One Year One Outfit: doily dress


When I set out to make my One Year One Outfit last year, I was totally determined that it would be something I would wear often, and what happened is that I’ve made something that, although wearable, probably won’t be worn too often – doh! Let me start at the beginning though. When I was in Iceland at the end of 2015, I found this book and felt it was the inspiration I needed. There are some magnificent things in this book!

knitting in circles

I swatched a few of the circles and finished up making one called “Brunhilda’s whirl”. I figured I would make a whole dress of these circles and it would be lovely. What could go wrong? I bought some yarn from Bilby’s Yarns that met the criteria and started knitting.


I knitted the doilies on our Great Australian Roadtrip, but they began to wear thin somewhere around the Nullarbor, but I pushed on for a while. I could make one a day  if I stuck at it, but estimated that I needed around 40 of different sizes. That’s a lot of knitting!

I used different sized needles to get different sized “doilies” which was a cunning plan, but, you guessed it, some of those doilies were really transparent. I needed lining, so knitted some sheets of fabric to go underneath. I did this on my knitting machine. No way was I going to handknit miles of stocking stitch of 2ply yarn!


Then began construction. I had an idea of how I wanted the sleeves and neckline, but then couldn’t figure out how to fit the rest of the dress together. It needed to be draped on a dressmaker’s dummy and I’m not good at draping, so I took it off to Sarah at my patternmaking class and it came together quite quickly as a concept. Then began the handsewing. Each doily was chain stitched on and then the fabric cut away underneath and finished off by hand. A few things became apparent when I tried it on:

  • there was no shape to the dress
  • the top doilies couldn’t support the weight of the dress and began stretching out
  • I needed to create some firm edges under the arms

I began with the shaping, fashioning in some darts that were on the outside of the dress and felting them in place with an embellishing machine. This really improved things.

Then to deal with the drooping. The dress needed some under support, but how to accomplish this? Sarah suggested building in a bra, which would resolve another issue – the top was quite transparent.


I built the bra from the knitted fabric and lined it with wool roving. All edges were handstitched and then felted together. I used the Maya bra pattern as the basis and went from there.

Here I am felting in some side seams for the bra – the back is wider than a regular bra to help support the dress


One of the interesting things to note is that if you use one of these embellishing machines to felt wool it basically shreds it, but a strip of roving slipped in between the layers to be felted resolves this and you finish up with a wonderfully strong seam. Interesting huh?

I used this roving and felting technique to make shoulder straps that went round the side of the bra, connecting it to the arm opening. This was stitched and felted. Here it is tacked in place (with some wool I dyed in 2015).


and stitching it.6B305F33-B78E-44EE-B950-EF871F3B2D62

So, I then had another white outfit, which I so didn’t want, but loved the ’20s vibe I had going on. At one point I wondered if I was going to have to knit some Spanx to hold me in, but in the end, I think I’m ok.


The dress sat around for months whilst I dithered about the colour. I felt it needed to be soft, probably pastel, either pinkish or bluish. I did experiment with Aloe from my garden but it turned out to be a dingy, dirty sort of a colour, so that didn’t work. I was also stressing about the size of the pot I was going to need – this dress is quite big and my 10litre op-shop pot was not going to allow the fabric to move freely.

Meanwhile, Mark had been collecting avocado pits for me, so I made a do or die decision (aided along my Nicki’s deadline of – eek – today!) to dye it with avocado and be done with it. I went to a camping store and bought a massive crab pot, at vast expense, put the avocado pits into the insert and boiled and simmered. The dress was soaked in water with no mordant as I didn’t want more “cooking” than absolutely necessary. I did a test swatch which came out red/brown, which freaked me out, but threw the dress in anyway. I simmered for about half an hour and then checked the dress. It was a pleasant shade of musky pink and the water was – completely clear? No point in leaving it to sit overnight then. I rinsed and blocked the dress and this is what it now looks like. I’m not wearing shoes as the ones I made in 2015 do not work with the dress and I just couldn’t make more.


So that’s the dress. However, if I am to wear it in public, I need to add a few things so I auditioned a bit of jewellery and some shoes.

First up my Christian Louboutin’s that go with everything and a really old strand of pearls (around 1915) which I wore for my wedding


The back view. The dress has changed shape somewhat, growing longer and narrower. This may be my poor blocking though.


and Salvatore Ferragamo shoes with a modern strand of pink pearls. I like these less with the dress, but prefer the shoes as I think they fit the ’20s look I’m going for.

DSC08945 I think this is the look I like.


So, this is the dress component. I have also made a jacket and bag, but this post was so long that you are going to get a second post on the topic. Back soon!



81 thoughts on “One Year One Outfit: doily dress

  1. Stunning, you look stunning in that stunning dress. and your ability to construct is amazing. You must have been an engineer in a former life!


  2. A-freaking-mazing. I wanted to come up with a new word because this dress deserves nothing less. It is so beautiful, truly a work of art. I like your accessories and shoes, great job.


  3. I am speechless! Your dress is gorgeous, I love the style very much and it suits your slender figure so well. It is an interesting technique as to felt the seams. I like what the Romanians say: “Wear it in health!”


    1. The idea is to make fabric from only locally produced materials, which for me basically means wool and wood. All thread was wool and the only way I can get colour is to use natural dyes. The avocadoes were grown by a friend to make them local. Thank you Roxane!


  4. The dress is absolutely stunning!!! You have knocked this one out of the park and I am literally speechless! And you have inspired me as I am about to pick up two knitting machines from my mom and I do not have a clue how to use them or what to do with them but you have motivated me to get creative.


    1. If your knitting machines drop stitches, it’s because they will need a new sponge bar. This is never mentioned in the manual. You can usually buy them on ebay and just slip them in. Let me know if you need help. Diana Sullivan has some excellent videos on youtube if you want to get started.


  5. This is absolutely fabulous and I hope you have somewhere special to go to show it off. As said in my comment to the jacket and bag I admire your tenacity and patience to get this perfect. Thank you for sharing your process. Putting that dress in the dye bath must have been terrifying – at least that would be how I would feel.


  6. This is such a stunning dress and I am so impressed with your skills! Can’t believe you made a bra from your knit fabric, it looks great! And the dress is just beautiful! I like the shape it has after blocking a lot and the color is so soft and beautiful. You should wear this in public and give it the stage it deserves! And I need a knitting machine, no way around that.


  7. So elegant. I love the ways you accessorised it too. I can imagine it as perfect at a wedding or a cocktail party. You did a fabulous job with your one year one outfit


  8. It’s amazing how you actually took this challenge of knitting your own dress. And you did not give up. I specifically don’t start massive projects in fear of not being able to complete it.


  9. Your dress is amazing. It is now such a pretty colour and you look so elegant in it. I would never have dreamed of making my own fabric like you have. You have taken slow sewing to a new level.


  10. WOW! That is an incredibly beautiful wearable work of art! Thankyou for sharing the process and result. And may I say again WOW.


  11. Beautiful dress! The avocado-pit dyeing worked out perfectly. It does have a 1920s vibe but modern at the same time. Love the way you ised your feltng machine. I mean, how many things other than felting can you do with a felting machine?
    How do you store the dress? Folded up? Or on a hanger?


  12. This breathtaking post unfolds like a Project Runway episode. Necessity is the mother of invention, yep, and you totally hit the nail here. I hope you have many opportunities to wear this exquisite dress reminiscent of the 1920s as it looks fab with pearls and any of your incredible shoes!


  13. OMG. This dress is magnificent and a work of art. You are amazing. Thx for sharing. Can’t wait to see the jacket and bag. Just no stopping your ingenuity and artistic talent! Claire


  14. I am really really impressed with this Sue. You look amazing. It is very dressy, and probably a little bit warm but it is flattering and interesting and I just loved reading the whole story. I expected more from the Avo but it still looks wonderful in every way.


    1. I must say I was disappointed in the avocado, but I may have over simmered it. It’s not the last time that I will be using it though as I have already amassed a few pits!


  15. You absolutely can wear this . It looks great and is a very elegant beautiful dress . It would be a crime to NvOT wear it in public ! Well done and thank you for all your posts I do so enjoy them


  16. Wow the dress looks amazing on you! Who would of thought avocado pips makes such a lovely colour!! can’t wait to see what else your going to dye and with what!!xx


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