Dress #2: Red Tie-Dye Polka Dot Dress

redtunic

Here is dress number two: tie-dyed red with white polka dots made in organic cotton sateen from Organic Cotton Plus. Chronologically, it’s not actually dress number two; I made a couple of dresses out of fabric that I’m not so crazy about between the yellow/striped dress and this one, but this is most certainly second in my order of preference.

I sewed the dress in the natural (unbleached, undyed) fabric before I dyed it with a color called Fire Engine Red. I love this tie-dye technique, which I learned from a fabulous book called Tie-Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It. To make the dots, you take some sort of round object under the fabric (I used old plastic buttons), put a bit of plastic wrap over the fabric gathered by the object, and then wrap it with a rubber band. Dye as normal, then remove the rubber bands and plastic at the end and you get some lovely big irregular dots.

The result is fun and bold. I love the color, even thought it isn’t what I think of as a fire engine red: this color has less orange, and a little less intensity. More of a pinkish tomato. After the fact I spent some time looking for color samples of this particular dye, and it seems that my result was true to the dye, just not quite true to its name.

As you can see in the picture, it came out really being more of a tunic than a dress, because I ordered one yard of the fabric I wanted to try out, and that ended up not being quite long enough. But I love the tunic. Or rather, I love tunics, so I think I might include it as a variation of the Sunday Shift dress in my collection. And I definitely love the dye technique. Next time I think I’ll try it on a large piece of fabric rather than doing it on a finished dress.

I finished the inside of the neckline with red and white 1/4″ gingham bias, and used the gingham to make a loop for the vintage button closure at the back:

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The Very First Dress: Sunday Shift in Yellow and Stripes

I’ve been posting about weaving and working and making bags, but you may recall that the focus of this business I’m starting is dresses. Although I haven’t been writing about the dresses much, I have been working on them. And here for you today I am happy to present my very first dress, the Sunday Shift Dress in yellow with striped contrast band and pockets.

You may recognize the yellow flax/silk blend fabric from my first dyeing project in July. I actually made the main part of the dress a few weeks ago. However, the yard of fabric I purchased for testing shrank more than expected in the dyeing and washing process, and the dress ended up too short.

I kept it around while I worked on other things, pondering how to finish it. I finally decided to add a contrast band at the bottom, and for the fabric I used a striped men’s dress shirt I purchased at a thrift store that was in my “To Be Upcycled” stash.

I’m quite pleased with the outcome. Bertha the Dressform has been wearing the dress for a couple days, and it makes me happy every time I see it. I like the yellow enough that I think it would work in a solid color version of the dress, but the stripes are a fun option.

Stay tuned: more dresses coming soon!

And Then There Was Much Working

Ideas are great, but if you get serious about them, there’s a side effect: lots and lots of work. It’s been a few weeks since my I created first prototype dress, and since then I’ve spent many hours tweaking, testing, redrafting, and re-re-drafting the pattern to try to get it just right.

Photo Jul 28, 11 41 24 AM

The sleeve, in particular, have been driving me nuts. Which is funny, because technically this dress doesn’t even have sleeves—at least not sleeves that need to be attached separately. I’ve chosen to design the dress with a very short kimono-style sleeve, which means the sleeve is cut as part of the shape of the main dress, sort of like a t-shape. I love this style because it drapes nicely on the shoulder, feels loose and roomy on the body, and requires less work in the garment construction.

And all that is well and good, but I have found it surprisingly tricky to finish the sleeves in a way I’m satisfied with, especially since I’m using french seams on most of the dress. (For the uninitiated, this complicates things because every seam gets sewn trice, rather than once, as is typical with a more basic seam finishing.) The sleeve just did not want me to make a nice hem out of its edge. I rolled. I pressed. I basted. I tried a baby hem. I considered doing a bias finish but decided the shape of the armhole – which is sharply angled where it meets the side seam – would make it just as troublesome as the other options.

After cutting and sewing something like six test versions, I settled on a basic 1/4″ hem with a slight change of the overall garment construction: instead of sewing the side and shoulder seams and then finishing the armhole (which is typical), I sew the shoulder seams, hem the sleeve edges, and then sew the side seams. This method fully encloses the raw edges at the bottom of the armhole are make a nice strong seam at a point that takes significant stress from the wearer moving around.

 

Photo Jul 29, 3 13 24 PM

The lesson within all of these details is that this is freaking hard work. Progress feels slow. It’s been a while since I took on a major creative endeavor like this, and I had forgotten that each work in my art portfolio came about after many, many hours in the studio.

Fortunately, I’m loving every minute of it.