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.

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.

Giving Shampoo and Shower Gel the Flush

We make a dedicated effort to avoid chemicals in laundry detergent, household cleansers, and certainly our food. So it’s struck me as illogical to then hop into the shower to “clean” myself with products known to be hazardous to both my health and the environment. Pthalates, sulfates, plastic microbeads, even formaldehyde regularly lurk within the plastic bottles crowding the edge of the tub. Not a few of the unpronounceable ingredients are known carcinogens.

Over the past few years, we’ve gradually transitioned away from these pollutants.

We’ve been making our own soap for several years. The recipe we currently use is ultra-simple, with coconut oil and olive oil, water and lye. It lathers well, is scent-free, and leaves no residue. We love it and could never return to the smelly commercial stuff.

Our homemade bar soap plays the role of shower gel, shaving cream, cleanser, and even face wash.

My skin can be quite temperamental; during my pregnancy, I was plagued with acne (ah, the lovely effects of hormones) and nothing seemed to help. My mom sent me scrubs and cleansers and creams, to no improvement. After a yearlong struggle continued well beyond my daughter’s birth, I was struck with the idea of using our plain old bar soap on my face. Convinced it couldn’t get much worse if it didn’t improve, I gave it a shot. Six months later, I haven’t looked back and my skin is healthy and clear.

The last bath product I still find myself reaching for is shampoo. I have incredibly thick hair; coarse, with uneven curl and the occasional gray. Washing it is a time-consuming chore that I generally save for weekends. Between washes it’s usually frizzy and my scalp dry. I wear it twisted into a bun or in a low ponytail virtually always.

In pursuit of ditching the last chemical goo occupying my bathroom, I’m giving shampoo the nix. I know some people can simply go without, just rinsing their hair regularly and embracing the natural oils as conditioners, but I’m pretty sure my hair and scalp need a bit more attention than that if I expect to be seen in public.

Enter: the baking soda and cider vinegar treatment. Beyond the exclusion of harmful chemicals, I love that one author notes how going shampoo-free fits into her lazy beauty regimen, which I can certainly identify with, while also reducing waste and improving the health of her thick, wavy, dry, frizzy hair! Sounds familiar?

Starting today I’m giving it a go. If I can’t stand it in a month, I’ll decide what to try next. Here’s the before shot (also before coffee and with a sinus infection, eek) and my usual low-maintenance hairstyle:


I’ll be following Katherine Martinko’s regimen, which she describes as the following:

Measure 2 tbsp baking soda into a 500 mL/1 pint glass jar. Wet hair. Fill jar with water and stir to dissolve baking soda. Pour over head and scrub into hair. Rinse. Measure 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar into same jar. Add water, pour over head, and rinse almost immediately.