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Ephemera’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.

I do love to design. I love to go over the top.

These are me being restrained. Really! Sort of. In a way, which I shall explain.


packages I have always loved ephemera. I have collections– can labels, fruit labels, even– and this is hard to admit to– toilet paper roll labels. I like the stuff that is utilitarian. In France, the fruitier’s shops had small thin brown paper bags that exhort you to “Mangez Des Fruits,” with varying vintages of graphic sensibility. I have one in a little gold frame over my sink– also, the wrapper from a single “Les Papillons” brand blood orange. I have seen product labels like these– some sort of ornate border with the company’s name and then a space where the plebeian typewriter denotes the package’s contents. I lust for them. Now, I can make my own.

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A recipe for Embattled Lace

alllaceOne gigantic spool of black cotton Cluny point lace. Don’t waste your time trying this with acrylic or polyester.


Patience– or impatience, which ever seems most appropriate to the dish at hand.

Reel off as much lace as you feel like fiddling with. Wet the lace, if you want, scrunch it into a very random wad, and drop it into a bowl.

pour some bleach into a cup, and add the same amount of water. Sprinkle it over the wadded lace, and pour more of it carefully down the edge of the bowl so that it puddles on the botoom, and the lace is sitting in a highly reactive little puddle. if you’re outdoors you’ll be able to watch the black dye oxidize, begin to turn brown and go away. Turn the lace once or twice, if, like me, you just can’t trust the Gods of entropy and chaos to do their work unaided.

When you’ve reached the end of your patience, pull the lace out and rinse like crazy.

Your black lace– or anyway, the black lace I have– will bleach into sepias and mushroom browns. If you want to tune the grunge you can overdye in a similar patchy fashion, using Rit dyes in those wierd colors– teal, purple, scarlet– you know, the ones that don’t mingle well. We do not want our lace to feel comfortable, not for a second!

You will have to wash the lace after the dye process unless you plan to use it on something that can take a bit of spreading stain, which has it’s own naive charm of course. I put it into a lingerie bag, but it still gets knotted and twisted. it’s nearly impossible to unknot wet lace. Let it dry in a seaweed-like tangle hanging off of something, before you start picking out the knots.

You can see that the process leaves the lace rumpled and cowering, which slows down the sewing process considerably. On the other hand, ironing it is a pain in the whatsit; Six of one, half dozen of the other…