Have you seen the adorable watermelon print dresses and skirts from Unique Vintage? I have. The second I saw this dress I wanted it. But the price tag made me hesitate, because let’s be real how often would I really wear a watermelon print dress. So I held off and while scrolling through Pinterest I saw Cutesy Craft’s blog post on how to make a watermelon skirt for a little girl out of a tea towel. I loved that the colors were softer than the Unique Vintage dress and decided I would put this on the bucket list of things to DIY. So when Joann’s had a super sale and broadcloth was $2 a yard I decided to try turning B6453 into a watermelon dress of my own. After all my coupons were applied it only cost $25 for the whole make, which is not bad for a custom-made and hand-dyed dress.
I love the way this turned out and have been seriously tempted to buy a bolt of this white fabric just so I can custom dye other projects any color I want. While the broadcloth is a thinner fabric, it is 100% cotton which makes it is a breeze to work with. After washing the fabric went from crisp with a slight sheen to soft and matte. I posted photos of the dress on the B6453 Sew-Along Facebook page and a handful of others have repeated the process with success. One thing to note is because we are all using different white fabric the color vibrancy varies. One person made theirs with white fabric from Ikea and it is almost as vibrant as the UV dress. So bear in mind that the color of your dress will most likely vary from mine. Also pay close attention to whether your fabric is 100% cotton or a blend. If it has any synthetic fibers you will need to make sure the dye you buy is meant for synthetics.
Now this is not the first tutorial you will find out there for dip dyeing fabric. Let alone doing a watermelon dip dye. However, my method was a little different from Cutesy Craft’s so I wanted to share what I did and my experience. (Prior to this dress I had never used fabric dye so I read a lot of do and don’ts online prior to starting)
Here is the supply list to make this dress:
- White Fabric (use the yardage recommendation on the pattern envelope)
- Sewing Supplies for B6453
- A Bucket (mine was from the Dollar Tree)
- RIT Dye in Fuschia and Kelly Green (or in blue and yellow if you cannot find green)
- Metal Spoon
- Eraser & X-acto Knife OR Small Paint Brush
- Black Fabric Paint
- Rubber Bands (I used thick ones from the Dollar Tree)
I have seen a lot of tutorials where you dye the fabric prior to sewing. I wanted the dress to have an slight ombré effect so I decided to dye the dress after I had sewn it. That way I had complete control for how saturated the color was in specific areas. So I washed my fabric, cut it out, and sewed the B6453 with no modifications besides the cheat FBA I mentioned in a previous post and using an invisible zipper. Since I was unsure how the dye would react with the zipper and didn’t know what shade of pink the dress would be I used a white invisible zipper.
Once my dress was sewn, I portioned off how much of the skirt I wanted pink, green, and white. To do this I gathered the skirt as evenly as I could and placed a rubber band about 5 inches above the hemline to mark the green portion. I then rubber banded another 5 inches above the first rubber band. This would mark the white portion. Once I had the rubber band on I moved them around in small increments until I thought the proportions looked right. I used thick rubber bands and put them on as tight as I could to try and prohibit the dye bleeding into the white part of the dress. Then I prepared the dye per the instructions on the bottle. I chose to do the “bucket method” because standing over a simmering pot of liquid and trying to dye only small portions sounded like a nightmare. I am pretty accident prone and my husband’s passing comment was that the bucket method sounded like a safer prospect for both our kitchen (mess-wise) and my person (burn-wise). Which I conceded to since I have been known to maim myself with the most inane objects (I’m looking at you plastic bread bag clips).
So I grabbed a bucket, boiled water on the stove, poured in the dye and then added salt after 5 minutes. RIT advises that this will “help promote level dyeing”. I do want to note that I scaled down the amount of dye as my bucket would only hold a gallon of liquid once most of the dress was submerged. Typically, ½ a bottle of dye will color a pound of fabric and should be diluted in 3 gallons of water with a cup of salt. The bottle of dye is 8 oz, so I used 2 1/2 “heaping” tablespoons of dye for 1 gallon of boiling water and 1/3 a cup of salt. If you have a bigger bucket you can adjust the portions as necessary.
I started with the green portion first since it was small. When I made this it was back around St. Patrick’s Day and finding Kelly Green dye was near impossible. After checking 4 stores I decided to make green using Royal Blue and Golden Yellow dye. I used 2 tbsp of the yellow dye and then added the ½ tbsp. of the blue in small increments until the color was to my liking. If you can find Kelly Green dye, I would recommend it for ease of use. However, because I custom mixed the green I was able to get the exact shade I wanted. Once my dye was fully mixed I dipped a small scrap of the fabric in and let it sit to see if the color was the shade I wanted. If it isn’t you can add a bit more dye or dilute the mixture until the color is right. After you get the color you desire, dip the bottom of the dress up to the first rubber band in the dye. I held it in the mixture for 10 minutes and checked the color. I then pulled half of the dipped fabric out and left the very bottom in the dye for another 10 minutes. I wanted the green to be more concentrated near the bottom giving a slight gradient as it moved toward the white. That way there would be a more natural progression of color. Once the fabric was dyed the color I wanted (bear in mind that the dyed color will appear darker when wet) I pulled it out of the bath and rinsed it in the sink in warm water, reducing the water temp until the water ran clear (If you have ever dyed your hair it is a similar experience).
I rung out the bottom of the dress and then scrunched it in a towel to remove as much moisture as possible. Because the dye travels up the fabric in water a small amount may rise past the rubber band into your white area. Don’t be alarmed. If you get dye on part of the dress you didn’t want. Cutesy Crafts suggested spraying some watered down bleach on the messed up parts and rinsing it out. I had a little bit of color bleed up past the rubber band but not enough that it bothered me and I had to bleach anything. But just in case that was the suggestion in her tutorial.
Rinse your bucket and repeat the process with the pink portion. I used RIT Fuchsia dye for the pink part. I put the top of the dress in the dye up to the rubber band. I waited 5 minutes and pulled the dress about 5 inches out of the dye solution. Waited another 5 minutes and pulled another couple inches out and kept doing that until I got about 5 inches from the bodice neckline. It took about 20 minute’s total. While standing there holding the dress waiting for the timer to go off I had music playing. Feel free to have an impromptu dance/singing party, just don’t get too vigorous in your dancing or you might splash dye around. I got a little carried away and spent 20 minutes cursing Cyndi Lauper for allowing me to have so much fun that I now had to scrub the bathroom floor. Learn from my mistakes.
After the pink part is dyed to the color you want repeat rinsing the fabric like you did with the green portion. Once the water runs clear and you are happy with the color. Wash the dress one more time with a small amount of laundry detergent and rinse thoroughly again (or throw it in your washing machine with an old towel then dry it in the dryer) letting it air dry, or if you are impatient like me, use your hair dryer to speed up the process.
Once your dress is completely dry comes the really fun part, painting the seeds on. This will really come down to personal preference. I decided to make the seeds ½” long. If you want them smaller or bigger that is completely up to you. Heck I saw a coffee tumbler that was painted watermelon and the seeds were in the shape of hearts. That would look adorable on a dress. You could also just paint circles so the “seeds” are polka dots if you feel so inclined. Whichever shape or size you choose, the quickest way to paint the seeds on is to make a stamp. This can be done with a block eraser and an x-acto knife. I couldn’t find my x-acto knife so I used a small paint brush I had in my art stash and actually painted each seed in the shape I wanted.
I put the dress on a hanger over the back of a door with a sheet of wax paper clipped underneath to avoid the paint from bleeding through. I painted the seeds on the front side and let the paint dry 4 hours before I flipped the dress around and painted the back. Seed placement is also a personal preference. You can put as many or as little seeds as you want. I did the seeds in a gradient pattern so most of the seeds were concentrated on the bodice and gradually got farther apart the closer I painted to the white. I had to really reign myself in from getting too obsessed with how symmetrical the seeds were. I am a pretty persnickety person when it comes to that sort of thing. If you are too I recommend drinking a glass (or two) of wine while doing the seeds and just have fun with it. At the end of the day you’re making a watermelon dress, it’s not a serious affair.
To me the most surprising thing of all is how often I actually wear this dress. I probably put it on once every other week and have for the past 4-5 months. I usually wear it pretty casual and pair it with a cropped cardigan or jean jacket and flats. But it is also really fun to dress up. Throw on a floppy hat and some cute wedges and it is perfect for a nice brunch or a wedding. Be prepared because it is also an attention/compliment magnet. I get stopped often whenever I wear it out. So this is definitely a dress you want in your closet.
This is the last of my B6453 dresses, but I have other sewing projects to share so stick around to see what pattern I try out next. With Halloween coming up I will be posting about how to “pinup” your holiday with either an easy sewing project or something bought.
After Care: The paint is machine washable and so is the dye. You may have a little color bleed off in the first few washings so either run it by itself or hand wash the dress. I haven’t had any issues with fading or the paint flaking off.