Simple summer sundress


My youngest daughter, age 8, is the only one who will still reliably let me sew clothes for her (and actually wear them!)  Together, she and I planned this project and it was easy enough to finish in an afternoon.  I used a wonderful cotton voile, which is so light and fine, yet still easy to sew.  I wanted a fabric that would make the most lightweight dress possible.  I bought two yards of Robert Kaufman’s Organic Voile in PFD bleached white (57″ wide), and had plenty left over.

I didn’t use a pattern, or create a yoke – the entire design is based on a single rectangle.  The width of the rectangle is twice the circumference of my daughter’s chest, plus a few more inches added in.  Her chest is 27″, so 27 x 2, plus 3 more inches = 57″.  The length is her measurement from underarm to however long I wanted it to be – I used a length of 28″, then subtracted 3″ for the ruffled bottom, so I cut the piece 57″ x 25″.  I cut this piece so that the 25″ length was paralell to the selvedge edge, to allow for maximum stretch of the fabric.  For the ruffle, I cut a piece as long as my remaining fabric (approx 100″) x 5″ (I added on a little width to account for the seam and the hem).


* Finish one long edge of the ruffle with a rolled hem; stitch a gathering stitch along the other long edge, gather it into ruffles, then sew right side to right side to one of the 27″ edges of the main piece, and then press the seam toward the main piece and top stitch 1/8″ from the seam.

* Finish the other 27″ edge of the main piece with a rolled hem, then sew 8 rows of shirring with elastic thread, starting 1/2″ from the top and spaced 1/2″ apart.

* Measure the piece around the child, pin and sew the side seam, and trim the seam to 1/2″.

* Make straps – I cut one long piece of fabric 1 1/2″ wide, folded each long edge to the middle, then folded the strap in half lengthwise and sewed along the length (this way I didn’t have to turn such a thin, long piece); measures the straps on the child, to get the right length, then cut off the extra and tuck in the raw edges and sew inside the bodice, right along the rolled hemline.


That’s it!  I loved it in clean, pure white, but my daughter wanted to experiment with RIT dye, which I’d never used, so we chose the violet color in powder form and followed the directions here for ombre dyeing.  I didn’t think that this worked out well for several reasons.  First, you’re supposed to wind the fabric onto a dowel and lower it section by section into the dye, but this fabric was so light that it wouldn’t lower evenly into the dye; it had to be pushed underwater (using gloves, because the dye really stains and it’s really hot!) and this resulted in uneven borders between the darker and lighter sections.  Second, the fabric soaked up the color incredibly fast – maybe because it’s such a lightweight fabric – and as a result, I couldn’t really get an ombre appearance, because even when I dipped the last section in for only a second, it turned bright purple.  And then, of course, I had three gallons of VERY purple dye, and nothing to do with it . . .


I think I would try a different kind of dye next time, or perhaps try RIT again using a heavier fabric.  I’m fascinated with the idea of using dye on fabric, but RIT isn’t very user-friendly for dying by hand, and least not based on my experience here.

My daughter wanted to pose in front of the lavender, to showcase the color of her new dress - look how different the color looks here in the sun, compared to the other photos, which were taken in the shade
My daughter wanted to pose in front of the lavender, to showcase the color of her new dress – look how different the color looks here in the sun, compared to the other photos, which were taken in the shade
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3 comments on “Simple summer sundress

  1. I love the dress. I’m not a violet fan but i think the ombre dyeing really turned out well. I thnk your daughter knew what she wanted and you did a wonderful job giving her exactly that! And she is a wonderful model, showing your work to great advantage! She is delightful!

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