Laccifer or Kerria Lacca or Lac is a parasitic scale bug that feeds on the sap of certain tropical trees and secretes a sticky resin. The resin-like secretion hardens when exposed to air; it forms a protective crust around the insect as it dines on its host plant. The twigs of are cut down from the tree in order to harvest the crust. This is called stick lac and consist of two components, the resin and the dye. Shellac is made from the resin, which is used in food, cosmetics, and clothing industries. The dye component is colorants extracted from the resin and is used for dyeing. India and Thailand are currently the largest producers and exporters of lac extract.
Lac is quite similar to the Cochineal scale bug that produces a dye colorants in shades of crimson, red to burgundy, violet and brown. These color variations are predicated and modified by appropriate choice of mordant used in the dye bath. Unlike cochineal, the price for lac dye is relatively affordable compared to the former. With all the characteristics about this wonderful bug, I was interested to find out the different colors it yields and if the color is colorfast.
In this post, I hand dyed these silk scarves using a Japanese technique, called Itajime shibori. Shibori is Japanese for shaped resist-dyeing using different cut shapes of circles, triangles, and squares. John cut me a set of L-shaped design from ABS plastic. I folded the fabric into a bundle and sandwiched between two plastic shapes; secured the bundle with C-clamps and placed the bundles into the lac and alum dye bath. I am happy with the results, and the photos below, document the process.
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