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“Indigo” Anna

Debbie Christensen By Hand London By Hand London Anna dyed fabric Fabric maxi dress pattern Patterns

First, this dress is supposed to be indigo. That only kind of worked and I’m a little salty about it. I wanted to make myself a birthday dress, and after much waffling and Google-imaging, I decided on the By Hand London Anna Dress. Every dress I’ve seen made-up is absolutely gorgeous, but I wasn’t sure if it was the right dress for me. Never having worn a maxi dress before, this looked like a lot of dress. But, I did it! Sorry I’m so squinty.

by hand london anna dress

At first I was going to make it up in this silk:

black silk polka dot fabric

I wasn’t going to line it, I was just going to make myself a black slip. Or just make black underwear. How scandalous! I still think I may.

But then a customer told me about a natural dye workshop she did in France with Michel Garcia. I can only dream about doing that, but he also has instructional DVDs, which are unfortunately not at any libraries. I did find a recipe for an organic indigo vat here. I’ve been looking into dyeing with indigo for a long time, so I was really excited to use this recipe. So my silk Anna turned into a shibori project.

by hand london anna dress

I made up the Anna in a cream-colored birch organic cotton. I waited until after I dyed it to insert the zipper. I also spent a lot of time Google-imaging shibori techniques, and I ended up pleating the fabric lengthwise and stitching along those pleats. The stitches held the pleats together and act as a dye resist, so the dress has some very interesting (albeit subtle) striping.

The ingredients for the dye are indigo dye powder, crystallized fructose sugar, and calcium hydroxide (pickling lime). I ordered the indigo online, and imagined I could find the other two ingredients in a grocery store. Word of advice: do not try to buy fructose sugar at a health food store–you will get your head chewed off. I went to seven different grocery stores and could not find it, so I had to order it online. I was hoping to dye my fabric last weekend, but the whole fructose thing really held me up.

So, my first venture into dyeing with indigo was not super successful. I think that my vat was not balanced. But I am willing to try it again! I like the color okay, but it’s not what I wanted. And while I m all too well aware that natural dyeing has its quirks and can give some really unexpected results, I’m still bummed. I will probably re-dye this dress. Although I already re-dyed it this morning with coffee.

I debuted this dress at the Cleveland Flea this morning. If you haven’t been yet, you’re really missing out! The last one for the year is in October. The wind was nuts, and it unhemmed my dress. But it also made my dress very dramatic, so that was awesome.

by hand london anna dress


I also made myself a special birthday bra with this awesome block print we had a few years ago. I took apart an ill-fitting dress I made with it, and have some far used the fabric for a tank top and a bra.

Don’t worry, we’ll have more block prints October 10th at our Merchant & Mills launch party!

by hand london anna dress

Special thanks to my boyfriend for freezing in his toe shoes and taking these photos.

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