli (tuna’s blood) that fed from a cactus, was cultivated in order to get a red dye. Eventually the name was changed to Cochinilla and entire families and countries built businesses and fortunes around it. Their sources and recipes were seriously considered trade secrets and those who gave away valuable information were severely punished with the risk of losing their lives if those secrets were revealed.

“The finest and best dye drug in the world.” – Amy Butler

Collecting Cochineal

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Cochineal Teabags

Cochineal Teabags

Undyed Wool Scarves

 

Wool Scarves

Wool Scarves

Great books to read:

Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield

 

Patricia

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8 thoughts on “Cochineal – Grana de Cochinilla – Carmin

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