Time to Dye!

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In my opinion, this has been the most creativity I’ve had on any project I’ve worked on thus far. It’s easy to follow a pattern. It’s even easy to try to replicate something once you’re able to dissect all it’s parts from a picture. But for me, it’s hard to come up with my own idea. I think I figured out how to do that in this project.

On a related side note, one year at Sew Expo, Suede and another representative from Simplicity were giving a presentation at the free stage. The Simplicity rep was saying that they’ll have customers e-mail them and ask what kind of trim should they use for a project. She went on to say that the fabrics and trims listed in the pattern are only suggestions and that they strongly encourage their customers to use their imagination and creativity to create their garments. I feel I lost my creativity somewhere in… college, maybe. When I took a hiatus from sewing during my time in college, that makes sense, because I remember coming up with some pretty creative things (like the time I sewed a black feather boa to the neckline and cuffs of a black velvet shirt during my “goth” phase in my adolescence) before then.

Oh well.

Nowadays, I have a little bit of anxiety if I think about coloring outside the lines. I’m getting better about that, though.

Enough with the feels, let’s get to the story about this dress.

So my brother was getting married. In Las Vegas. That meant I needed to make myself a new dress. Their dress code was pretty open-ended: “No jeans”, my brother said, and he also said they weren’t having a bridal party, so I could wear whatever color I wanted. I had thought about finally using the aqua silk crepe de chine I bought on sale from Mood Fabrics a while ago and to make myself a vintage-style dress, but I wasn’t quite feeling it. Maybe if it was a garden wedding, but not a wedding in Vegas. I had to go… Vegas-y for this dress.

While reorganizing my fabric stash (read: procrastinating), I found a few yards of a white poly crepe back satin my mom had bought many many years ago when we were thinking about making my wedding dress, and I needed to do something with it. I had originally thought about making some kind of party dress out of it, but I never go to fancy parties, so that seemed like a waste.

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To increase my procrastination, I started digging through my patterns. I was trying to queue up a bunch of projects, while simultaneously using the fabric in my stash, so I felt that I was being productive. While looking at the envelope of one of my many Cynthia Rowley patterns from Simplicity (Simplicity 1801), the long, sleeveless dress spoke to me. It felt spring-wedding-in-a-casino-in-Vegas appropriate.

I know what you’re thinking: White at someone else’s wedding? Of course, I’m not that tacky. I figured that this would be a perfect time to try out some ombré dyeing. My sewing BFF has been telling me for quite some time that I should just give it a try. I told myself that if I totally messed it up, I could always sew up something else, like the vintage silk crepe de chine dress.

The dress, itself, sewed up nicely. I thought about taking it in at the bust, because there was quite a bit of ease at the bust, but the next size down might have been cutting it close. I didn’t do a muslin, and figured I could always take it in if necessary. But it wasn’t. It’s comfortable, and the point of the V-neck comes right to my bra band, so I needed to use some fashion tape to keep it modest, which is fine. That’s probably what I would need to do to something like this from the store.

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Speaking of the V-neck, the pattern’s cutting instructions kind of forgot to mention that you need to cut out of a piece of the neck facing for this dress. It’s on the pattern piece and in the instructions, so I eventually figured out that I needed to use it. But other than that, the pattern is great. It’s got pockets (my favorite), and a side seam zip. I got to learn how to insert a zipper on a dress with a side seam zip! That was probably the second most exciting thing about making this dress.

Okay, so dress was mostly done (I waited to hem until I was ALL done), so it was time to dye. (I was giggling to myself, telling my dress I expected it to dye, a la Goldfinger). If you’ve ever dyed fabric before, you probably already know that polyester does not take dye very well. The best fabric to dye with is natural fibers, like cotton or silk. Well, mom and I were cheap when it came to a dress we both knew I was only going to wear once (in fact, my actual wedding dress ended up being polyester, too), so I had to find a way to dye polyester. There’s a company with a line of dyes for polyester, and I watched a tutorial some gals put together about how to use it, which was over the stove.

Arg, I was hoping it would be as easy filling up a bucket of water, throwing in the dye and then slowly dragging the dress out of it, but nope. So off to Value Village we went to get a pot I could use to boil my dress without destroying our good cookware. I didn’t quite follow the directions on the dye instructions to use either a stainless steel or ceramic pot to cook the fabric, because the biggest pot they had at Value Village was anodized aluminum. I’ll explain why this was a problem later.

I wanted to get an ombré effect on my dress, which required elevating the fabric I didn’t want dyed above the dye pot. The instructions say that it would take 30 minutes to an hour to dye the fabric, and there was no way I was going to stand, holding fabric, for 30 minutes to an hour over a boiling pot. I did for a few minutes though, until I had gotten enough of the ombré look I was going for on the skirt and then smartly wrapped the bodice around the handle of the microwave above the stove and held it down with a Chip Clip.

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While stirring my dress, I noticed that some of the fabric was resting against the side of the pot, and some of the fabric started to become black from the anodized aluminum. Don’t worry, I managed to fix it, mostly, but lesson learned here, there’s a reason for material suggestions. I ended up moving the pot over so that the dress didn’t rest against the side again, and kept stirring and checking to make sure that there was a mostly even dye all around.

After about 30 minutes, I was pretty content with the saturation of the dye. Somehow I managed to get the pot and the dress over to the sink without getting a mess everywhere, and rinsed and washed it. Then I laid it out on a towel to dry.

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I was pretty happy with how the dye job turned out, and it didn’t continue to bleed after being washed, so I considered it a success. But it didn’t feel complete to me. The neckline felt really… boring. I picked up a couple of iron-on lace applique and iron-on jewels from the craft story, but even after a vote of some friends online, I just didn’t have a good feeling about the embellishments: they felt too cheap.

Instead, I went to a local bead store near by work during lunch and was going to hand bead some beads to the neckline, but one of the gals at the shop showed me these iron-on rhinestones that I ended up using. I also bought some Swarovski crystal beads to include in the embellishment, but I didn’t actually end up using them for the dress.

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What I ended up doing was pinning down the bodice so that parts laid flat, then I sprinkled the rhinestones onto it and carefully flipped over any that were upside-down with a pair of tweezers. Once I was happy with the progress in that area, I threw a press cloth over it, and then ironed them to the dress. There are tools you can get to adhere each rhinestone individually, but “ain’t nobody got time for that”.

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I only embellished the front and left the back plain.

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And the Swarovski crystals I planned on using for the top, but didn’t? I turned into a couple bracelets for my mom and me for the wedding, since she was also wearing blue. However, I ended up giving my bracelet to my new sister-in-law at the reception because she didn’t have anything blue to wear.

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So, this pattern was pretty awesome. If I made it again, it would be with a lighter weight fabric, and I might bring up the neckline or add some lace or something sheer to it to made it a bit more modest for casual wear.

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