Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More Pie, Please

To wrap up the month of January, let’s have pie!

Some considerate gardener planted citrus trees on our property decades ago, and we benefit every year with a huge crop of lemons, limes, and tiny oranges which are probably mandarins or tangerines. To enjoy this abundance, I’m always on the lookout for orange-flavored pies, and they seem to be hard to find. Once I even tried making one by substituting orange rind and juice into a Key Lime Pie recipe, but the result was very bland.

So when I saw that the February issue of Southern Living had a Tangerine Chess Pie (photo above), my squealing and jumping around the house was enough to convince the Piemaker of what he had to do.

It’s very simple! (Recipe here) You mix up only 8 ingredients to make the custard-style filling and put it into a ready-made pie crust. We were confused by the recipe in that it says to roll two piecrusts together to make one, but the package weight indicated in the recipe is the weight of one crust. I don't know what they meant, but it worked out fine with a single crust.

Here is our baked pie. I admit I'm not a food stylist, and all my pie photos are starting to look the same. But wow, is it good! Essence of tangerine with pie goodness! The Piemaker added even more flavor by doubling the amount of zest called for in the recipe.

A delicious slice of tangerine pie! It's sweet, but not too heavy, and the vivid tangerine flavor is just what I was hoping for. This is definitely a new favorite.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Transfer and Tracing Trials

I’ve been collecting all kinds of wild embroidery patterns, and I knew at some point I was going to have to transfer them all from paper to fabric.

I stocked up on an assortment of transfer papers from local fabric stores to see if I could trace a design onto fabric using this old-fashioned method. (Remember when we had to use carbon paper in our typewriters? What a mess that was.)

The first paper I tried was Clover Chacopy. The sheets are 12” x 10” and the package contains one each of blue, green, red, yellow, and white. The colors are very pale – for example “red” is actually an orangey-pink. You can see the blue and green here are light sky-blue and mint green.
Not surprisingly, there was no visible transfer of the design onto the fabric with either of these colors. There may be minute amounts of chalk on the fabric, but they are no help to me if I can’t see them. I didn’t bother testing the lighter colors.

My next paper was Dritz Wax-Free Tracing Paper. The sheets are very long and narrow – 20” x 6”, which is helpful for dress patterns but less so for round or square designs. The package contains blue, red, orange, yellow, and white. I have used this paper in the past with some success on muslin, which is lighter in color than this fabric. It tends to leave smudges anywhere it rubs against fabric, so I had mixed feelings about it. For this test I used the blue.
The result was better than Clover, but uneven. You may be able to see the crescent shape that came through in the photo. Not quite good enough.

The third paper I tried was Saral Wax-Free Transfer Paper, which is in 8 ½ x 11 sheets and comes in graphite, blue, red, yellow, and white. Clearly a dark transfer was called for, so I tried the blue and the graphite.
With both colors, much more of the design came through onto the fabric, although by this time I was pressing so hard during the tracing that I tore through the paper. These transfers are definitely the best of the group, but they are still incomplete. At this point I was thinking it was a problem fabric and nothing was going to transfer to it.

Next in line for testing was the red iron-on transfer pencil I used for my last embroidery project. This particular pencil was from Aunt Martha’s. In this test the transfer worked better, probably because this linen is thinner than the Aida cloth I used last time.
The ironing is an additional step beyond what’s needed with simple tracing, but the results were much better than any of the carbon paper tracings.

To be thorough, I ordered the Sulky transfer pen which is recommended by Sublime Stitching and many other embroidery gurus. If I’d just ordered it first instead of doing all the experiments, I’d have saved a lot of time and money. This pen is the answer! I tried the black one (it comes in 8 colors), and traced my design. The entire drawing came through perfectly. I love it and I will definitely be using the Sulky pen in the future.

A few lessons from my first test of the Sulky pen:
* Trace carefully – all pen marks will be transferred, and if you go off course, it will show up on the embroidery fabric.
* The pen creates a thick line. I was unable to make a thinner line, but I was able to make dotted lines which are much less obvious than the solid lines.
* Use a pressing cloth or another piece of paper underneath the fabric to protect your ironing board.

All in all, it was a successful experiment: I ended up with a usable product! Now, to do some actual stitching...


Friday, January 27, 2012

Sewing for a Friend

As you know, I fear and loathe sewing for others. I have not yet developed the ability to flat-out refuse a direct request, but I do try to avoid any conversation that might lead to the dreaded plea for an alteration.

However, once in a while I find that the ability to sew is a great advantage in gift-giving. I can create an item that is specific to the recipient’s tastes and needs, and it will be one of a kind.

One deserving recipient is a close friend who has been in the hospital for many weeks with a series of escalating health conditions. At last count she’d had seven surgeries in six weeks. She seems to be stuck in an endless loop where an injury results in surgery which causes another illness which in turn results in another injury and the vicious cycle begins again. She’s made major positive strides only to be knocked back down again. I don’t know how she keeps her spirits up, as I am absolutely out of patience with the unfairness of it all. Still she stands as a beacon of optimism and positive attitude for the rest of us impatient souls.

I decided to make a small quilt for her. Approximately 36" x 45", it could be used as a lap blanket or wrapped around her shoulders when the hospital thermostat acts up.

RJR Summer Solstice (2010) fabrics

I’ve had these coordinating quilting cottons in the stash for many months. The brilliant colors are just the thing for a hospital patient! I did not do any fancy cutting and piecing; just one yard of the stripes on one side and a yard of the flowers on the other.

1" poly batting inside

I tufted it with turquoise/teal cotton embroidery thread.

It was a quick project that I hope will have magical healing powers (or at least bring a smile)!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Seaweed Velvet Dress

We have maybe three weeks of cold weather left, if we’re lucky. It usually starts warming up in mid-February, and we see 90 degrees in March. So it was time to get to work on the velvet while I still have an opportunity to wear it.
This fabric has had me in a state of paralysis for some time. It looks like blue-green seaweed waving under the silvery water. The pile is silver or gray over a green base. I liked it so much I didn’t want to use it! But sitting in the closet wasn’t doing it any good (although I did store it properly – hung with the selvedge clipped to a hanger) and I convinced myself that such a visually elaborate fabric could work with a simple pattern.

green base/silver pile

This velvet was unmarked as to fiber content, so I did a few tests. I had a suspicion it might be acetate, and sure enough it dissolved into a gray slurry in a little bit of acetone nail polish remover. It’s probably a blend with something like nylon, so I used the low heat setting on my iron.

My dress “pattern” is really a composite of several shapes from different patterns. This was my general idea:

left: from Piperlime, here and here; right: from Shopbop, here and here

I wanted a simple round neck, long sleeves, and no waist band. I started with a straight dress pattern for stretch knits and cut it large to accommodate this non-stretch fabric. Later, I decided it was too loose, and added a back zipper to allow for a bit of fitting at the waist. I made the skirt long and flared for ease of walking. At this point I saw that I could have used any one of a dozen patterns for long dresses with flared skirts and back zippers. I’m just not good at going straight from point A to point B without lengthy detours of discovery.

I bound the neck with a bias strip of the velvet. I love how the angle of the crush pattern makes it look like it’s twisted around. I could never have gotten that effect if I did it on purpose!

I finished the seams with tape so that I wouldn’t have to worry about shedding all over myself and the furniture. I had just used up the last of a light mint green on the shoulders and sleeves when my order of vintage rayon binding in “bayleaf” arrived from Mattiecakes. It was a perfect color for this dress, and I had enough to do the side seams and hem.

And here is the finished product. The fabric changes color from dark gray with inside light (left) to reflective silver and green in natural light (right).

So, what do we think? Modern and interesting? Time traveler from the 70s? Ready for the Renaissance Faire?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Important Pie News

Over the weekend I fell further behind in my many projects, and I had just about decided to skip blogging today in favor of finishing some of them. Then I received an urgent call, late last night, informing me of an issue that is not only critical, but time-sensitive. This information, the informers informed me, must be disseminated immediately!!!

And so I hereby announce that today, January 23, is National Pie Day!

National Pie Day is well-established (either 2 years old or 37 years old, depending on source), and widely popular. There are recipe contests online, pie fairs in some cities, and your local bakery might even offer discounts.

Pumpkin Pecan Surprise Pie, a winner at the 2011 National Pie Championships

Wikipedia exhorts us not to confuse National Pie Day with National Pi Day, which is March 14. Apparently pi enthusiasts like to celebrate their day with pie, and in the past this has caused some disagreeable confrontations with pie purists.

Our household is still experiencing a surplus of cake, and therefore we will not have any actual pie on National Pie Day. I do have my sights set on another new pie recipe though, so we might see that in coming weeks.

Happy National Pie Day to all!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Things That Have the Number 52

* Weeks in a year
* Cards in a deck
* White keys on a piano
* Parallel (degrees North) that passes through Lower Saxony, Inner Mongolia, and Alaska
* Atomic number of tellurium on the periodic table of elements
* Country code for international calls to Mexico
* My age

Yes, today is my birthday and I am fifty-two years old. Not young. Not old. An in-betweenish age.

For my birthday outing, we went to the Phoenix Art Museum to see a display of Giorgio di Sant' Angelo’s brilliantly colorful clothing designs from the 70s and 80s. I recognized many of my favorite styles: caftans and embellished robes, gypsy looks with multicolored skirts and uneven hems, wrapped dresses made of yards of hand-painted silk chiffon or velvet.

There was even an example of Sant' Angelo’s Chameleon Dress, a slinky knit maxi with long, attached sashes that could be wrapped in many different configurations, much like the modern infinity dress. More about Sant' Angelo and the exhibit here.

And what’s a birthday without cake? We have cake and more cake. I asked for an almond-flavored cake, and the Piemaker outdid himself.

The first was a dense, flat cake made in a round cake pan.

recipe here

It looks like a plain yellow cake, but it is just bursting with almond flavor. It tastes more like marzipan than cake, actually. The recipe suggests a raspberry sauce, but we found that although the sauce was good, it was unnecessary.

The second one was a Dutch Almond cake, made in an 8 x 13 baking pan.

recipe here

This one also looks quite plain, but it’s poured in three layers before baking: cake batter, almond filling, then cake batter. It’s an excellent combination with the sweet almond custard middle sandwiched between the buttery, crisp edges of the cake.

We can't decide which one is better!

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!


Friday, January 20, 2012


I’m working with some velvet fabrics, and since I don’t have a finished project to show yet, I thought I’d wax eloquent for a bit about this beautiful material.

Every season some fashion experts place velvet firmly on the “out” list, while others label it the latest “in” fabric. Apparently the designers ignore these pronouncements, because every Fall, one or more designers feature gorgeous velvet garments on the runway.

Marc Jacobs revisits velvet annually (2010, 2011)

Nanette Lepore loves velvet (FW 2010)

I, of course, usually catch up with what’s in or out a few years too late. But it doesn’t matter much, since I don’t revamp my wardrobe annually, or at all. I still have clothes from 1985. I just know they’re going to be back in style soon.

And I’ve always loved velvet, but it seemed a bit too cocktail or evening wear for many years. Now everyone’s using velvet and velveteen for just about everything. I’ve seen button down shirts and camis, miniskirts and leggings, pants, coats, hats, and shoes in these shiny pile fabrics. And we mustn’t forget the recent love affair between active sportswear and its version of velvet: velour.

So I decided it was time to dive in.

This is one of the fabrics I have. Silver? Green? It’s called “smokey green,” which is close enough.

Velvet is a fascinating textile. It can be made from cotton, rayon, silk, synthetics, or a mix.

Embossed poly velvet from Sew What's New

Hand-dyed cotton velvet from Mermaids Beads on etsy

For sewing and care, cotton velvet is the easiest, because it can be pressed without making indentations in the pile.

Hand-dyed silk rayon velvet from Raes Rags on etsy

I like the silk-rayon velvets best, because of their drape, sheen, and unusual colors. Because rayon is a plant fiber and silk is an animal fiber, they each attract and absorb different types of pigments. This allows manufacturers and textile artists to create incredible iridescent fabrics. I love it when science comes together with art. The possibilities are limitless!

Crushed velvet is easy to make – if you’ve ever accidentally crushed a velvet skirt or dress, you know just how easy it is. But if you have plain velvet that you want to add interest to, you can use your steam iron to set in wrinkles and creases in different patterns. Just crunch up the fabric with your hand and iron over the folds and wrinkles. This works best with silk/rayon velvet since you can use the high heat setting.

Claire Schaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide informs me that velvet is marred by pins, creeps during stitching, frays badly, and must be dry-cleaned. Cripes! Fortunately the green velvet I’m working with is already crushed, and it’s been through the washing machine, so not much more can happen to it.

Like most pile fabrics, velvet sheds from all cut edges. My cutting table and sewing machine are completely covered in fuzz. For seam finishes Claire suggests pinked, zigzag, serged, bound, overcast, Hong Kong, or taped. I’m going with seam binding tape.

My first velvet garment is almost done, pictures coming soon!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Incredible Shrinking Day

Yesterday I finally went out and got my 2012 planner, almost three weeks into the year.

My entire year will be contained in 3 ½ x 6 inches

Things sure have changed. When I was working full time in finance, I would get the next year’s Week-At-A-Glance as soon as it was available, usually in September or October, as things had to be scheduled up to a year in advance. My daily columns were packed from 7 am to 8 pm, and sometimes I even wrote in my lunch break so that I wouldn’t forget to eat. I had to use a 9 x 12 page-sized planner just so I’d have enough space for everything. I’d lug it around with my computer and a bunch of files in my big briefcase or a rolling cart.

One year, everyone converted to hand-held PDAs and we all thought we were on the cutting edge. (This was some time before the cell phone became a music player, camera, calendar, clock, and web interface all in one.) After the stupid devices had to be resynched repeatedly to our computers, we quickly lost interest and returned to the old fashioned binder or booklet planners.

I retired in 2006 and continued to use a huge weekly planner for the rest of that year and the next. I was going to school full time, and I filled the pages with class times, due dates, exams, and breaks.

When I went to get the 2008 calendar, however, I realized that I could easily get as much use out of a smaller planner. I switched to the 7 x 9 size, which got me through the end of classes and a couple of internships. But by the end of 2009, I realized that other than the occasional dental appointment and dinner date, my planner pages were blank.

So for 2010, I stepped down to the 5 x 8 size. Now the days were only 9 hours long, and ended at 5 pm! My 2010 planner was soon filled with goals and progress milestones for the book I was writing, some art workshops, and travel dates. But my 2011 planner ended the year almost completely empty.

As I stood in the calendars and planners aisle in Staples yesterday, I decided that although I’m not yet ready to dispense with a portable calendar altogether, I can definitely go down another size. They had week-at-a-glance calendars in little stapled booklets only 3½ by 6 inches. There are no printed times, but each day only has 7 lines.

The years are shrinking too.

I guess I could make this into some important philosophical message about aging (Lowered expectations? Diminished capacity? Running out of time?), but the bottom line is, I’m just so relieved and happy not to be working, and not to have that burdensome schedule and insanely long to-do list wearing me down any longer.

I hope that whatever you’re doing today, you can break away from the endless meetings, task lists, deadlines, and deliverables on your calendar. Take some deep breaths, look out the window, and think of something wonderful.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For Book Lovers Only

Good morning! I apologize if you've been trying to comment here and haven't been able to. I changed a few settings, so it may or may not be fixed now.

If not, at least check out this wonderful video of a bookstore (approx. 2 minutes):


UPDATE: Okay, so I'm having more problems than I realized. Go here for the video:



Monday, January 16, 2012

Mid-Century Pottery Collection

While dusting knick knacks this weekend, I took the opportunity to pull out another of my collections and take a few pictures. This is one of those cases where I can’t remember exactly how it all started. It may have been around ten years ago when I was very excited about vintage handbags and spent many happy hours searching the antique shops. These colorful planters would have caught my eye, and being rather plentiful and comparatively inexpensive, they were probably a good alternative (for a shopaholic) to overpriced pseudo-antique handbags in poor condition.
clockwise from upper right: Haeger, Upco, USA

I love everything about the mid-century aesthetic in all its periods and extremes. My parents still live in the house I grew up in, and they still have the same Danish modern furniture, abstract area rugs, and wall-sized modern art. Visiting them is a delightful step back in time in many ways. I don’t expect to ever live in a mid-century modern home or be able to afford any major furniture from that time, so I figure that these little pots are perfect reminders of the wild colors and designs of the early to mid-1900s.

You will not see any Newcomb or Van Briggle treasures here! Other than imposing a price limit of $15 per item, I didn’t follow any rules for this collection. I mostly aimed for planters, or footed bowls as they are sometimes called. There are some genuine vintage pieces in good condition, some reproductions in not-so-good condition, and everything in between. Most of these were made at potteries in Ohio (Brush, McCoy, Hull, Stangl), Illinois (Haeger), and Minnesota (Redwing) in the 40s through 60s, or in California in the 50s. Many items are simply marked USA, to differentiate from imports.

clockwise from top: unmarked, Calif, Calif, USA

clockwise from upper right: USA, Brush, USA

Haeger (l), Hull (r)

Many of the containers had been used to hold plants at some point, and had the stains to prove it. After cleaning them up with soft brushes, mild soap and diluted vinegar, I decided just to use them for display and not expose them to further damage. I’m a strong proponent of using vintage items for their intended purpose, but in this particular case I thought I’d get more enjoyment from them if they stayed clean.

Some are more like serving dishes than planters (Stangl (top), unmarked (bottom))

And some are more like flower pots (l to r, Coronet, unmarked, Brush)

clockwise from top: unmarked, Haeger, Redwing, Regal

You can see that the collection leans heavily toward green. I have found that the majority of vintage planters available (in my price range) are green, although the potters made many colors. For whatever reason, those other colors are much rarer now, and accordingly more collected and more expensive.

Now you have an inkling of why my house is so crowded with just two of us. We've just touched on a few of my collections, and we haven't even started on the Piemaker's!

On a completely different topic, I hope everyone saw Peter's post at MPB yesterday, in which he blasts away at unflattering dress shapes over the years. I was thrilled to note that one of my favorite caftan patterns was near the top of his list. Words like horror, stupid, nightmare, and wrong were tossed about with gleeful abandon. How I wanted to comment on that post! Sadly, I've been unable to post comments on some blogs for the last few days, so Peter's challenge goes unanswered. No doubt there will be future controversies to participate in.

Thank you for stopping by to share some vintage appreciation!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Bushel Basket of Beets

Okay, I admit this is not quite a bushel, but it’s an impressively large bucket of beet greens that I picked from the garden.
Beets belong to the love-it-or-hate-it food group, along with broccoli and liver. Since they don’t have any strong odor or flavor, I assume that the beet haters must have been traumatized by canned beets or something equally gross.

Sugar beets, fodder beets, and chard are all varieties of the same species as the garden beet. Beet roots and stems have a brilliant red dye which stains everything it touches (clothes, hands) and turns other foods purple. Like most brightly-colored plant foods, they are full of anti-oxidants.

When I planted these reds back in October, I planted a couple rows of golden beets as well. A few of the goldens germinated but died almost immediately, while the reds thrived and shot up to more than a foot tall.

The long stems and huge leaves are misleading because when I pulled up these gigantic plants (largest was 18 inches tall), the roots were still only 1 to 2 inches in diameter.

Fortunately the leaves are completely edible and delicious and can be prepared the same as spinach or chard. I will give them a quick toss in a hot pan with olive oil, garlic and hot pepper flakes.

As for the actual beets, I may just steam these small ones and serve them with a little butter. If I can get bigger ones in a few weeks, I want to try baking them with fennel, shallots, and a bit of orange juice.

Remember to eat your vegetables and stay healthy this winter!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Another Splurge (and why I don’t feel bad about it)

After reminding myself just recently about my decision not to spend compulsively (or impulsively), I splurged anyway. Of course I didn’t intend to spend money. It all started as a research project. I enjoyed working with my African print fabrics on the border print dress and the girafftan so much that I wanted to find out more about these amazing prints.
The first African print fabric I used, back in September of last year.

It turns out that there are thousands of these beautiful wax-print cottons, as well as many other types of exciting textiles, made by people in several African countries. All of them are just amazing and covetable.

You will not be surprised to hear that most of the Google results for “African fabrics” were not encyclopedic explanations of the history and technique, but rather for sellers of these beautiful textiles, and that was my downfall. I had to look!

Most of the suppliers’ prices are prohibitively expensive (for me), with retail costs starting at $12 and going up above $100 per yard. The New York importers are apparently not interested in passing any bulk savings on to people like me. Etsy and eBay prices are a bit lower, in the range of $7 to $8 for some fabric types. By the time I’d visited all these sites and seen thousands of fantastically colorful patterns, I was truly hooked, but convinced it was all out my range.

So when I found myself at the website of Middlesex Textiles UK, I was way too excited. Not only do they have the largest selection of any of the online stores, but their prices, thankfully, were within my reach. They have many, many colors and designs of wax print cottons for approximately $4 per yard.

What’s the hitch? One is that the fabrics come in lengths of 5 or 6 yards. I don’t need 6 yards of anything, but that didn’t stop me from buying quite a few different fabrics.

The other minor hurdle is a flat rate shipping charge to the US of $25, which is exorbitant if you’re purchasing one item, but quite reasonable if it’s spread out over several. It’s safe to say I’m in the latter category.

Here are some of the fabrics I bought:

They were delivered in 3 business days!

More fabrics:
All are 45 to 48 inches wide.

These are still shiny and stiff with whatever finishes they used. Contrary to my usual approach of washing everything as soon as it comes through the door, I will leave these unwashed and packaged, as they are so neatly folded and take up little space. Since they have all their wrappers and labels still on, I won’t forget to wash them before sewing.

I don’t feel any remorse for this rather extravagant purchase! My local fabric warehouse occasionally carries an African wax print or two, but they are few and far between. The fabrics from Middlesex are a long-term investment, since I won’t be able to use them all up in the near future, but I think I got some very unusual items for a very good price.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Adventures in Dyeing

Like most of my experiments, my fabric dyeing results are always interesting and unexpected.

Since I’m not trying to produce anything in particular, I just use good old Rit. It’s inexpensive and the Rit website has a fun color guide where you can click on any color and get the dye recipe.

My first experiment was with ombre dyeing. Let me suggest that if you want to do ombre dyeing, use a lightweight fabric or garment. I had an old bathrobe which was made of cotton brocade, lined with French terry! When this thing gets wet, it weighs at least 15 pounds.

The robe was white, and although it was elegant many years ago, white is not a good color for my lifestyle, especially in the mornings when I’m drinking coffee, feeding dogs, watering plants, and the like. So a bright color was called for.

A Tequila Sunrise was my inspiration, partly because I wear the robe at sunrise, and also because I love the color combination: violet red to orange to peachy-yellow.

The first step was easy – I just dyed the entire robe in the washing machine using yellow with a drop of red for the lightest color. The remaining color layers had to be done in the sink, and that’s when things got difficult. I had nothing from which to suspend the robe, so I had to hold it up with one hand while stirring the dye with the other. I submerged the lower half of the robe and sleeves into a red-orange mixture for 20 minutes, and then rinsed it in cold water. Finally I dunked the bottom 8 to 10 inches into a violet dye and let it absorb upwards. At this point I realized what should have been obvious: purple and yellow make BROWN, not purple. So I had a muddy rust color at the hem where I’d hoped for a deep maroon violet.

After washing and drying, I was pleased overall with the results, even if I did have brown instead of violet. It was a bit bright though, and sometimes I don’t want to see that much vivid color first thing in the morning!

Well I didn’t have to worry about that, because the next time I washed it, I must have used hot water, because half of the dye ran out.

It is now a light salmon color fading into apricot at the top. I love it, even though it was completely different from what I’d planned.

My next project, a few months later, was to give some old shirts a new life. A couple of white cotton tees and an old Indian cotton tunic went into the machine with kelly green dye and a few drops of yellow.

The result was this medium green – it’s brighter than olive, darker than chartreuse, and I don’t know what to call it. But I like it. It’s especially nice that the rayon threads in the embroidery on the tunic picked up the dye so well. Yippee! New shirts!

Most recently I was looking for some background fabric for embroidery and I got some very helpful advice from my readers: linen and medium weight cotton are the best! I just happened to have some scraps of a natural-colored, medium weight cotton-linen blend. It’s a bit slubby and uneven, and considering my stitching, a little texture in the background can’t hurt. Of course I can’t leave well enough alone, so I decided to do a little dyeing.

I wanted a water-color effect in earth and sky shades, so that the background would look like a distant landscape behind the embroidery subject. Instead of attempting ombre again, I decided to paint the colors on. I diluted blue, teal, light green, dark green, and brown, ¼ teaspoon liquid dye to 1 cup of boiling water, and painted the watery dyes onto the fabric with regular bristle brushes. When the fabric was soaked with color, I wadded it up and put it into a plastic bag, put it in the microwave, and cooked it for 2 minutes on high.

After washing and drying, here are the two dyed pieces, compared with some undyed material. I think these will be ideal for my project.

A few lessons from my brief experience in fabric dyeing:

For dip-dyeing such as ombre or tie dye, arrange your work area so that you can hang your garment from something – a tree branch, a hook in the ceiling – so you don’t have to hold it up with your hand.

With Rit, the final color will be much lighter than it looks in the dyeing tub or on the wet garment. After washing, drying, and pressing, my colors were pale versions of the color on the dye packages.

Remember basic color theory! A color mixed with its complement will result in mud. Even applying a concentrated dark color over a light pastel will result in a blend of the two.

Expect the unexpected. It’s best to experiment with items you’re not invested in. If you must have a specific color, it might be better to consult with experts at a place like Dharma Trading to be sure you have the right formulation for your fabric.

And of course, follow all dye instructions and take sensible preventive measures such as wearing gloves and old clothes, and rinsing all sinks, washers, and tools immediately after using dye.

Have you dyed anything recently?