Watercolor Dress {and tips for painting fabric}

Watercolor Sundress and Tips for Painting Fabric // you & mie

So I have exactly one project coming out of this Kids Clothes Week, but I’m pretty damn excited about it!  The (optional) theme for this season was Kid Art and while this dress was probably the last thing I needed to make, I got really excited by the idea of getting Yuki involved in creating a one-of-a-kind garment for herself.  I had all sorts of ideas like fabric painting, stenciling, iron on transfers, etc.  But I knew I didn’t have much time so I could only pick one thing.  If you know me, you know that I looooove fabric painting (like this cardigan, this hat and bag, and this dress) and I thought Yuki should have a go at it since she loves painting too!

Watercolor Sundress and Tips for Painting Fabric // you & mie

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Painted Purple

So this week’s challenge for Project Run & Play was COLOR.  We were supposed to pick a color and design an outfit around that color.

My idea for this outfit came pretty quickly to me.  There are two things that I’ve been DYING (hint hint) to try.  One was painting fabric and the other was dyeing fabric.  So this was the perfect opportunity to give them both a try!

The color I chose to use was purple which is kind of surprising, because it’s not one I’m often drawn too.  I like the color just fine, but I’m pretty much a blue girl.  But when I imagined the dress I wanted to make, a dusty purple was the only one I thought would work.  So here it is, my painted and dyed purple outfit for Yuki.  A bit vintage and a touch of modern.  I think it works.

So first was the cardigan.  This was the project that I actually started and practically finished during KCWC.  When I first saw Amy’s daughters painted rainbow shirt, I knew I had to try these watercolor like transparent paints!  I loved the soft muted look and how the colors bled together.  They are Setacolor Transparent Fabric Paints.  When I bought them I had a completely different project in mind, but this seemed like the perfect chance to test them out and get familiar with the process.  Now I have a TON of different things I want to try with them!

Anyways, I used some cheap white knit fabric and used a water soluble pen to make lines one inch apart.  Then I mixed my paint, added water, and started painting lines.  I wanted it to have a very handpainted feel, so I like the abnormalities, though I did have to be pretty careful about not being too heavy with the paint because it bled a lot.  It’s a good idea to test this out on scrap fabric till you get the color and water amount just right.

After I finished painting the stripes, I just dunked the neck and arm cuff fabric into the leftover paint to get a more solid, but still handpainted look.

After it dried, I heat set it and cut out my pattern pieces using Rae’s Flashback Skinny Tee pattern with adjustments to make it into a cardigan.  It came together pretty quickly, the button placket being the most time consuming part.  I really want to make this pattern again soon, but just as a shirt next time.  I’m still very hesitant to try sewing with knits, but this pattern is so straightforward, it’s a good one to practice with.

For the dress, my inspiration came from this ridiculous pile of trims and doilies I have.

For some reason, every time I see some of this cute trim, I think I should get some to add to a skirt or dress and then I NEVER use it.  I remember hearing that different fabrics, laces and trims pick up color from dyes differently even when put in the same dye bath for the exact same amount of time.  So I thought it’d be fun to construct a dress first and then dye it and be surprised by the results.


The dress is made out of cheap unbleached muslin and the trims were all off white.  I sewed the dress together using off-white and white thread because that’s just what I had (I guess I really don’t sew with purple very often).  But just a note, if you are going to do a similar project, you should use thread that is close to the color you will be dying it.  Thread doesn’t dye, so if you will be able to see all of your stitching very clearly if you dye your garment a dark color (you can see the white thread along the bottom of the dress in the next picture).


I like how it came out, but honestly I thought there would be more variation in color.  It almost all looks entirely the same except for one trim.  And the most disappointing part was that I used this awesome doily from Japan that I’ve had FOREVER to accent the dress, but since it’s the exact same color as the rest of the dress, you can barely see it at all.  I’m tempted to try and paint it with some bleach or color remover to see if I can get it to stand out more.  Thoughts?  I’d hate to try it and totally screw up the dress.

I have to say, I was SOOOO SCARED to dye this dress.  Like, my heart was pounding, scared as I was about to dip the dress in the dye.  The results just seem so permanent and uncontrollable.  I guess that’s what I get for making the dress first and then dyeing it.  My tip for dyeing fabric, is also test out the dye on a few scraps before your actual fabric.  And remember that the color will come out lighter once it’s dried.

Next week is “Let’s Go To the Movies,” an outfit inspired by a movie.  I have an idea, but it’s kind of a large project to take on and we’re going to be out of town all weekend.  Sorry if it’s quiet around here.  I’ll likely be focusing my time and efforts on sewing.

Have a great weekend!!  We’re going CAMPING!  First trip of the season 🙂