Avocado Dyed Shift Dress

This dress has morphed and changed so many times since I started it last year. I wasn’t sure if I was going to share it on the blog- it was damaged the day after I shot these images and is currently unwearable. Luckily I have a few months to figure something out before I can wear this again in Spring. The arm seam tore from too much stress so it needs yet another fix. I’m up for any and all ideas on how to repair it!

I started out wanting a simple button down shift I could wear over leggings. I used Vogue V1541, Sandra Betzina’s Today’s Fit, as my base pattern and proceeded to hack it. I started out redrafting the collar for a wide plain band that met at Center Front and then altered the sleeve to a cap and shortened it to knee length. But after it was complete it was just not me. The neck closure was uncomfortable and dull looking. So back to the drawing board. I completely removed the placket and added a self drafted facing. Much better! I really hate tight necklines.

Early View with Collar Band:

All the Details:


White Cotton Batiste from Organic Cotton Plus (leftover from another project)

From their website: A balanced plain weave fabric often used for handkerchiefs, lingerie, liner for high quality garments. It’s weight, smooth feel, and stable construction makes it very versatile material. Made in India. 2.5 oz/sq yd. Control Union (SKAL) 100% GOTS-certified cotton. OEKO-TEX standard 100 Certified Eco Friendly and Sustainable. Pre-shrunk to 3-5%.


A very hacked V1541 by Sandra Betzina, View A

Very loose-fitting pullover dress and shirt have button front placket, sleeve and hemline variations. 


Ellen Tracy Minimilist Pocket from Threads Issue #74, January 1998

I found a wonderful technique to elevate the dress using an Ellen Tracy minimalist pocket from an old back issue of Threads- January 1998 #74 Great Designer Pockets. It showed exactly how to draft this in seam pocket and I love how it looks! I’ll be using this one often, the finish is just lovely. My interiors are silk so it feels wonderful to slip your hands inside.

Natural Dye- Avocado Pink

My favorite part of this dress though is the dye! I saved up my avocados for awhile (easy since Ami’s fav breakfast is “Amicado” toast!) I then folded and rubber banded my fabric before putting it in the dye bath. The results are subtle (it didn’t photograph well) but very pretty. I’m really happy with the color I got this go. Last time I used avocado’s a got a warm yellow.

My new technique is just saving the pits. I let them dry and keep them on the counter until I’ve collected a good batch. Then I boil and simmer them at least 2x. A longer heating seems to give a stronger color. I got a nice soft blush pink and will try for a more saturated pink next go. I saw an excellent article my mom saved for me in the New York Times that focused on a natural dyer, Maria Elena Pombo. She grinds her pits for storage which I may have to try and talks about how the water affects the color results. I think I may give saltwater and collected water a go and experiment. Here’s the link!

I’m slowly getting back into dyeing again after a few years in a rental. I’ve done the occasional dye with onion skins or less messy versions but can’t wait to get back to more exciting processes like indigo, cochineal and madder. My husband gifted me a really awesome gift kit from Botanical Colors this Christmas that includes supplies for indigo, saxon blue and has some indigo ink that I’ve really been itching to try out. I can’t wait. I’m also slowly starting a dye garden. Hoping to get in some madder later this winter and have some indigo started in containers that is looking really good. My veggie garden is looking amazing right now so I feel like I have a bit more practice under my belt now.

This past Sunday I turned 44! I never mind getting older, truthfully I feel stronger, healthier and prettier at this age then I ever did in my 20’s. Plus, this is my lucky year- a double palindrome birthday (02022020 + turning 44). My brother let me know it was also the 33rd day with 333 to go, a leap year and of course my bday holiday of Groundhog day (love that movie!) We had a great bday weekend with my dad. He sent Vic and I out to see a tribute show to Queen with the Southwest Florida Symphony that was just amazing. We don’t do many date nights so it was a wonderful change of pace. February is always a great month. My husbands bday is exactly 2 weeks after mine + we have Valentine’s day (which we do more as a celebration of love for the kiddos).

So any ideas to fix my tear? I’m up for any suggestions! Happy Sewing!

13 thoughts on “Avocado Dyed Shift Dress”

  1. I love your dyeing process. Just clicked on the link and can’t believe the deep shades that Maria Elena Pombo gets from Avocados. The pockets are great too, nice simple design. I would worry about how that tear came about – is it the result of some stress on the fabric when you move, or is it a one-off accident?

    1. Thanks so much! Her colors are amazing! It’s really inspiring me to try for those richer shades. I think the tear is from not enough room for movement/ease so I’m thinking I may need to recut the sleeve. Luckily I have extra fabric.

      1. Yes, I feared that might be the case. Perhaps it’ll need to be sleeveless, that would probably work to eliminate the tear and stop it happening again. Or perhaps (more work though) some separate sleeves rather than the “grown-on” ones it has.

  2. Happy Birthday!
    I would open the area under the sleeve up a bit, and add a gusset of sorts. I’m thinking of something rather artful, maybe with a little decorative hand stitching.
    You’ve inspired me to give the dying process a try.

    1. Awesome! Thanks for the tip, that’s a great idea! Dyeing is so much fun…there is so much experimentation with natural dyes. Thanks again Rhonda!

    2. Yes, a gusset is my first thought, too. It wouldn’t matter if the gusset raised the armhold a bit higher, since it would improve range of arm motion anyway.

      What’s the harm in trying? Such a pretty dye job, cool pockets, it will only fall apart if nothing is done.

      If I may be so presumptuous, I agree about aging: you look sensational, and your life sounds like things are really firing on all fronts. More miniskirts and cool haircuts!

      1. Thanks so much Judy! I think I will go with the gusset. And I agree- more mini skirts and cool haircuts are the way to go. I just dyed my hair a dark cherry and am feeling so much cooler!

  3. Sounds like you have lots of useful suggestions for dealing with the rip. I wanted to comment on those POCKETS! They are really cool, and they suit the simplicity of the dress so well. Nicely done!

  4. It’s beautiful! You have to salvage it. I would probably patch it from the back with interfacing and then zig zag in matching thread all over it. It won’t be noticeable when worn.

    1. Thanks so much Masha! Great idea- I usually do that for pants, but you’re right it wouldn’t show much in that area.

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