Eco printed Cora dress

We’ve had a top sheet that kept ripping across the top, and I dutifully repaired it each time. The first time I French seamed it so it would feel nice, the second time I overlocked it, and the third time I didn’t bother sewing the torn off strip back on, simply hemming it. However the sheet got shorter and shorter and in the end I bought a new one (we are a bit short of sheets as I keep making things out of them!), which meant this one was mine!

It’s a high quality cotton sheet and I was keen to sew with it.

I decided to cut out a Pattern Union Cora blouse hacked into a dress with balloon sleeves, I prepared the fabric with tannin and aluminium sulphate to mordant it, and then I set about eco-dyeing it. I gathered whatever I could from around our holiday place. The wattles have been particularly beautiful. I then rolled them round sticks and steamed them in a copper pot.

Unwrapping eco-dyeing is the most exciting thing and I enjoyed watching my dress drying on the line.

I did a spare piece of fabric as I wanted to make pockets and I couldn’t decide what sort. I’m not a massive fan of in-seam pockets which is the obvious choice for a dress such as this one. I decided to think about the style.

The new fabric is quite different from the old. The original sheet looks white here, but it’s actually a taupe/grey colour.

It was a simple matter to sew up the dress; I used French seams throughout because the inside of the fabric is as nice as the outside, and I enjoy looking at it. I had a little plain spot on the right side, exactly where I could put a pocket. I felt a patch pocket would be a good use of the nicely dyed scrap of fabric, but it might be slightly boring, so I looked at the Pockets section in Liz Haywood’s excellent book “The Dressmaker’s Companion” and settled on the 3D flat patch pocket. This pocket has some Sheoak and eucalyptus prints on it.

It was such a fun pocket to make. This is how the back looks, with the sides folded in. I had done the top incorrectly so I unpicked and redid it, but the bottom is the same.

I love that when it’s sewn on the dress there is no stitching visible.

but it concertinas out when I put my hand in. I will definitely be making this pocket again.

Everything else went to plan. The sleeves were quite wide so I gathered them in with elastic threaded through the hem. I had modified the neck on the pattern, which meant that it was a little tight to get over my head, so I put a slit in the back intending to use a button and loop to secure it, but really liked the open V so I left it.

It’s really hard to see the subtleties of the dyeing from a distance, so here are some photos of my favourite sections. The colours are so pretty. I dipped a few of the plants in iron water, which gives the black and blue shades and the pink is where I wrapped my bundle in a blanket soaked in lac (as in shellac) left over from a dyeing course (still needing to be blogged) I did a couple of weeks ago. The long black bits are kangaroo paw leaves that have gone black naturally. I crushed the kangaroo paw flower stems and they leave purple stripes.

I could look into this fabric all day. I love identifying the plants I used and seeing the patterns they made.

One of the problems of this eco-dyeing malarky is that Ph can change the colour, and I’ve had the odd disaster with deodorant and perspiration. When I worked I used to slip panty liners under my arms and they saved an awful lot of laundry, but aren’t terribly environmentally friendly, so I’ve made the equivalent from scraps. The ones on the left are made from some cotton scraps with a piece of bamboo, and the ones on the right are two pieces of towelling overlocked together. They are different shapes and size, as I’m experimenting. They can be laundered after each wear, and easily reinserted with the press studs. I’m also going to use them in a couple of other dresses, so have made them so they can be transferred between garments. I haven’t tested either of them out yet, and they might be too bulky, but I think the idea is sound. I shall report back.

I made the Pattern Division Patty doll from a couple of scraps from this dress, pre-dyeing, which I dyed with raspberry tea to try and emulate a skin tone.

I have quite a bit more of the sheet left, so there are more dyeing adventures in my future.

Both of these makes fulfill the requirements of an Instagram challenge by the SewOver50 team called So50SustainableSewing, where we are asked to use fabrics that are already in the system: recycled, scraps, thrifted, etc. As the dress is made from a dead sheet, and the doll made from the scraps from the dress, I think I’ve met the brief.


9 thoughts on “Eco printed Cora dress

  1. Love the colours you’ve achieved with this dye batch! You have the most exotic-sounding plants to choose from. Will forward this post on to my non-blog-reading sister who delights in eco-dyeing experimenting on her back porch.

  2. I remember those sweat pads from the 50s. Rounding the corners would give you better results, less visible from outside the dress. You might also consider cutting an armscye seam in the middle so it conforms to your body.

    1. Thank you so much, such good advice. My Mum used to make these but I couldn’t remember what they looked like. I did round the corners on the green ones but maybe not enough. I love the idea of putting in an armscye seam. I might have to make a pattern! Thank you again!

  3. One of our ASG members still uses those sweat shields but I can’t remember seeing the pattern. It is so interesting to see how the natives work with the dyeing and some I can recognise others not so much. Another interesting make.

  4. I could stare at this fabric for days too, Sue! I really like how the back of the dress turned out. You reminded me I must try this with my children.

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