A new organic knit dress, lots of historical reading and my first try at dyeing with Cochineal. It’s been a great week!
I’ve been so psyched to work with cochineal after I received my dye from Botanical Colors. I’ve been reading A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield which is all about Cochineal and its trade in the New World, so intriguing. The dye itself comes from the parasitic female insect that grows on the prickly pear cactus mainly in Central America.
My Dyeing Method:
The color is a brilliant red pre-dye. I used alum to mordant my fabric. I added 3T of vinegar to my dye bath based on the recipe in Harvesting Color(p.133) which made my color turn to a fuchsia purple shade. She uses this method to get a true red but I wonder if my water was already very acidic and this just enhanced the purple. I really need to test my water PH. All my fabrics were cellulose based so my color was not as strong as I’d imagine it would be on a protein fiber like wool or silk. I followed Botanical Colors prep of heating and cooling the dye bath three times and then soaked my fabric.
When the fabric came out of the dye bath it was the beautiful scarlet color below but after washing it quickly faded to a mauve/lavender. The color is still lovely but not the red I was imagining. I really want to get my hands on some undyed peace silk to try this again. Next time I’ll also add Cream of Tartar (as suggested by Botanical Colors) to try to get a truer red.
Read more about the fascinating history of Cochineal and how to use this dye:
- A Perfect Red, Empire Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield
- Harvesting Color, how to find plants and make natural dyes by Rebecca Burgess
- Botanical Colors, Dyeing for Dummies: The Wonders of Cochineal
- Colonial Williamsburg, Putting the Red in Redcoats by Mary Miley Theobald
Here’s my Pinterest Board for Natural Dye Inspirations:
Dye Results: My Burda Top-overdyed (above), Ami’s dress(below), and my Vogue V2787 Knit Dress (below)
I over-dyed my Burda Top that had faded considerably and redid my stitching with a lightning stitch as my top stitching had popped. I also dyed a dress of Ami’s that she never wore. It was cream-colored before and I had a feeling pink or red would get her to wear this hand me down dress. The light pink is really lovely. This dress had a higher synthetic content which I believe resulted in the lighter color and the skirt did not take the dye at all.
And here’s my newest make, Vintage Vogue V2787
Pattern: V2787 Vogue Patterns Original 1948 Design (shown below)
Fabric: Organic Natural Cotton Knit, 11oz, 2×2 Rib Tubular, from Organic Cotton Plus
Dye: Cochineal Extract from Botanical Colors
I bought this pattern V2787 a few months ago on sale and started searching around Pinterest for ideas on making this up. As soon as I saw Adey from Sew Convert’s Knit Version of the dress I knew I wanted to try this in a knit too. Lately I’m really drawn to patterns with interesting seam lines and darts and I just love the S curve of this dress!
I thought I’d try this out first with fabric I had on hand, a tubular undyed organic knit, for my first go at the pattern. I cut the pattern in a 12, the smallest size on my pattern and the usual size I make, but I could have gone much smaller. If this had been a woven the sizing would be fine but what with the weight of the fabric and stretch I had to take this in a lot. I also totally forgot that this pattern has shoulder pads, which I wasn’t going to use so the shoulder seams needed to be adjusted too. Reminder to self: Read all the instructions before you try to just wing it.
The gathering was easy to do and fun to sew and attach. All the front seams are attached right sides up by laying the pieces on top of each other which was interesting and made for a nice flat seam. I love the side darts and back darts. My big problem came when I went to attach the neck facing. I had omitted the zipper since I was making this in a knit and my fabric was just not lying right. The neck was sagging under the weight of all the fabric. I tried fixing it with a bound neck but the small width was not enough. Finally I just added a wide rib band to keep it together. I actually like how this makes it a bit more sporty and casual. I also hacked off the length. The mid calf length was looking way to dowdy. My sleeves and waist were all taken in massively and I love the fit now. If you had seen this half way through when it was still a hot mess you’d be amazed!
Sadly my dye on this dress did not turn out as even as I’d like. I had to go back and do a second dye bath. Luckily for me Botanical Colors had kindly sent me a sample of their discontinued food grade dye which was just enough to over-dye my dress and even out the color. It’s still not perfect but it’s much better. I may over-dye this again later as well. Making this dress really reminded me how much I love working with natural dyes. Looking forward to someday have a studio of my own so I have more space to sew and dye.
Happy Sewing and Natural Dyeing!
I love how the gathers in this dress photograph. Great interest and easy fit.
Thanks Mom! I’m so happy with how the dress photographed. Your yard is always the best backdrop! :)