One of my big projects this year will be a 1720s robe de cour for Demode’s 18th century Court Gowns project based on Alexis Simon Belle’s portrait-within-a-portrait of Mariana Victoria of Spain (and of course the various bits of it will also qualify for Historical Sew Fortnightly challenges).
The first thing to do was to dye my fabric.
When I signed up for the project the deal I made with myself was that I could only do it if I could do it from my stash. Because of this, I’m going to have to compromise a tiny bit on historical accuracy. For my fabric I’m using two 2.7m lengths of vintage mercerised cotton damask curtains (yes, I really am trying to do a court dress out of 5.4m of fabric!) in dull beige-gold, and one smaller scrap:
So, to dye the curtains. First I washed them thoroughly, to get rid of any soiling or accretions that may have accumulated over time and which would keep my fabric from dyeing a nice even colour. Once it was clean I got the fabric soaking wet:
I prefer stovetop dyeing, because, while it is more work than dyeing in the washing machine, you have more control over what colour you achieve on the stovetop. Washing machine dyeing also works if you don’t have room in your kitchen, or don’t have a dedicated dye-pot.
To dye on the stove I got my pot filled with water, brought the water to a boil, and added salt to help the colour affix to the cotton (following the instruction on the packet for water/salt to fabric ratio). Then I got out my selection of yellow dyes (bless Made on Marion for carrying such an extensive range of dyes!). I prefer iDye for dyeing, but there are other brands that also work beautifully.
I trialled a mix of Bright Yellow (bottom) and Aztec Gold (middle) on a teeny scrap of fabric, dipping it in the dye and then drying it to see what it would really look like, but the result was too pumpkin-orange:
So I went for unadulterated Golden Ochre, which had the right mix of deep golden yellow to match MV’s dress.
iDye comes in little dissolvable packets: you just tip the entire packet into your dye pot, and don’t have to handle any messy dye powder. Here you can see my little packet dissolving amidst the steam:
Once my packet had dissolved I stirred my pot like mad to make sure that the dye was evenly dispersed in the water.
Then I added my soaking wet fabric, and stirred even more vigorously.
It’s very important at this point that I agitate the fabric thoroughly, so that every bit of it gets evenly exposed to the dye: otherwise my fabric will come out blotchy and uneven.
So I stirred like mad, while timing the dye job to be sure to get the right depth of colour. Too short, and the colour would be too weak and pale. Too long, and the colour will be too dark and orange-y.
When I’d reached the right time I dumped the fabric (but not the dye) out into the sink, and rinsed it with cold water until the water running out from it ran clear, and there was no residual dye.
Then I hung it out on the line to dry, and dyed my other 2.7m length and the smaller scrap in the same way.
And here is what it came out as:
The fabric nearer Felicity is perfect, but the other length is a bit too pale. Not a problem though: I could re-dye it. So I re-heated my leftover dye, got the second length of fabric soaking wet again, popped it in the dye pot for a wee bit longer, stirred like mad, and dried it again.
In the sunshine it looks much brighter than Mariana Victoria’s dress, but in a candlelit room it would be perfect (and, of course, Belle’s painting has probably darkened with time).
So now that I’ve got my fabric right, it’s time to cut out the skirt petticoat and the bodice, and to sew up the bodice for the HSF Bodice Challenge, which is due in oh, 9 days…
And I’m still working on The Project, thought the biggest part of it is over!