Cashmere Dyed with Food Coloring

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Hey folks! I know it’s been a while. Just don’t seem to have enough hours in the day nowadays to blog as much as I’d like to, but I had to share this. I dyed my favorite cashmere sweater with food coloring.

The sweater had been getting kind of dingy, and although it’s machine washable (a-MAY-zing!) and had cleaned up well several times, eventually, the dinge was stuck and not coming out. I became embarrassed to wear it. And I looove this sweater. It’s Boden, was secondhand to me, and has held up beautifully, especially compared to other sweaters.

I knew food dyes could dye cashmere, having done it before on a smaller scale (see here , info on dyeing animal fibers here, and info on overdyeing here). I did some research on dyeing whole sweaters and found this post to be particularly helpful. I decided on a deep aqua and took the plunge, using (this color). I think I also added some Easter egg dye (pink?), but honestly, I can’t remember at this point.

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I am really happy with how it turned out. The color is really intense though a bit mottled in spots, but for me, that’s part of the charm. The one thing I wish I could change is the fact that the thread didn’t take the dye. This is really to be expected since sewing thread is usually some combo of cotton and polyester, fibers that don’t take dyes in the same way animal fibers do. All in all, though, I’m just glad my favorite sweater has a new life.

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In other news, I’ve been reading Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Watching The Crown and Younger.

In general, I’m feeling the need to rearrange, weed out old stuff, mend things, and change things up—i.e. wearing jewelry that hasn’t seen the light of day in ages, mixing and matching new outfit combos, switching purses (which I do infrequently). What about you? What’s new?

 

 

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Thrift Store Gems

It was a banner day at the thrift store the other day—even a little party-like, since I went with my friend Laurel.

Behold my growing collection of thrift store needlepoint pieces. These are  impossible to resist. They’re hand-stitched! They’re kitschy! They’re only 1 to 2 euros a piece!

I’m not in too much danger of over-collecting since I don’t see them every time I go. But it’s a fine line, I’ll give you that.

The two latest ones are the one at the bottom with the linen-ish frame and the one on the far left. The parrots are still my favorite.

I was on the prowl for funky prizes for a new table manners incentive program at our house. Voila! These are some of the more interesting prizes I found:

The Australopithekus rubber stamp just slays me. What item couldn’t be improved with a little Early Man stampage?

And the trink glasses are pretty rockin’, too.

The pièce de résistance of the outing:

A Hannover plate in blue and white! It was a little steep for the thrift store—8 euros—but totally worth it. It’s a view of the Marktkirche and the Alten Rathaus, in one of the first areas I stopped in Hannover. Definitely a keeper.

The weather is warming up around here, and today is actually sunny. So happy about that. I just started reading Cold Comfort Farm. Ever heard of it? It is totally hysterical, and seems so far ahead of its time (published in the 1930s). I can’t quite describe it—I’ll think on a description, but if you like A Series of Unfortunate Events or Wes Anderson movies (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums), I think it would appeal to your sense of humor. Also if A Room with a View makes you laugh out loud. I can’t believe I’d never come across it before.

Have a great weekend!

For more of my thriftage, click here.

Thrift Haul

I lucked out on a recent thrifting trip.

I’d been looking for awhile for something cool to add to the hall art gallery. Our apartment has a long, long, bowling-alley-like hallway that is just begging for more artwork. Since it’s a hall, you can’t help but stand fairly near the walls, so it’s a good place for groups of smaller pieces that need a more intimate setting.

I found the birds and flowers at thrift shop #1. I love the way the black backgrounds make the colors pop. Somehow it makes them look more modern to me, too. I’ve considered painting the frames aqua or something like that. What do you think?

I found the little house piece at thrift shop #2. There’s just something about it that’s so sweet but not sugary.

Actually I don’t know if I’ll ever get to hang them because the kids want two for their own (girl wants birds, boy wants house). I’m stuck on the hallway idea, though, so we’re kind of in a deadlock over it.

Here’s a detail on the birds. The handwork is really impressive.

Next up: a platter, a Christmas tablecloth, and two skeins of cotton yarn.

I’d been looking for a platter like this for a long time to go with but not match our china (see it here). This one is perfect except I wish it were a little bigger.

The yarn is for our little weaver, and the Santa cloth—-well, I just couldn’t resist. It’s kind of a funny size, but I figure we can use it as a runner or as reuseable gift wrap.

All this loot for 7 euros 50 cents!

Adventures in Thrifting: Germany Edition

Every town has its own thrift store scene strengths. I love cruising to see what kinds of clothes, craft fodder, and crazy stuff are available. For the most part, the thrifted clothing here in Hannover is not a strength, though I’ve found some cashmere sweaters just asking to be made into scarves.

Vintage textiles are a whole other story. There’s a place here called Fairkauf that’s like the department store of thrifting, with four entire floors of stuff.

My favorite is the floor of household goods, much of it embroidered tablecloths, runners, hankies, plus all-cotton (mostly white) bed linens. The collection of china and dishes is nothing to sneeze at either. I’ve been dreaming up a new quilt and snapped up some of these things with it in mind. I couldn’t resist the cherry placemats, though (not part of the quilt plan) and the bird fabric (also not for the quilt). It’s just asking to be over-dyed, don’t you think?

Below is a “commode” we bought to go next to my work station in the dining room. It holds the printer and scanner (when is someone going to design some more attractive computer equipment?). We were looking at some cheap something at Ikea or whatnot and I thought I could do better. This solid wood, glass-covered, dovetail-drawered baby was only 30 Euros! It also happens to go really well with our dining room furniture.

 

Next up is a candelabra I got at the Flohmarkt (fleamarket) on Saturday. I really like the lines, though I wish it had more candle holders. You need a lot of candles to light up your life in January here. I can’t complain for 5 euros, though! I’ve been wanting to go to the Flohmarkt for a long time. It was pretty cool, lots of interesting stuff, from furniture and antique toys to books and ancient dentistry tools. As you see, I restrained myself.

If you, like me, are a thrifter, you must must read this post by Blair Peter of wisecraft about torturing her husband via iphone thrift photos. It’s hysterical and inspiring. And besides that, she has a great blog with tons of other inspirations.

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to check out this one about flea market finds.

Getting Started with Dyes, Part I: Animal Fibers

Want to try dyeing things but don’t know where to start?

A reader wrote me recently asking for help.

Where to start, what to read?

The easiest kind of dyeing to start with is food dye on animal fibers. I love this because you can do it in the kitchen with grocery-store items, the results are super-satisfying, and the kids can join in.

What are animal fibers? Wool, silk, cashmere, you get the idea.

Wool and Cashmere:

You can do some beautiful things with Kool-Aid and wool, and IT WILL NEVER WASH OUT.

Kool-Aid (or Easter egg dye) and wool yarn is a perfect starter project, especially if you knit. You can dye it with a rainbow of colors, using your microwave. The yarn above was dyed with this method. Check out this article on knitty.com for details and instructions. Lion Brand makes an undyed 100% wool yarn called Fisherman’s Yarn that is very reasonably priced. I used to buy it at Hobby Lobby, but it may also be available at Michael’s and other craft stores. Knitpicks also sells undyed yarn, in a wider variety of weights and variations. Their prices are very reasonable also, but you do have to order it. Also try dharmatrading for yarns.

You can dye pieces of old wool or cashmere sweaters in a similar way, but it’s a little tricky—-you should be prepared for uneven results.  Here’s a project of mine with Easter egg dye on cashmere. I would recommend starting with a light-colored sweater and dyeing smaller pieces (an arm or less) at a time, as a sweater acts like a sponge to the dye, absorbing the color before it gets the chance to circulate around the fabric.

The process is similar to the yarn-dyeing project, but use a larger amount of dye and a larger container, on the stove instead of the microwave. I used my big soup pot. The same process should work for wool and cashmere wovens, though I’ve never tried it.

Silk:

Kool-Aid, Easter egg dye, or food coloring also works well on silk. I’ve used it to make playsilks, with the directions here. I’ve also dip-dyed silk scarves, which you can see here. After heat-setting, these dyes are not quite as colorfast as in wool and cashmere, so I would recommend hand-washing. Even so, the colors  bleed very little. Dry out of direct sunlight, or the colors will change.

With any dyeing project, there’s a certain amount of risk involved. You never know exactly what your finished project is going to look like, and for me, that’s part of the thrill. Be prepared for that uncertainty, because even if your project turns out beautifully, chances are it won’t be exactly as you  envisioned.

For part two of this article, about dyeing plant fibers, click here.