Dress · Dyeing · Fabric · Hand stitching · Recycled

Not dead, just dyed

With this time of year comes many formal events for me. Being me, I was loath to wear the same dresses over and over again, but as I’m sure you’ve guessed my wardrobe is already more full than I can reasonably justify. I had a few dresses a former housemate had given me when she moved interstate, though they fit me I didn’t particularly like any of them, and just kept them for the sake of it.

Out of the dresses was one which was flattering (though a bit shorter than I would prefer), in good condition, but rather plain. It was chiffon over a thin, smooth stretchy jersey, and elasticized around the waist, all polyester.


“I still have a week or so before this dinner, how can I make this dress better?” I thought to myself.

With more colour, obviously.

I still had some purple fabric paint left over from a few years ago when I was doing some stamping. I thought through a few variations of tie-dying and ombre, then settled on the most risky and unknown, just for the hell of it. What would I lose? A dress I didn’t really like and gloating rights. I live on the edge.

The idea was to do many lines of running (long, straight) stitch around the dress, then pull it all tight and coat what stayed on the outside with the paint. Like smocking stitch, but more random and haphazard. I made an effort to not keep my stitches straight or line up with each other. After all this it ended up a lot smaller than I expected.


I left it for a couple of days to dry, which is also about how long it took to get all the paint washed off my hands.



To heat set it I put it in the dryer for an hour, another risky move, but I didn’t want it to run if something was spilt on it.

For the most part, when stitching, I took the chiffon and jersey together as one fabric, but occasionally would misalign them just for a bit of chaos. This can be seen in a few places, and I think adds more dimension to it.



It came out fantastically. I had imagined many scenarios where it was amazing, a catastrophe, or (the worst) boring. But I had never quite imagined it like this.


I wish I had done the stitching a little differently to give more purple, but other than that I love everything about it. I want to try it again and again with lots of variations. Two stitching and dying events (with the same or different colours), messing it around a bit more while the dye is still wet to give fuzzier edges, circles or other shapes, big stitching down the bottom, getting finer toward the top……

I had told a few people who would be at the dinner what I was planning to do, and they were also blown away with the result. I also got a great compliment from a waitress who had no idea I had dyed it myself. I almost kissed her in thanks.


In the end I wore this dress to two consecutive formal occasions anyway, so the initial point of making it is now moot.


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