Dying Fabric with Berries

My husband and I married in a fun, lighthearted celebration on a grassy hill. I hand-stitched my own lacy gown, along with the bunting and other decor. Late in that perfect evening, while guests drank, danced, and played lawn games, I changed into a casual white sundress that I’d picked out a few days before.

During the night’s festivities, the dress was stained with who-knows-what (barbecue sauce? wine?), and, admittedly lazy launderer that I am, I never successfully removed the splotches. Yet over the years I have told myself I’d do something to salvage the garment and enjoy it again.

This week, as it so happened, I accidentally let a large bowl of wild berries and cherries go bad– I got to a couple batches of berry pancakes but never made the cobbler. Cringing at the thought of tossing them, I finally decided pull out my rumpled wedding dress and dye it pink.

Dying with Berries and Coffee Grounds

I filled a large pot with the 2 cups of blackberries, a handful each of raspberries and wild cherries, along with about 5 quarts of water. To achieve an earthier “dusty rose” hue, I tossed in a quarter-cup of coffee grounds.

Here’s the color I had in mind, from my daughter’s shirt:

I simmered the mixture for about 20 minutes, strained it, and returned the liquid to just boiling. Then I removed it from the heat and dunked in the white dress, saturating and turning it for even distribution, then covered and let it steep for about 10 minutes.

Using utensils, I placed the now-pink dress in a clean sink to gently squeeze the dye out. Then I dropped it into a bowl of cold water with a half-cup of dissolved salt and soaked it for another 10 minutes.

Finally, I again squeezed the dress out and hung it to dry. It held the color wonderfully, and I was very pleased with the hue, which lightened as it dried.


So if you’re inundated with blackberries or your strawberries grow mold, consider recoloring a blouse or dress rather than tossing them out! I’d rather wear pink than white, anyway. Many more dying experiments soon to come.

Shared on the Homestead Blog Hop.


The Christmas Pig

This year rivals last, when our daughter was a fussy 3-month-old, for craftlessness. Packing and planning have consumed us. Available afternoons are spent cooking and winemaking, so with the exception of Suzanna’s stocking and a few hats, handcrafts have fallen by the wayside.

Therefore I think of travel time in the car as a gift– sleeping child and myself forced to remain seated. I intended to whip out a few gifts in the three hours on the road to my mom’s. However, I spent every moment up to our departure checking off the packing list: appliances, cookware, plates and silverware, extra warm clothes, dog food, a few books.

So as I finally prepared to walk out the door with my purse in one hand and our toddler in the other, I grabbed the nearest skein of pink fingering yarn and a crochet hook. I had no plan, but when I started stitching, this is what resulted: a tiny Christmas pig and a headband for my daughter. I hadn’t brought any sort of stuffing, so I balled up a paper napkin from Grand Central Bakery that was stuffed into the seat pocket beside me.

Tomorrow we have ten more hours of driving, so we’ll see what materializes.

Burlap Checkerboard and Tic-Tac-Toe

These make great gifts and are dirt-cheap to make if you have a little paint lying around. They’re highly portable with the stones tucked away in little burlap sacks, so they’re fun to bring out for a summer picnic or for a winter fireside game.

Light and dark stones hold down the burlap when it’s wrinkled, but sets of any little cone or trinket would do.

Just paint the checkerboard squares or a simple cross-hatch (#) for tic-tac-toe over a newspapered surface and let the burlap lie flat to dry. Pile the center with the appropriate number of different-colored stones (5 of each for tic-tac-toe; 16 each for checkers), gather the corners, and tie closed to gift or store.

How To Make A Fabulous Easy Wreath For Free

I’ve been making wreaths from scavenged greenery since I was a small child, using anything from grass to ivy to palm fronds to conifer branches. This one took about 20 minutes and used nothing but the plants in my yard.

Don’t have any trees to rob from? Christmas tree lots generally give away their trimmings for free, and they make spectacular wreathes. No flowers or berries? Try using herbs, such as the rosemary accent pictured, or pinecones dropped along the street. I make a habit of taking walks just to collect artful pods and cones to later use on decorations like these.

Since they have no wire, ties, or glue, these wreathes can be composted or burned when dry. But even better: once they drop their leaves, they become a perfect base for next year’s wreaths.

Here’s how to assemble them:

Start with several long, thin (1/4-1/2 inch at the base) branches that bend easily without breaking. Willow is perfect, but conifers work well, as do fruit tree suckers. (You can use ivy, crab grass– you name it. It just won’t be as sturdy.)

Bend the longest one into a circle the desired size, starting with the thick end and winding the thin end through and around to secure the ring. Ignore the leaves or needles at this point; you won’t see them.

Gently poke the thicker end of each additional branch between the already woven ones to secure it, starting in varied places in the circle. Wind them around to strengthen each side of the wreath.

When the base feels solid and there are enough layers to poke new greens in without damaging the circle, add the filler foliage.

Use the leafy tips of shrubs and tree branches with enough “stem” to secure it; poke the twig straight through a hole in the base, pull it through until the leaves are where you want them, and in the back wind the remaining stem through another layer to hold it in place. Keep adding until the base is fairly concealed and the wreath appears full and even.

(I’ve made plenty of sparse bare-twig wreathes as well– design it how you like!)

Finally, decorate. Tuck contrasting greens and colorful accents in sporadically; try rosehips, pepper berries, cones, fruit, or dried flowers.

Wreathes make the pretty decorations year-round. Since these use only what’s growing nearby, they are a perfect way of capturing any season as a festive welcome on the front door.

The Lyra Hat

I’ve knitted several of these hats, inspired by The Golden Compass, from infant-size to adult. They’re simple, whimsical and warm. I made this one with the handiest yarn, which turned out to be nearly the same color as the last hat I made. Fortunately, the color suits my slightly red-headed daughter well.

Staying Warm

As we listened to stories of kayakers in Healdsburg’s parking lots and highway closures in San Francisco, as my mom complained that she thought her windows might shatter behind the wind and rain in Sonoma County, and as local people scrambled in the path of the anticipated “megastorm,” we went to bed last night under a gentle drizzle.

We had prepared to cook by candlelight, perhaps in the fireplace with the Dutch oven. We’d gathered flashlights and moved the penned goat to a stall in the barn. And when it appeared nothing would materialize, we were disappointed if not surprised.

In a place, and a time, where even clouds are a rarity, I’ve come to use my imagination to enjoy a cozy winter hunkering-down. Even on warm days if the clouds roll in I turn on lamps and keep a pot of chili or stew simmering on the stove. Just to enjoy the feeling of warmth, of desiring warmth.

So yesterday, excited but skeptical, I bundled up and donned a hat and scarf for my drive to work.

My drawer of handmade winter accessories have hardly been touched since we left Oregon and I miss them. Making new ones was my way of welcoming the fall. I’ve kept my husband and me in more hats than there are chilly days for, and my daughter’s supply is growing. Soon enough, they’ll once again be essential.

This morning at 4:30 I got up to make coffee and noticed lights glimmering off the front field as if it were a lake.

It’s still too dark to tell the extent of the flooding, but on the flat, drought-hardened valley floor, rain backs up quickly. The old, old house groans overhead, and I’m enormously grateful that we managed to remove the dead trees from our backyard earlier in the week. Today will be a first, and likely a last before we leave the Valley for good.