accidental dye

For over fifteen years I’ve wanted to make a quilt from just the stains in old linens.  Haven’t gotten beyond a couple test pieces, but I’ve been collecting examples all along.  The stains are a kind of ‘natural dye’ that has story behind it.  Something spills while I’m paying more attention to what you’re saying across the table, or while that young man is flirting with the new visitor.  Or the old gentleman who insists on pouring the wine though he has trouble seeing whether the bottle is over the glass.  Also, I always wonder what goes though the mind of the host when the spill happens.  Dismay?  Who-cares,-we’re-having-fun? It’s so generous, isn’t it, to invite people to mess up your stuff?  But what if it’s not really messed up?

I love how the perfect circle is right over the flower in the damask weave.


a beautiful stain peeks through a hole in the cloth

Equally beautiful, and often found on the same cloth, are repairs like boro.



I like the juxtaposition of this repair next to a round element in the damask.


a long stain pointing at a half moon hem repair

5 Responses to “accidental dye”

  1. jude Says:

    oh i totally love this post…. i have so many stained vintage lines too. i have sewn them together but haven’t a specific plan yet.

  2. caro Says:

    The natural dye urge has me rethinking some very early ideas that never kept their momentum because too complex. Now I’m thinking simple. We’ll see how it goes. I went outside and gathered walnuts today and they’re soaking away in water.

  3. julia moore Says:

    Stains, yes! I just finished a project using recycled wool trousers for part of the construction. There was a pale stain in the area I was cutting out and a small voice said, keep this little story in your project, it adds, not detracts from the overall “never ending story”. I encourage you to make that quilt of stained linines, it will really talk! Thank you for taking the time to present this little, under-represented aspect of working with old fabrics.

  4. caro Says:

    thanks for the encouragement! Creating that post really had me thinking about this one again. I’ll probably start it soon.

  5. slow stain « texere Says:

    […] wanted to do for over fifteen years.  A quilt made from stained linen.  I mentioned this in a post last November, and was encouraged by readers to get to it.  I heard […]

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