Posts Tagged ‘dye


Green Glamour

Jamelah5This was FUN! I deeply enjoy sewing in general, and custom dressmaking in particular, but when it comes down to it, some projects are more enjoyable than others for a whole world of reasons. Some go smoothly and others surprise you with unexpected challenges. Some are beautiful and some are… less so (a custom pair of velveteen shorts for a guitarist in an ACDC cover band comes to mind). Some allow a great deal of artistic license and others need to achieve someone else’s design concept very precisely. And sometimes I’m able to work effectively without difficulty, while other times the other demands on my time and energy make it challenging to sew. This particular project was a sheer delight in pretty much every possible way.

Jamelah1The process of creating this truly custom formal gown began with an Alchemy request on etsy. I knew from reading the client’s description of what she wanted that she would be fun to work with. She needed a beautiful formal gown to wear to her cousin’s wedding in a very traditional Muslim village in Palestine, and wanted a custom garment that was modest enough to be appropriate, formal enough to please the bride, but that also demonstrated her personality. She described the challenge with phrases like “I need to be modest but that doesn’t mean I have to wear a potato sack” and included many passionate descriptions of clothing styles she liked… ranging from fantasy elvish inspired costumes to the glamour and tinsel of a 1940’s Hollywood starlet. The challenge set before her piqued my interest, and her open, excited tone fuelled my creative fire. I put in a bid immediately.

We emailed back and forth for several days, discussing her various needs and wants for the dress – fabrics (it had to be silk!), colors (preferably green), embellishments (embroidery perhaps?), her budget, her body type, and photos of several dresses to get a feel for her style. After a great deal of discussion I drew up a sketch for her of a 40’s inspired gown, and she responded with a very enthusiastic, all caps, reply that she LOVED it.

Jamelah3For a completely original design, one for which I’d never seen a commercial pattern, it made sense to draft a pattern from scratch. This particular dress required a lot of draping to determine the right shape for the pattern pieces on the bodice front. Draping is fun. It appeals to my love of  sculpture, and honestly it’s just so practical! I made a muslin for her to try on before working with the silk for her gown, and we discovered that while we needed a few tweaks to improve the fit, on the whole the dress worked and was just want she’d wanted. Fabulous!

Next came the dye bath. I purchased a beautiful acid dye worthy of our silk fabric to dye her dress an emerald green. I have to thank the good people at Dharma Trading for supplying fantastic dyes at great prices as well as thorough instructions for using them with silk fabrics. For that matter I should thank them as well for their awesome customer service, their INCREDIBLE turnaround time processing orders, and their use of recycled materials for packaging and shipping. (Honestly, if you need dyes or silks, or just want to look at gorgeous pictures of hand painted fabrics, go to their site! They are truly awesome!)

Jamelah4The color turned out beautifully. And it was time to sew. On that particular day, my husband took our daughter to a theme park, and I had the rare treat of the house to myself for eight solid hours. I was able to work free of interruptions, at a steady but comfortable pace, watching *my* TV shows (instead of Veggie Tales and Little Einsteins) while I endlessly made little pintucks in the beautiful silk fabric. It was heavenly, and one of those days where my work felt more like play.

Jamelah2I felt confident that the finished product was just right. It looked like the sketch, it fit her measurements, and it embodied the goals she’d had for her dress, being uniquely stylish, modest but flattering, feminine, colorful and lovely. Far more important than my own delight at the result though was hers… and she was thrilled! The final product fit perfectly and was exactly what she’d hoped for. She tells me she expects to be the most beautiful woman at the wedding – except for the bride of course!

So here’s a happy ending to a truly delightful project. And I sincerely wish a happily ever after to the bride and groom!


A more colorful post!

After all the plain white fabric in my recent post, it seems worthwhile to show you a bit of color today:

Lycra Before

Granted, the photo above is fairly stark. This is our “Before” picture. Yesterday, I dyed. Dying is always a little exciting for me. Plain white turns to brilliant colors, and sooo many details can impact how well the end product turns out. I’ve been playing with dyes for quite a while now and I’m still learning new things I can do.

Stove top dying is my usual MO. It’s relatively convenient to set up and clean up, and you can get a nice hot heat on the stove which helps the dye set brilliantly. I’ve learned though that it’s a poor choice for larger projects because even in a 2 gallon stock pot, a couple yards of fabric get crowded quickly – and then you end up with an uneven dye job (not good). Yesterday I wanted to avoid the hassle of dying in the washing machine, but I didn’t want to risk blotchy fabric. So in a moment of inspiration I decided to cut my fabric pieces out first and dye them pre-cut, just a few at a time! (Since the nylon Lycra blend I was working with was a knit fabric, I didn’t have to worry about it fraying after I cut it). It worked superbly.

First a shot of my practice swatches as I perfected the color mix in my pot. Attempts 1 through 3 are laid out from left to right, with the farthest right swatch being the purple chiffon fabric I wanted to match. (Actually, I wanted the Lycra to be just slightly darker than the chiffon).

Dye Attempts

Once the dye mix met my satisfaction, I took the plunge and dyed the pre-cut pieces of fabric for my project, separated into two halves so I wouldn’t overcrowd the pot, and pre-soaked in water so the fabric would drink up the dye nice and evenly. Beautiful. I cleaned up my workspace and then I hand washed the dyed fabric bits with just a bit of detergent and rinsed them thoroughly several times so that any bleeding they were going to do happened before they were sewn to other fabrics. I hung them to drip dry, and waited. Here’s the “After” pic:

Lycra After

With the fabric dyed, washed, and dried I was ready to get started on a new Latin style ballroom dance costume! Now two days ago I had taken the time before hand to cut, serge, and iron a small mountain of little purple chiffon triangles, which were to be used in the Latin dress’ skirt. Here they are, waiting patiently while I dyed:

Ready Triangles

And with those components – the hand dyed Lycra and ready chiffon triangles, I was ready to put together a beautiful dress. The built-in body suit went together with no problems whatsoever: front to back, elastic through the legs, bra cups sewn in place. Then the outer dress – front to back, serge the raw edges, leaving a slit up each side which had to be hemmed. I was making great time! Thought I might even finish the dress before bedtime. On to the hem at the bottom. Fold, press, stitch, right?


*Shakes head.* If I had taken the time to set up my professional quality iron this wouldn’t have happened. I have a beautiful gravity feed iron with a Teflon shoe that doesn’t melt fabrics. But, setting this up requires me to drill a hook in the wall from which to hand the bottle of water that feeds the iron. Putting the hook in the wall with any ease requires knowing where our power screwdriver is. I think it’s in one of the boxes in the garage. Probably. And in the meantime I’m using the regular, run of the mill, daily use iron that we’ve had for years. And it MELTED a tiny little spot on the skirt.

Scortched Hem

If you sew, you’ll sympathize. Heck if you do any long, time consuming type of project that can be ruined in an instant, you’ll sympathize. At this point I’d been working on the dress all day. Pattern drafting, cutting, soaking, dying, washing, drying, sewing, serging… melting. I called my husband and asked for his painfully honest opinion. No, I couldn’t cut the hem even shorter (it was super short already). No I couldn’t leave the melted spot there and just pretend it hadn’t happened (not that I really would have considered that option). Yes, I really did need to redo the outer dress. Yes, that really did mean cutting, soaking, dying, washing, drying, sewing, and serging all over again.


It was one of those gut wrenching, tear jerking, frustrating moments that are just kind of sickening. Acknowledging that a two second error, just that tiniest moment of leaving the iron in one spot too long, was going to cost me HOURS to repair. I balked. I whined. I contemplated crying. And then I took a deep breath and put the stock pot back on the stove. More water. More salt. More dye. More heat. More test swatches. More precut fabric. More rinses. More washing. More drying. More sewing. More serging. And somehow a few hours later I’d caught back up. I was tired but optomistic once again. I could look at the *new* outer dress, smile at my success, and even admit to myself that the dye turned out better the second time. And I got to move forward.

The dozens and dozens of chiffon triangles made their way, one at a time, to the skirt before I went to bed. This morning the outer dress and bodysuit went together, I finished the raw edges all around, and took the very important step off sewing in my beautiful “Goff Couture” label. 🙂

Here she is, all finished and just waiting for some bling. (I’ll be gluing around 15 gross of Swarovski rhinestones all over the place once the stones arrive).

Purple Latin Front Purple Latin Back

April 2019
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