Some of our weavers in Teotitlan del Valle still employee the natural dying process in their weavings. They use local plants and even some insects to create beautiful and vivid wool dyes. These methods have been handed down from generation to generation and have changed very little over the years. In this blog and others to follow we would like to share with you some of the interesting items some of our artisans use to create a rainbow of natural dyes.
This week I would like to feature Cochineal. Cochineal is a little heard of but widely used product for creating vivid red dyes. Cochineal based dyes can be found in everything from cosmetics to Ocean Spray Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice. And yes, believe it or not, this amazing dye material is an insect. They live on cacti plants in South America and their wonderful dyeing capabilities were even known to the Aztecs and Mayas.
The Cochineal produces carminic acid to deter predators and other insects. It is this acid that is responsible for the crimson colored dye the dried and crushed bodies of these insects produce. Cochineal is very expensive. The dried bugs can cost upwards of $34 per ounce. For this reason yarns died with cochineal are used in very special pieces.
The process of creating dyes from naturally occurring plants and yes, even insects, is a vanishing art form. We at Manos Zapotecas are proud to do what we can to keep this tradition alive and thriving.