Solar Dyed Kimono

solar dyeing

This is the story of a pile of fabrics stuffed into bottles with bits of plants, the sun rendering colours into their fibers until one day I thought, I have enough for a dress.    I can officially say that this dress was a slow sewing project with it taking 4 months from start to finish.


It is pretty cool to wear something that has such a unique story.  If only these little speech bubbles could follow me around to make explanations easier.

Kimono Dress

Pattern: Ralph Pinks’ Asymetric Kimono Dress

Fabric: undyed natural linen from Miss Matabi, scrap cotton and silk remnants from Remida reuse centre.  Solar dyeing progress was tracked in my Instagram here, here, here and here.

Here is a summary of how I dealt with each fabric and plant:

– linen – premordanted with diluted milk solution overnight

– cotton – (used with hibiscus in the dark green) salt bath, dried, milk dip and dried times two before adding to the jar

– silk – no mordant used

– bottlebrush and hibiscus – wet fabric added to jars with flowers of each plant and left for 3-4 days

– avocado – used saved pits that I had been freezing as we ate avocados.  Boiled the pits for an hour then simmered the fabric for an hour, left in the pot overnight.

– eucalyptus bark – bark added to jars with boiling water then fabric added and left for 4 days. I believe it was salmon gum but will go back to the park to identify it now I have a good book to help me – (Gardener’s Companion to Eucalypts)

Ease: Difficult – Not only do you not have complete control of the solar dyeing process, the pattern I chose was challenging.

See Also: many people claim to own this pattern but I cannot find one on the streets of the web

Tidbits:  this may be why.  The PDF printout is a head ache. There are so many pieces to this pattern and there are limited markings on the print out. We are talking a whole room covered with jigsaw puzzle pieces. There was cursing.

Secondly, the instructions were patchy.  Cut one arm piece. No mention of finishes, no mention of how best to secure the facing.  You best have some experience before tackling this one.  In general, I really love Ralph Pinks drafting and believe he has some of the most exciting patterns out there, but the communication side of things is lacking compared to other indie companies, so if you want hand holding this is not the place.

I compared my pattern pieces to the bodice and there was plenty of ease so decided to just leave out the dart and take in the sides if needed.  It was needed.  I took the bodice in around a cm from the armpit tithe waist.

 eco dyeing dress

eco dyeing dress

Lessons:  I could have left more seam allowance on the collar as it was pulling seriously in my first go.  I extended it and reattached it but it is certainly not perfect still.   I also think I may have attached the bottom panel upside down, but really I have no idea on this, just a hunch.

This linen wants to wrinkle if I look at it which I’m not sure works with the style of this dress.  It’s also got quite a bit of body which I think makes the sleeves stand out more than I like on me.  I am toying with the idea of doing little kimono tucks on the shoulders as I am really not sure I like the sleeves as they are.

I think I would also lengthen the skirt pieces if I were to make this again.

eco dyeing dress

Score: in all honesty, I am not in love with this dress.  I love it’s story, but had trouble styling it and I think I may see if I can find someone else who it suits better.  I guess I give it a 5 for artistry and a 3 for how how it fits in my wardrobe.

In other news, I have started working on my first article for #1year1outfit but the first step threw up a few hurdles…. more soon!

17 thoughts on “Solar Dyed Kimono

  1. I can’t believe that you don’t love it as from the pictures this dress looks fantastic, but sometimes if you just don’t feel it then it’s not worth hanging onto. I hope it finds a good home and I look forward to more natural dyeing. I’ve started collecting my avocado pips in the freezer for a try myself! 😉

    • I don’t know, the colours are pretty but just not me. I think I could be won over if I can tweak the shape a little but the two together leave me feeling a little…meh.

  2. I don’t know how you could contemplate not keeping this after all the work that went into it. The colours are beautiful and work really well together and the dress is stylish and edgy. You could wear it to a wedding or out to lunch. The length shows off your great legs. If you had to change anything (which you certainly don’t, but if you really had to) it could be to draw in the back waist panel a bit, perhaps with a drawstring or elastic. You should be inordinately proud of this!

    • Thanks Megan. I’m still proud of this for so many reasons and I am hoping with some wearing and possibly a little tweaking it will grow on me. If not, that’s ok, I learnt a lot making it!

  3. I always hesitate to contradict people’s (especially creators of magnificence) thinking on a particular thing…but you totally rock this dress. It looks so quintessentially you. I hope you can find the tweaks you need to wear it proud because it’s awesome!

  4. I love love this dress. Very disappointed to hear the pattern is so tricky to use as it’s very flattering.
    I love that you coloured the fabric yourself too! Very inspiring all round!

  5. Wow! I love this dress! The dyeing is fabulous-love all the different colors you achieved. I may have to give this pattern a try even if it is tricky to put together. Sorry you don’t love it on you. I know I’ve made quite a few pieces that while really lovely just didn’t feel like me. 🙂

    • It feels weird to write what might be seen as a negative post, but I still feel really positively about it, so I’m happy! Just leave yourself lots of time to get the PDF and pieces all organised and you will be alright. I also had quite a time working out which pieces went where as I was restricted by their size in some cases. Perhaps cutting the fabric out and then dyeing it would work better.

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