Hot! The ‘Toning It Down’ Dress | Veronica Darling

Dying (3 of 3)

The Facts

Fabric: Thrifted bedsheet, 2 for $4, but I only used 1/2 of a sheet.
Pattern: Sew Simple Style 3009, thrifted, 10c
Year: 1980
Notions: none, just thread
Time to complete: 2 hours or sewing and 1 hour of dying/stirring
First worn: September 2011
Wear again? Totally!

Total Cost: $1.10

Since I've been platinum proper (instead of natural goldie blonde) I've found my hair colour doesn't go really well with brighter shades of lemon yellow. So for over 3 years, I've had lots of unused yellow floral in my fabric stash, and so this theme was perfect to try some dye and stashbust! My mother darling sent me a packet of dye for my birthday (How convenient!) and it was an olive green shade, so I thought I'd try to tone down the yellows in this double bedsheet of bright summertime florals.

Dying (1 of 3)

I think the only time I've dyed something was before I became a seamstress (Hee hee!), when I wanted 'Cherry Ripe' bedsheets and there was no brown (as the chocolate) sheets in the shops to match my bright red bedspread doona! I can't really remember much about the process of dying, so I just followed the Dylon instructions and took it to the laundry sink.

Dying (1 of 3)
The results weren't as olive as I'd have liked, but I did dye an entire double bedsheet and only used half of it for this dress, so maybe I should have made the dress first, and then dyed it? I do like the vintage washed out look it's created and the hue is better for my hair (in my opinion, colour is so weird and different to individual's eyes).


This pattern is a bit of a surprise though!

I pretty much chose this old 1980s Style pattern because it's way simple in style (LOL) and with the toned down colour I thought the little bodice bow would look cute and 'country gal' kinda vintage. It came from a roadtrip though northern Victoria where a whole bunch of patterns were 10c each. I bought at many as I could carry, of course, but didn't check the sizings and this is a Junior/Teen sizing that is a little bit smaller than my measurements.

The bodices are all bias cut and with built in bow element, and I thought because of the smaller size, I'd cut a little 'extra' along the side seams as there's no darting (I guess because of the bias cut? Or maybe Junior Teens don't have boobs?). After sewing it all up bar the zipper, I threw it on for a fitting, and realised 'I can do a Mena Test!' which is one of my favourite sayings!

'Doing a Mena Test' (in my sewing room) is where you sew up the back without the zipper (I use the gather stitch, 5 on my machine) to test out if you can pull the dress on without having to sew the zipper in. And by gosh, the Mena Test totally proved that I didn't need to sew in a zipper! I could even make it a bit smaller and it still slips on without one!

It MUST be because of the bias bodice right? So this is totally my favourite pattern now for springtime dresses. My surprise pattern! It was also completely uncut too, so thank you secondhand godmother fairy who sent this to me! Lucky I didn't need a zipper because I didn't really have the right kind of colour to match this 'olive' springtime number, I was kinda going to risk an aqua blue. It's not really grey, not really green, it's just kind of Toned Down.

I'm quite interested in dying now though, so might keep an eye across other natural methods for dying fabrics! I've heard beetroot (of course!) and gumleaves are great for a natural boiling up dye look! Have you used any natural dying techniques before? 


All this talk about dying, looks like it's time to visit my hairdresser for my update! More like bleaching though in my case! xoxo


Veronica Darling

Veronica Darling has been sewing well for about 4 years, blogging for 5 years and smiling for over 33 years. In 2011, she joined Mena's Sew Weekly in sewing through the year, and in 2012 will keep challenges slightly smaller in scale.


Comments are closed.

  1. What a great idea. The green knocks the yellow brightness back nicely. I wonder if the sheet has some polyester in it which doesen’t take on dye after manufacturing – hence the paler result. Cotton should soak it up. I think it would be very hard to get the dye even after the dress was made up – especially with the gathers. Lovely dress for the Aussie spring! Pretty flowering gum trees too.

  2. Oh, oh, oh I love the colour of this! All this fabric dyeing makes me want to try my hand at it. I’ve only ever dyed wool yarn in kool-aid before and it was pretty fun!

  3. margueritedesigns

    Very pretty – worked really well.

  4. And also…you totally need to make a version of the dress in a striped fabric to get the chevron effect!

  5. That´s a lovely use of dye, and the dress is such a pretty little thing! Love the construction details! :-)

  6. CUTE! I love the shape and style of that dress and the floral is fab!

  7. Clarissa Henderson

    This dress is cute. I really like the olive color, but would never have thought to use it on yellow. I also sew with bed sheets and am always trying to find ways to make it not look like a bed sheet. I really like the end result, I think it bumps up the look of the fabric a notch.

  8. Wow! That olive color looks great on you! I think the stark white and yellow combo would have looked a bit odd on you. I have a similar white w/ yellow floral sheet and I’ll definitely be filing this away for when I decide to break it out!

  9. It’s funny that you’d describe this dress as ‘toned down’, as it looks so bright and bold to me! It looks great on you, and I do think you made the right choice in tweaking the color as it looks lovely with your coloring.

  10. Oooh!!! What a brilliant job, Veronica!!! The colours are fab on you!

  11. Nice use of dye, and the dress turned out darling! I love the triumph of the Mena test!
    I do wonder if the sheet had some synthetic content: most of the ones that I find that are nice enough to take home from the thrift store are at least half polyester! But then, I’ve had weird, pale results when overdyeing 100% cotton as well– perhaps it’s just one of those Things. One of my friends says that you can improve the action of cheap dye packets by using a mordant, like mineral alum, on the fabric first.
    So far, I’ve dyed with coffee, tea, kool-aid, black walnuts, and tumeric. The tumeric (bought in a big bag from an Asian grocery) produced a gorgeous, wash-fast golden yellow, but I always worry that that dress still smells slightly like curry!

  12. I absolutely adore how this turned out! And that fit is fab on you. Looks like I’ll have to start paying better attention to those ugly prints that are such a good bargain and see if they are dye worthy :)

  13. I love the color that it turned out – a nice muted down yellow that totally has a vintage feel. And that’s even better that you didn’t have to use a zipper! I tried the Mena test the other day (without knowing at the time it was the Mena test) and found the same thing, but it was also a garment cut on the bias. Very fun and a nice break to not have to put in a pesky zipper. Great job!

  14. Love this!! Such a beautiful way to make this fabric your own! Also, the pattern – I have to have it! Off to search the internet now… :O)

  15. I love it! I think the new shade is perfect :)

  16. Loves it, I love the cut and the surprise colour, yay for no zips, yay for bias cuts and yay for the Mena test.
    When I was in school I really wanted coloured socks so I used food dye. I don’t recommend it though it was an ongoing process because it kept washing out…ah the things you do for fashion.

  17. You made the fabric look so much better! I never thought of using dye to tone down a fabric, what a fabulous idea! The dress turned out really sweet too, love it!

  18. Veronica Darling toning it down?? Surely not :D I do love this dress though, super mega gorgeous, the perfect colour! I’m always amazed at your ability to see potential in the 80s patterns and love the concept of zip omission! Lots of exclamation points as always, but your gorgeous self, your gorgeous dress and your gorgeous photos are well deserving! (I misplaced my thesaurus. “Gorgeous” is the word of the day) xx