A few months ago I attended a class on natural dyeing at the Fremantle Arts Centre. I met the lovely Lucy of Maud Made there and we learned about, and experimented with, several different natural dyes, mordants and dyeing techniques. We tried such things as tumeric, eucalyptus leaves, indigo and onion skins and used various twisting and tying methods as well as clipping objects to fabric to get different patterns and designs. That process is known as Shibori and was so much fun. I had brought along several pieces of fabric and merrily dyed them and draped them all over the workroom.
This dress is the first thing I've made from my dyed fabric. The fabric is a lightweight cotton which I folded into a concertina shape lengthways and then again widthways to get a square. I then clamped wooden sticks over the fabric square using bulldog clips and immersed it in the indigo dye for around 30 seconds. The dye penetrated differently due to the folding of the fabric, so I ended up with almost a border print (the fabric that absorbed the most dye was used at the hem of the dress).
After 'making' the fabric myself, I wanted to sew it into something a bit special and I pondered at length on what that would be. I eventually chose the 'White Magic' dress from the book 'Twinkle Sews' by Wenlan Chia.
I made the following changes to the pattern: lengthened the tunic into a dress; left off the pockets; and attached the back tie lower down.
I was very careful to place the pattern so that the design on the fabric was centred and symmetrical and, as mentioned, used the darkest dyed part for the hem.
I made the dress in size 8 which corresponded most closely to my measurements on the size chart in the book.
The dress went together fairly easily although the instructions would have benefitted from some explanatory diagrams. The main area I had difficulty with was attaching the tiny sleeves. I initially did them the wrong way round, which looked ok but restricted arm movement. I think in the end I attached the shortest side of the sleeve to the dress using a normal seam, not leaving a raw edge as suggested.
I am very happy with this dress. The pin tucks on the front and neckline and the shirring on the back add subtle interest and were fun to sew. I am a little bit proud that I dyed the fabric and made the dress myself. I highly recommend this pattern and the dyeing course.
My tutor for the course was Bernadette Aitkin. The course I attended was her last at Fremantle Arts Centre (FAC) before she moved to Melbourne to start teaching there. If you are in Perth, FAC does still offer dyeing courses. If you're in Melbourne maybe you can find a course by Bernadette. I really enjoyed the course and Bernadette allowed us to go a bit wild experimenting and dyeing our own fabric. Great fun! I still have several pieces of dyed fabric to use on other creations.