Turning Dross Into Gold

Lynn Schoeffler © 2007

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Rumplestiltskin Turning Dross Into Gold

Dross? you’re asking yourself—what is she talking about here? Well, I’m sure you’ve all picked up a bag or two of miscellaneous lace at a garage sale or flea market. You know, the one that looked like it had at least one or two pieces that you really wanted, and you thought you could probably dye the rest. Then you opened the bag and found that all the rest were probably polyester or nylon pieces that don’t hold the dye as well as rayon or cotton.

So one day when I had my Lumiere fabric paints out, I took a swipe at a piece of lace that hadn’t dyed well. Just an inexpensive little piece of faux Chantilly lace, but I was really surprised and pleased with the result. It looked almost like those very old pieces of metallic thread lace that you seldom see anymore.

Here are a few examples of the lace I painted, and the things I found out along the way!


  • Lumiere Fabric Paints and Flowable Extender by Jacquard

  • Angle Shader stiff fabric paint brush, l/4 inch size

  • Blunt round fabric paint brush, size 0

  • Plastic palette knives with small tips

  • Waxed paper

  • “ Chantilly ” Lace pieces

Chantilly lace is a specific type of continuous bobbin lace, which has a raised thread that outlines and highlights flowers or floral arrangements with gorgeous naturalistic flowers set off with swags, draping, scrollwork, and flourishes.¹  It works particularly well for painting because the raised threads catch and reflect the luminous metallic pigment.

Having said that, it is more and more difficult to find. I have a few pieces found in antique stores, and I am somewhat reluctant to sacrifice them for painting experiments. However, just a touch of gold in a project looks best, I think, so you won’t really need a lot of lace.

When I was looking around for suitable lace, I came across a roll of bridal lace with a very heavy raised thread, made from Polyester and PVC Plastic. PVC Plastic--what’s up with that?! Dross, for sure (well, that part was probably the beads that I removed, but still!) I have to say it worked beautifully for painting (see photo below).

Specialty fabric stores carry gorgeous lace fabrics by the yard. Although these can be quite pricey, they feel more reasonable if you can buy a quarter of a yard, and split it with a friend. My one-eighth yard piece yielded about 30 motifs.

This photo shows my favorite “old gold” look. To start, use the palette knife to dip out about a nickel size puddle of the flowable extender onto a square of waxed paper. Add a puddle about one fourth that size of Lumiere Old Brass color, and mix well with the palette knife. Using the knife to mix the colors helps keep your brushes from getting over-loaded with paint. The extender loosens the consistency of the paint slightly, allowing it to seep into the threads. It also dulls the metallic pigment, making a flat background color that will contrast with the next layer of paint. Use as little paint as possible; a dabbing motion works better to work the paint into the lace. Avoid saturating the lace, and let it dry slightly before the next step.

To add the gold highlights, start with a light layer of the Old Brass color, applied to the raised threads. Using the smaller brush, dip just the blunt point of the brush into the undiluted paint. Brush excess paint off onto the waxed paper; you want a very dry brush. Don’t completely cover the threads with paint. The second highlight color I used was Sunset Gold—a very bright, brassy color, which adds the bold highlights. For the silver-gilt look of the flowers on the lower right, I added a final light dusting of Silver Metallic; using two or more colors for highlighting adds depth. Clean your brushes regularly with soap and water as the paint builds up in them.

Painting the edges of cut motifs will help seal the cut threads to prevent raveling and provide a clean finish to the lace.

Here are a few more experiments with different colors. You can see the difference in the layers of color on the leaves at the bottom right. The bottom leaf shows the color before highlights were added; in the upper right leaf you can see the Sunset Gold and Metallic Silver highlighted threads.

Exciter Packs of Lumiere Fabric Paint that contain seven different metallic and two opaque colors are available online at Dharma Trading Co., or in Michael’s or JoAnn’s craft stores.

And although I thought the colored laces to be quite pretty, that old gold color is still my top pick!

¹ Guide To Lace and Linens by Elizabeth M. Kurella




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