How to Sew and Dye your Bridesmaid Dress: Part 1

My sister’s wedding is just three months away, and I am by no means an advanced sewist (more like an absolute beginner), but I’m feeling ambitious, and they say that tight deadlines are the best teachers … right?

I’ve been scrolling the internet for any helpful ‘how to make your own bridesmaid dress for clueless sewers’, but so far nothing has come up other than horror stories of brides determined to sew their own wedding dress, even if that means staying up until  midnight to finish it the night before their own wedding.

Funnily enough, the subject of knitting came up in one of them. The author brought up the unspeakable “sweater curse“, and compared to the act of sewing your own wedding dress to knitting a sweater for your boyfriend.

According to the author, “it’s the superstition that you should never knit your boyfriend a sweater because you will become so engrossed in it that your relationship will become secondary to the sweater and everything will fall apart around you.”

Apparently, neither of them should ever be acceptable, as the amount of effort needed to create either of these items far outweighs the value you’ll ever get out of the relationship.

Sidenote: I still haven’t knit my boyfriend a sweater. Chances are, when I do, it’ll be knit with a machine. Take that, dreaded sweater curse! 😉

Step 1: Finding Inspiration

When I first found out I’d be in the bridal party for my sister’s wedding, sewing my own dress wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. Jokes had been made about knitting one, and curiosity led me to scroll the internet to find how many others had attempted this undertaking. I managed to find this thrifty bride, who knit a beautiful wedding dress for herself in just four months! But most impressive was this talented woman, who managed to crochet her own dress (which looks stunning!), as well as sew an after party dress and sew all of her own bridesmaids dresses. Oh, and she works full-time.

There’s also knitter extraordinaire Faye Perriam-Reed who wrote a series of posts about sewing her own wedding dress. I think it turned out beautifully, don’t you?

Photo credit: Faye Perriam-Reed

Due to the limited time constraints (ideally I would have it finished one month before the wedding, so that gives me three full months), I figured sewing would be the best way to go. The criteria for the bridesmaid dress is as follows:

  • Color: Blush Pink
  • Floor length

The dresses don’t all have to be exactly the same, which leaves me a tiny bit of flexibility. I was thinking of a maxi style dress, similar to this pattern here (bonus: It’s for novice sewers which means I at least won’t be too much in over my head). In addition, I really want to try out a graded dip-dyeing technique using madder root on an undyed silk chiffon that I just bought off of Etsy. I figure worst case scenario, if  it doesn’t turn out, I’ll still have one full month to find a bridesmaids dress before the wedding. No sweat, right?

Bridesmaid Dress Inspiration. Source: I Take You
Bridesmaid Dress Inspiration. Source: Pinterest

Step 2: Choosing Your Pattern

I managed to find two patterns on Burda that fit the bill for what I’m looking for. Option 1 (shown on the left) is probably my best bet, as it is rated for “novice” sewers, and requires lightweight fabrics (and I just bought silk chiffon). Option 2 is for intermediate sewers and requires a heavyweight fabric, so I would have to do some more fabric shopping before attempting that one. I also like the fact that Option 1 can be made into either a halter or a strapless. Option 3 is also an intermediate rated pattern. I would have to lengthen it as well, and would probably add  in a sash at the waist to make it a bit more fitted. I’m not such a fan of the racerback on Option 3, but a huge fan of the asymmetrical hem. Perhaps there is a way I can combine the hem with Option 1?

Options 1, 2 and 3:

 

Step 3: Choosing Your Fabric

For a while, I was having a hard time figuring out where I would be able to buy good quality natural fabric, and then I came across this retailer on Etsy featuring natural materials that are sourced from India.

Here is a breakdown of what I’ve purchased so far:

  • 100% silk chiffon wedding dress fabric – Purchased 4 yards at $15 USD per yard. Newbie mistake: Never buy your fabric before double checking the required yardage for the pattern! I may have to buy more of this. But in that same token, this fabric may turn out to be not the right weight for the project, so I would have to buy additional fabric of a different weight anyways …
  • Unbleached organic cotton double gauze – Purchased 1 yard at $7 USD per yard. This one was more to experiment with, and attempt a beginners sewing project, like a t-shirt, before delving into dressmaking.

Step 4: Natural Dyeing

The Etsy store I purchased my fabric from (Fabric Treasury) also sells natural dyes, so I ended up buying some indigo and madder root as well. The indigo was just for fun, but the madder root is what I will need to use to get my ideal colour: a very subtle blush pink, with peachy undertones. Since I ended up buying an undyed silk chiffon for my dress, it only makes sense that I use natural dye to dye it as well, right? I would love for my dress to have a slight “ombre” effect. Lighter at the top, with a gradation towards a darker pink at the bottom. But I still want it to be very subtle. No brights. Similar to the bottom right photo, but even less dark at the bottom and more dark at the top.

Photo credit: Want that Wedding

I should be getting my fabric and dye in a few weeks, which leaves me just two months from that point onwards to sew my bridesmaids dress. The next parts will be naturally dyeing the fabric, and preparing the pattern!

What are your favorite patterns out of the three mentioned above? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Part 1 of an experiment of how to sew and dye your own bridesmaid dress. From an inexperienced sewer with only a few months until the wedding ...

5 Comment

  1. Rica says:

    Hey. I like number 2 best but your material is not fitting. Chiffon would be best for number 1 is think. You should not mix patterns as a beginner.the project is ambitious enough. Dont risk the result by experimenting. I totally understand why you think about, i do mix ideas a lot and try it my own way. But honestly only sometimes with a good result. I wish you good luck with the project.

    1. Susanne says:

      Thank you so much Rica for this advice! I think you are very right – I am probably already a little bit over my head with this project, so best not to ‘experiment’ and ruin the result. I might see if I can hit up some more fabric stores to get a better suited fabric depending on what project I end up with, definitely running out of time to place another order. Can’t wait to get started on this!

  2. Jess says:

    What a lovely idea! I’d recommend a few things if you’re still open: a heavier fabric that you can touch before ordering (either a swatch or in person) so you can get a feel for how it would go to sew it. Chiffon is notoriously slippery, unfortunately! I’m also not sure if it’s the best match for the inspiration photos you shared. For maximum ease of sewing, I would try a silk/linen blend (organic cotton plus has some) or silk crepe de chine. I’d also recommend a different pattern company, unless you’ve seen with burda before? Their instructions can be a bit lacking, whereas I love how indie pattern companies really teach you as you go. I’m not sure about a specific dress to match your vision, but I’d check out By Hand London, and Named Patterns. Oh, one final tip from my own natural dyeing experience would be to mordant the fabric before you cut the pattern out to reduce the possibility of shrinking the finished dress with all the heat and simmering. You could even dye the fabric the base color, cut and sew the dress, then go back to the dye pot to get the gradient depth.
    It’s going to be so gorgeous!

    1. Susanne says:

      Thank you so much for all of this info Jess! I have never actually purchased a pattern from Burda before, I just found that they had a really good selection – but I will definitely check out those other two now that you mentioned them! Also, I really like the idea of a silk/linen blend, that sounds amazing! And I feel like you just prevented a major disaster by telling me to dye my fabric prior to cutting out the pattern pieces 🙂 I really appreciate all of this, and am definitely going to take up your advice – thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Lisette says:

    Tout un défi mais si il y a quelqu’un qui peut le réussir c’est bien toi! Bonne chance.

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