Monday, December 15, 2008

Easy instructions for a post-apocalyptic scarf or shawl

Buy some 100% wool in a plain weave. A yard is 36 inches long. I'd recommend buying two yards for a shawl. Fabric is sold in 45 or 60 inch widths. Wool is often sold in the wider width. So, you can buy a yard, cut it in half, and sew the two ends together. Don't worry if your sewing is awful; it'll add to the post-apocalytpic look.

How to dye your wool: You don't need to bother with "real dye". After the apocalypse, that stuff will be hard to get anyway. I recommend using tea bags or coffee grounds. If you have a black walnut tree or know where one is, collect some black walnuts. It makes fantastic dye.

Fill a big pot with water, throw in your teabags, coffee grounds or black walnuts (or any combination of the three). Put about 1/4 cup of vinegar in the water if you think you'll need to wash your scarf/shawl often. That'll help keep the color. I don't bother with this, myself, because I find that the vinegar smell is hard to get rid of. I'm not overly fond of it. Others are.

If you want your scarf/shawl to have variations in color, don't stir the pot. Simmer for at least 20 minutes. Leave it in all day. Your choice. Use a wooden spoon to lift the cloth out of the water to see how it's coming along.

If you want no variation in color, you need to keep the cloth moving. But really, it's much prettier with some variation. Don't worry, it's not going to look like tie dye or anything 'cause this stuff will dye it a beautiful sepia color.

There you have it - the uber-hip post-apocalyptic shawl. Hang it on an empty white wall and call it art if you feel like it.

Image note: This is what "plain weave" looks like.

Important note about wool and shrinking: Wool shrinks on account of agitation and changes in water temperature. So, if you are stirring your post, be gentle. And do not rinse your shawl in water that is a different temp than the dye pot, if you want to rinse it. The easiest method for making sure that a dye pot and a rinse pot are the same temps is to use two pots. Put them both on the stove at the same time, with the same amount of water in them. So, when you lift out your finished dyed cloth, you then put it in the other pot. Let is sit there until the water cools off and drain. Do not agitate, wring, or otherwise disturb your fabric or it will shrink.

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