How to dye leather in 13 terrifying steps (hint, 10 are the same)

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We now have a fabulous dining room.

The realization that I CAN COLOUR LEATHER

Now, you have to put yourself into my position, and I bet you know what that position is. Yes. More colour and DIY’s for erryone!

So, imagine my excitement when I realized that there was actually a way of changing colour on the jarring white leather dining room chairs that were in my general possession.  A cold March afternoon I got searching for solutions, and I found a website selling stuff to make old colours of leather go bye-bye!

After eyeballing the entire website that was enlightening me of this magical interior decorating-unicorn I was sweating with excitement and fell all over myself out of the couch, tumbled down the stairs to the basement like an avalanche of unsure outcomes and taking risks with someone else’s possessions and after a few hasty steps over the original 1970’s snotty green patterned vinyl flooring, I flew into the cave we call an office space. I informed my partner that EITHER WE’RE GOING FAB or… he’s paying for six new comfortable dining chairs after I sort of really ruin the ones we have. Are you in?!

He, in his usual, almost uncannily positive enabler-form, gave me a thumbs up and patted me on the butt.

No misgivings? No hesitancy? Well that was far too easy! It’s like he trusts me to succeed in my endeavors? What does this mean? In my mind, all the possible dreamy DIY scenarios popped right up from Fantasy Box nr. 3 and tried to squeeze themselves into my rational, sane, held-back-horizon and oh no, this is gonna end badly.

Once I regained my bearings and had managed to return to the couch, I hovered my clickety-click over the ”Order”-button on earlier mentioned unicorn-website. Am I doing it? I am doing it. I’m gonna go out on a limb and maybe trash six perfectly functioning chairs because I can’t stand them in the deathly depressing shade of whatever terror society calls ”white”. Destroyed and brown is better than white and pristine, AMIRIGHT? Okay, so you don’t have to agree with me, but here’s how I did it anyway! Click and off the order went!

First of all, for anyone of you out there that would like to try this yourselves. The colour dubbed ”Dark Dark Brown”, wasn’t brown at all. It was a dark, dark purple. Totally in order, said the company because according to them, people usually prefer a lot of redness in their dark brown leather goods. Madness. I didn’t, and was offered to send the bottle back (even though I’d used it a little to sample) and get a new, cooler, less red one called ”Dark Brown” sent to me instead. And might I say, Dark Brown is well, dark brown. DIY saved!

Prep work

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Starting off with white chairs that didn’t mesh with the moody, sultry dining room at all.

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The magic! Okay, so I realized afterwards that I didn’t need the Ultra Clean nor the Protection Cream, but I’m sure I can use them later on for something else.

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Leather supplies, an old broken sock cut into three for the cleaning steps (the cloth bled pink so I didn’t use that one), a work space consisting of the floor with some cardboard, as usual…, and a packet of gloves because once you drop one of those boxes on the floor at a tattoo shop, it’s either the garbage or it’s going home with you to serve it’s lifetime with dyeing hair or cleaning stuff, and not being around people’s freshly made tattoos.

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The first phase of cleaning was SO SATISFYING.

Scrubbing six chairs with two cleaning agents wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, but hey. I felt safe, it was going well, the white colour rubbed off on my cleaning sock as they mentioned on the website. Things were going well. Maybe I’m not gonna mess this up?! There are different kinds of leather and different types of faux leather, all which can be dyed this way, but they have different cleaning needs. I wasn’t too sure so I chanced it a little, *ahem*, but it turned out right!

The dyeing

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The first layer went on… like this. Oh shit. I’ve ruined the chair. This is NEVER GONNA work! Cue me, sipping coffee, staring at the horrible chair. An electrician peeped in to tell me something, looked at the chair, didn’t mention it and kept on working. Yeah. I’m screwed. Now we have to sell five perfectly fine chairs with an sixth ugly cousin added for free. Dangit! But the website did say not to try and make the first layer even, so yeah no that’s not gonna happen even if I did try so…

Now it’s too late, might as well continue, right?

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Layer three and two. Oh, okay… So there’s hope right?

Now, I am gonna add that the company recommends using a sponge for the first and second layer, and then airbrushing the colour on until satisfied. I do not have an airbrush-thingie, so.. I sponged it all the way. In hindsight, I’d say that if you are gonna dye large areas of leather, get an airbrush. Just do it.

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Here we’re into layers four and five I think. Three? I’m not sure. There were soo many layers.

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Neeeveereeending stoooory, aah aah aahh aaaaaah.

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Layers seven? Eight? Even the owl I caught peeping was doubting that this would ever be finished.

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But then! After sponging on ten, yes, ten layers, they all looked like this! The dye itself is a little sticky, so I wouldn’t recommend doing it over the span of a couple of days like I did, because dust and lint gets stuck on the surface and.. yeah, well, it’s in there forever now. Summary: Get a fricking airbrush and just sweep over it all, man.

Altough, I’m always more keen to approve of a little faulty things made by me, so I don’t mind it that much. The imperfections and all that. They’re fine even though I may have wanted it perfect.

After the dye layers, you need to put on a leather finish, that are available in shiny as fuck, satin softness and matte dusty desert. I chose the satin variety.

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So, being without an airbrush, I brushed the finish on. I tried getting it a little thicker on there with the brush and I did three layers to really make it solid and be able to hold hopefully for years and years to come. I tried making it all even and I checked before it dried if it looked okay, which it did. But as you can see, the finish is really uneven, and it’s apparent in most lights. So I would reallllly recommend using an airbrush for ALL OF IT. But hey, done is done, and I’m pleased anyways. And, I’ve learned a whole lot on dyeing/painting leather!

Would totally do again with the lessons in mind. I give myself a… 4/5, one point extra for bravery.

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Now I have a much nicer view into the dining room from the sofa! Yay!

How to do DIY yourself! (yes, it's supposed to be read that way)

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If you’re anything like me, you’re a stubborn, home-decorating DIYer with a flair for the fun instead of the fancy. Aka, you persist on focusing on projects that are bordering on or hover just above your general level of knowledge, skill and for the most part, laziness, and just DO IT ANYWAY.

Maybe I should call it ”DIAer”…

Because even if the simple spice rack is built from like eight bits of wood that have just been sawed off right in the middle, they’re still not equally long, straight, nor even. The thing didn’t even fit right but I... made it fit. Hehehe. *whirrs electrical screwdriver and winks* One shelf leans outwards (I have no idea why) so it’s just a matter of time before the salt and pepper grinder starts sliding closer to its sudden doom. But, if that happens, I’ll just nail a little wood strip there and TADA, problem solved and the spice rack is back to fucking PERFECT again.

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Don’t let anyone fool you. The kitchen table is a perfectly suitable spice rack until YOU say otherwise!

So hey! Here’s my guide how YOU can be as awesome as me in doing home projects and get pleased enough by the result that you’re inclined to make tutorials on the internet!  

1. Wander about your own home, stare at sections of it and feel slight feelings of discontentment. Or get angry with messes and stuff that has no homes, that’s the most efficient one.

2. Research what you want instead. Dream big, gurl! Do you want to paint your entire bedroom a forest green and place build storage perfectly adapted to your needs and add copper piping just because it’s pretty? Save that shit in your inspiration folder. The things you do later on may look nothing like it, but NO ONE CAN STEAL YOUR DREAMS! 

3. Make an actual plan of what needs to be done. Measurements of the place of project, its needs, your needs, prep work, materials, how you like it to be, where you can shortcut the shit out of it (this is important for us lazy people). 

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The importance of having a proper place to DIY is just propaganda from the workbench lobby, I swear.

4.  Invest in or gather all that paraphernalia that you need for your project to go through. I would say that good quality tools are a great way to start, but that makes me sound like some kind of professional person and we don’t want that!

5. This is the most important step; Lower your standards. I know, I know, but the rule of not lowering your standards cannot apply to DIY’s because even the most skilled ones that make magical things the general public drops their coffee cups in awe over, are displeased afterwards. Yes, we’re JUST LIKE the awesome ones! We can do it (on our level)!

6. Do it. Make it. Swear over it. Shove that shit together even though it’s not really fitting together anymore and you don’t understand why. If needed, use screws and glue and tape and industrial straps. If being reaaally careful and finicky isn’t really your thing, just wing it when it feels good! It’s all fine! 

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Some say that need is the mother of invention, but
one should not underestimate the importance of laziness.

7. Fasten your stuff properly; you don’t want your projects to meet their doom in loose screws getting detached from the wall. If anything, they’re gonna end their lives by you getting fed up with them. Install that marvel and finish it off, don’t leave half assed projects lying around. What? What’s in the corner? Oh it’s just the drawers I’m supposed to assemble… later. All those framed pictures on the floor? They’re going up… soon. Hm, what? Oh, that’s just boxes of stuff we’re donating.. shortly.

8. Enjoy your work of DIA-art and use the hell out of it! It’s AWESOME! YOU MADE IT! Yeah, so I COULD BUY a spice rack but why would I want to when I could make it myself and get it… well not exactly as I wanted it, but pretty dang close because everything I make myself automatically gets added awesomeness and forgiveness, and also I lowered my standard! 

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9. Post that piece of wonder on the internet. The internet needs more pleasantly passable DIY’s, more tolerable storage solutions, more decent interior home projects of the ”not bad” persuasion.

10. And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!

(11.) And keep the fuck away from plumbing and electricity; we're not made for that.

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The mighty Christmas wreath

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The creation of this wreath started when my ex-husband and I bought a house with a HUGE 1970's style fireplace in it, and when we neared the Christmas season we naturally needed a wreath that matched it's bricky hugeness. 

I measured and we needed a wreath that was one meter wide! 

One day a little later, my then husband came home and surprised me with a decoration free wreath that my mother in law had put together, so nice! But.. with me being picky, and with it being just a tad too big, I disassembled it, tightened it a little and then put it back together. 

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When it came to decorating it, I rummaged through my collection of stuff and decided on a colour palette of gold, copper and brown! I did test-lay everything on before I fastened it because I do have some sense of self preservation.

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First of all, the lights went on, 80 or 120, I can't remember.

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Then I test-placed all the things. 

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Fastened them with pipe cleaners (sticks so good to the branches) or linen string. 

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Tweet! 

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Then I put it up and it looked like a mini on the huge fireplace, but this was the best fit anyways. The 70's fireplace makers knew what they were doing, that's for sure.

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It fits over a not-quite-as-huge fireplace too!

I made a soft, studded pinboard

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Yeah I mean, I just wanted to. Don’t ask me why.

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Cork and stuffing.

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Random paraphernalia needed to get it all together. Sharp things, stabby things, soft things.

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A piece of foam was cut into the same size as the board.

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And then I gridded where I wanted the studs. Then I drilled holes for the studs.

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Then I just put the fabric over the foam, sort of how I wanted it.

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I didn’t actually know a professional way of doing this so I merely put nails through the holes of the board and through the foam to see where the studs were going,

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Then it was time for the studs, I had to cut a little to get them through the fabric.

I made a row at a time because the fabric wants to move when pressed down into the holes.

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Finally!

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In the corners, there the screws for the wall mounting where supposed to sit, I placed little metal washers so the screws wouldn’t ruin or go through the board with time.

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Then I fastened the fabric on the back, constantly flipping it over to see that it’s was working the way I wanted.

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TADA! I was never really keen on the fabric and some time on the future I’m making a faux leather one.

Ellet and the henna!

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My love story with henna started around eight years ago when I finally realized that yeah, I CAN have orange hair! Why not? And why did I drag it out over several years, enviously staring at people who dared to? Finally, I was sick of bleach and my hair breaking and my poor scalp screaming for help. So, I somehow fell upon the idea of dyeing my hair with henna and just so happened to read like 3000 forum pages on how do to it, what to expect, how hot I would be, how permanent it is. But since then, I’ve forgotten what all those 3000 pages said, so all I have to share with you guys is how I do it and what I’ve experienced. If you’re thinking about doing it yourself, I recommend you to read at least a couple of forum pages about before you take the plunge. It is permanent, after all.

Let’s get into it!

HENNA IS ONLY ORANGE-BROWNISH-RED

Henna derives from a plant called Lawsonia Inermis that grow in warm places towards the Middle East, and the dye that releases when you wet the pulverized, dried leaves is orange-brown-red. Nothing else. No pure brown, no black, no colourless. There are different nuances of henna, ranging from light more yellowy orange to darker, redder versions. To compare names, “Jamila henna” (that I use) gives off a more warm orange tone while “Yemeni henna” gives off a cooler red.
You just have to find the type of henna that suits your needs, hence the importance of doing a little bit of research before you get yourself into something you can’t get out of that easily. Is the henna in bar-form, like Lush’s henna bars, there’s other stuff in there apart from pure henna. Does the pack say “Brown henna” or “Blonde henna”, there’s other stuff in there. Does it say “Black henna”, STEER THE FUCK CLEAR because depending on what kind of product you’re looking at, it can be harmful. One guide line that can be used is to look for “tattoo quality henna”, because it’s usually more finely milled and purer.

Cassia is often marketed as “neutral henna”, which is kind of true but not really. It’s a similar kind of plant that gives out less pigment (yellowy) and is used for conditioning packs and shine.

OKAY, SO HOW DO YOU DO THIS THING WITH PURE HENNA?

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Well, a pack of henna, a pot to hold the mixture, water, and lemon is all that I need to dye my hair with henna! Oh, and like 12 hours of developing the mixture/on your hair.

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Happy green powder that makes a brown mixture that makes your hair orange, simple!

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Greeny brown goo releasing orange dye onto a piece of paper

I mix the powder with just regular water (I don’t bother with hot water (NOT boiling!), it’s fine anyways) and a little bit of lemon juice that is supposed to pull that bit extra pigment out of the powder. Put the mixture somewhere a little cozily warm in your house and out of the sun, and let it sit. For hours. I often leave it for eight hours (I mix it before work and dye when I get home) and it’s just fine, people recommend up to twelve hours I think. The surface turns a soggy brown and it’s easy to see that it’s oxidizing in the air just by stirring it, it’s greener under the surface!

I just slap it on, can’t help you with a good fool proof method but it’s always turned out even. And then I let it sit for three-four hours. I’m a natural blonde and that time is enough. After waiting for ages, you just rinse it out carefully and then wait for two days to see what it oxidizes into. The colour settles a bit and I prefer the settled colour from the lighter, more intense orange that is the first result.

Also, a warning for you beginners out there: Don’t make the mix too runny. The first time I dyed my hair with henna, I had to lay flat on my back on the living room floor for three hours because it wouldn’t stop running down my neck, haha.

Whatever mixture is left when I’m done slapping it on my hair and getting that covered, I just put in the freezer. When it’s time to dye it again, I just take it out and let it thaw and it’s good to go another round! From the mixture starting to develop the dye, until it’s weakened and dyes badly, it’s about 24 hours, so there’s a little bit of room to play with.

Something to keep in mind is that the henna mixture and its muddy consistency, is that it’s a bit harder to work with than regular hair dye. It’s drier and “rougher” in texture so parting your hair carefully is a good idea in order to avoid dry, undyed spots. And, use gloves. Henna is usually used for tattoos that last for weeks, and sticks to skin, hair and nails like a BOMB. It stains my face a tad when I dye my hair but with my oily skin, it’s barely visible the day after.

Whoops

Every time you dye your hair, depending on how long you keep it in and how intense the mixture is, the colour adds and adds. So if you want a lighter colour, it can be a good idea to not dye your entire head of hair every time. Just dye it all until you’ve reached the level of red/depth that you desire and then just dye the grown out bits. I haven’t had any regulations and have dyed my roots along with everything that happens to get involved while doing it. Your natural colour shifts will be visible through the henna! Over my light blonde hair and three years of dyeing with Jamila henna, my hair looks like this:

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OH, BUT I HAVE HEARD ABOUT PEOPLE DYING THEIR HAIR BROWN WITH HENNA?

Yes! If they’re dyeing their hair with pure henna, and not those already mixed packs of differing tones of dye, they’re using henna PLUS something else. Many people do this. Black? Henna + Indigo. Indigo is a dark blue dye (also used for dyeing jeans) and together with henna it can create a colour that’s close to black. Do you want brown? Throw a smaller amount of indigo in the mix! This takes experimentation, to find the shade that you’re after. I’ve even heard about people throwing cocoa in the mix but I would double check that one before you try it yourself.
I believe that indigo is a little less permanent over time, but henna itself is SUPER PERMANENT. In the picture up there, I haven’t dyed the ends of my hair in two years. The henna doesn’t care, it’s there and it’s showing off its business anyways. Henna farts in bleach’s general direction.

The first time I tried bleaching out henna was when I had quite a bit of roots, and then I dyed it all crazy orange and yellow and red (IT WAS AMA-ZING) so I’ve never come to the point of having to remove all the henna, which is good I’m guessing. I’ve heard of people managing it but I wouldn’t count on it happening to just about anyone.

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Bleached hennaed and natural hair. I believe you can see what parts are which.. 

I’VE HEARD ABOUT PEOPLE GETTING IN TROUBLE BY BLACK HENNA, IS HENNA DANGEROUS?

STEER CLEAR OF "BLACK HENNA", PLX!

Black henna, as it can be marketed in the case of black henna tattoos, is often not actual henna at all. Instead, it’s a black dye that is made of PPD which is harsh and can cause allergic reactions, with scarring and misery to follow. If you have an allergic reaction to PPD it can cause future reactions to all sorts of black dye, ranging from paper inks, regular hair dyes, clothes dyes, so it’s best to steer clear of it. Note, IT IS NOT HENNA AT ALL. There are people who have experienced allergic reactions to real, natural henna, but as far as I know (source: the internet. Do your research! Spot test!) there’s not many of them at all.

OKAY, SO HENNA IS PRETTY. BUT WHAT DOES IT DO?

It’s strengthening for your hair! The pigment penetrates your hair and becomes one with the structure, making it stronger. I have henna to thank for my long hair, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help. After a couple of dye sessions, I had a hairdresser touch my hair and exclaim “It’s in pretty good nick for all those bleach sessions!”. That’s the first time I’ve EVER heard a hairdresser compliment my hair, I almost fell out of the chair! Some people get shinier hair, some hair types get straighter, and some claim that henna doesn’t play well with perms for that reason. My hair is definitely straighter and the natural curves of my hair is GONE like the wind, leaving it stick straight, but I think it’s worth it. It’s good to take into consideration though if you have locks that you cherish.

The coppery goldy reflexes the henna gives off in direct sunlight are AMAZING. And, the best part of all!: It doesn’t wash out. You just have to keep up with your roots, the rest of the hair is forever covered.

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I WANT HENNA, WHERE CAN I FIND MYSELF SOME?

I don’t know! I buy from a Swedish distributer at hennabutiken.se, I have no experience other than that. Google is your friend in all aspects of henna! 

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Left: Remnants of black dye gone brown and pink dye. Right: I threw henna over all of it. You can see how the pink and browns shine through. As soon as the pink washed out, it all turned orange. You can also see how light orange one single layer of henna can be on blonde hair. I like my hair darker also, but wouldn't have minded the light orange either! 

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My colour as of the winter of 2017, in the cool light of a winter sunset. It's more orangey in real life, but this picture shows how the colour changes with the lighting too! 

 

SO, THE STEPS!

1. Do your research. Do more of it than you think you need. Read, google, read instructions, mixtures, types, brands, pictures, varieties!

2. Decide! Do you want to go for it, or not. There’s no turning back after, the result is PERMANENT. Try on not so visible strands of hair before going full head. On the pictures in this post you see pure warm-toned henna over naturally blonde hair. If your hair is darker, then the henna will turn out darker too!

3. Buy the right kind of henna! Cooler, warmer, redder, orangier.

4. Dye! Wait for it to settle and oxidize for two days before you get to see the final result.

5. ENJOY your lesser upkeep-intense hair colour, just the roots to keep track of.

 

 

Disclaimer; I'm a civilian experimenting with my own hair. I'm no expert, I take no resposibility for your hair, good luck and so forth! 

Once I made a tiny little cake

Friends, don’t ask me where I got the idea from. I just kind of followed my instincts.

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Everything needed! Tiny meat cleaver for good measure.

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We’ll start off with a little pancake to pile things on.

Just like this!

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A green with lots of yellow in it is the classic princess cake hue.

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And most important of all, the little rose!

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Now, the cake has to be cut. Of course! It’s a little home made, a little imperfect, a… little covered in black lint because always being dressed in black, playing with clay in a black couch… It has it’s challenges.