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Recycling fabrics isn’t something hipsters dreamed up to make their thrift-store finds cool. The Textile Museum’s newest exhibit, “Second Lives: The Age-Old Art of Recycling Textiles,” consists of fabrics that have been around the spindle a few times, with some dating back to the 16th century. The pieces—full of bright colors, intricate designs, and rich pasts—include a beautiful Qing dynasty-era Chinese dragon robe-turned-wall hanging. Made of gold-spun silk, the robe makes haute couture look like H&M, having been crafted over a period of three years. Another standout piece is a 19th-century Native American vest from the Pacific Northwest constructed from a ceremonial mantle and decorated with killer whale clan symbols. Its green color separates it from other textiles from the era: Green dye-yielding plants are rare, so the hue was achieved by stewing copper in urine for five months and adding tree lichen. Hey, whatever works.
THE EXHIBIT IS ON DISPLAY TUEDAYS TO SATURDAYS, 10 A.M. TO 5 P.M. AND SUNDAYS 1 P.M. TO 5 P.M. TO JANUARY 8, 2012 AT THE TEXTILE MUSEUM, 2320 S ST. NW. (202) 667-0441.