Wednesday, 25 March 2009


Next month (April) I am running a workshop for the Online Guild of spinners weavers and dyers - on the red dyes. I called my workshop Roots, Woods and Bugs because I'm going to cover dyeing with Brazilwood, Madder and Cochineal, with some Lac thrown in! Consequently I've had all my old text books out reading back over long forgotten things - I feel it's so important to go back and check out what you do as second nature in your own dyehouse, it may work for you because you've developed your own technique, but it's still important to go back to basics as it were.

I'm probably going to start with the bugs bit - well that's what I've been working on today! Sticklac as the basic dyestuff I've never tried to use, so I'm getting myself organised to start with that one - I have it in all it's forms, sticklac, shellac, lac powder and lac extract, reading all the different recipes has been really fascinating, on Friday I'll actually try and get some results!

The first thing I have to do with this lot is to grind it up in boiling water with a pestle and mortar - this will soften the resin (shellac) and allow the red colour to dissolve. I may well cheat and just use the lac powder I've got - it saves on all the grinding! No I won't really, if a jobs worth doing, it's worth doing properly!

It's interesting stuff isn't it - you can see the twigs that the bugs have settled on and then the gloup that they've covered themselves in for protection. It wasn't understood in the past whether the secretion came from the bugs or the tree - a sap like gloup that was given off because of the bugs biting into it. It would appear the secretion comes from the bugs after they have bitten into the tree and ingested the sap. Isn't nature amazing!

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