Another Up-Cycle: Ombre Dip dye

Another day, another up-cycled men’s button-down. This project took about 6 hours and because it is made from my husband’s old shirt, it cost nothing in fabric.

I used New Look 6440  as a starting point and used the wider collar pattern I made for the Prairie Circle Dress. I used the bow from pattern 6440 as-is and constructed it following their instructions. There are probably faster ways to make a big bow than this 7-piece pattern(7, really?!), but if it ain’t broke it ain’t broke. I would rather just go ahead and use that bow because I have made it before and it is really beautiful. Also, I don’t have to think about how to draft and sew a better version, which would probably take more than 6 hours and end up being ugly.

Things to look out for when cutting: Stains and other wear and tear

One thing to watch out for when recycling fabric is wear and tear. Since this was a “favorite” shirt, there were pen marks, broken threads/worn out fabric around areas like the wrists and elbows, and random stains. This is for a 21 month old, so I know it will get plenty of stains on it very soon–Biddi is almost there with the spork and spoon–but it is still nice to start out with as clean a slate as possible, right?

Using an existing pattern to create dress

For the dress, I used the front of the men’s shirt as the back of the toddler dress. The button placket runs down the back of the dress because I want a back neck collar closure will be. So the back of the men’s shirt is the front of the dress. It will be plain, but there are options to embellish. In the past I have added a store-bought or homemade patch. After I finished it I decided to add the original chest pocket to the front because Biddi loves to put things in pockets!  *When I find a pattern that I like(like the romper above), I will transpose it on to clear plastic sheets from the quilting section of the fabric store. It is nice to not mess with the tissue pattern any more than necessary.

Back of Dress: Pattern Placement

I laid down the pattern piece from the romper neckline at a length that I like. Then I used a straight-edge to make it as wide as possible at the hem. For the front dress piece, I did the same thing, making sure the side seams are the same length: 12 ¼”. Side seams are usually best if they are the same shape/curve/length.

Since the original romper pattern has a center front seam and I am keeping that width, I am essentially adding 5/8″*2, or 1 ¼”; this must also be added to the collar front pattern piece.

Sleeve Upcycle: Bow and Collar

Here is how I laid out the pattern pieces for the bow tails and collar. Both sleeves are on top of each other so  I am cutting 2 layers at a time. I like to use the rotary cutter and metal ruler for straight-edge pieces like the bow tails.

Constructing the Dress

For efficiency’s sake, I run a bunch of straight stitches through the machine at one time: The bow pieces(all 7 of them), the first stitch on the dress side seams, the facing and fashion side seams of the collar(after first attaching the fusible interfacting to the fashion side of the collar).

Next, it’s pressing time: Press all those seams nice or else it’ll look homemade.

Back to the machine: Finish the French Seams on the dress side seams, trim the points on the bow, flip the bow pieces. Turn the armhole cut edge two times and topstitch, the french seams (and all side seams, really) should be pressed towards the back so it lays flat from the front.

Back to the iron: Press everything again. For the collar, I followed the pattern directions for the most part. I pressed the side seams open (or “busted”), trimmed the notches off so it lays nicely on the shoulders, clipped the neckline seam that will attach to the neckline of the front and back bodice.

Back to the sewing machine: I attached the fashion side of the collar at the neckline, then attached the facing collar to the fashion side of the collar.

Back to the iron: Press the collar neckline seams towards the facing. Understitch the facing so the collar rolls nicely and lays flat.

Finally, I can watch tv on the couch while I hand sew, specifically the episode of X-Files where Scully gets a lower back tattoo. I opted to stitch by hand to close the collar facing because I’m way too much of a perfectionist for the machine for this step. No matter how good a topstitch or a stitch-in-the-ditch looks, there will always be one minute, little single stitch that is off and that will be all I ever look at!

So now the side seams are finished, the armholes are done, the collar is on, there is a finished bow but it isn’t yet attahed, and Scully has a snake tattoo. Finally the finishing details for the dress! The collar needs a closure. I really hate my machine’s buttonhole stitch and this is not a couture buttonhole kind of baby dress, so I used my KAM snaps. The only ones I have are pretty big and bright white, but there is a massive bow going directly on top of the snap, so it won’t ever be seen. Snap on, dress done!

Dye Test: 20, 10, and 1 Minute Dip in Bleach

Finally I have my chance to dip dye a dress in bleach! I am not sure why, but I have been dying to do this. I tested wet fabric scraps in bleach (6 cups water:1 cup bleach) for 1 minute, 10 minute, and 20 minutes. The blue turned purple, which I was not expecting! I am pretty sure that purple is Biddi’s favorite color so perfect.

One caveat with bleach–it will continue to bleach the fibers forever. So maybe the color will continue to change over the years. Or maybe after a decade or two of weekly washing the fibers will degrade and disintigrate like one of my husband’s old undershirts…but Brigid will be 12 in ten years so that isn’t really an issue. If I were sewing for a garment for myself, I would only use this technique for something super-trendy that I don’t plan on wearing longer than a few seasons.

Dipping the Finished Dress in Bleach

To create the ombre, I wet the whole dress (before attaching the bow, I left that unbleached for contrast). I quickly dipped the dress up to the base of the armholes in the diluted bleach. After about 5-10 minutes, I washed the dress with water and dipped the bottom 5 inches or so in the bleach solution again, using a pretty nifty duster technique I made up when my arms got tired–you can use anything within arm’s reach that is wider than the bucket, it doesn’t have to be a Swiffer duster 😉


Back of Finished Dress with Bow

So there it is, an Ombre Dip Dyed dress. It needs a good pressing for a crisp look, but the casual, wrinkled look is cute, too. It was pretty straight-forward to create. It’s machine washable/dryable, but I will probably use the delicate cycle to err on the side of safety because the bow is sewn by hand and I don’t plan on reattaching it any time soon. Biddi likes it and it looks adorable on her, what else is there to ask for?


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