Ninon’s dress: Angels Sing

I’ve been lusting after a 17th century dress in golden yellow duchess satin for months, and months.  The shades they had were so sumptuous.

Bodice, German, 1660s


Unfortunately, I didn’t have golden yellow duchess silk satin in my stash.  And I couldn’t find any in NZ.  And I didn’t want to spend US$60 a metre + shipping to order it in.  I thought my dream was over.

And then I realised I did have 7 metres of beige duchess silk satin that I found at Spotlight a year ago for $15 a metre on the clearance table (they thought it was polyester, but I knew better), and immediately bought the whole bolt.  And when I checked out it turned out there was a 20% off sale on, so I only paid $12 a metre. Score!

Boring beige duchess satin

Anyway, I could have made a beige dress (there are plenty of lovely beige dresses in 17th century paintings), but I didn’t want a beige dress.  I wanted a golden yellow dress.

So I took my fate into my hands and decided to dye it.  This was a bit scary, as it’s notoriously hard to iron duchess satin, much less dye it, but faint heart never won fair lady the dress of her dreams, so I girded my stays, crossed my fingers and tried it anyway.

I used a mix of iDye Sunny Yellow (leftover from dyeing the Emily dress) and iDye Aztec Gold.

Big ole pot of dye with little bitty sample piece

My sample piece came out be-u-tifully, so I risked the fabric.

It really was a risk too.  My pot, huge as it is, was nowhere near big enough to dye all the fabric in, and I couldn’t even think about a washing machine dye, because that would completely distress and ruin the duchesse satin.  So I had to stick one end in, pull it out, put another length in, pull it out, and repeat until I got to the end and hope I didn’t end up with too many variants in colour.

I was soooo nervous when I finally had the mass of steaming, dyed fabric out of the pot and ready to be rinsed.

Steaming mass of gold fabric

It looked pretty good, but would the colour be uniform once the fabric dried?  And how bad would the inevitable damage to the fabric be?

I was on tenderhooks while the fabric hung on the line, but once I finally brought it in, ironed it, and took a good look at it, an amazing thing happened.


Wait for it...

Angels sang.

No kidding.  Really, I looked at the fabric and I heard the universe go “aaaAAAAAAAAAAh”.  It was like a commercial when the hidden treasure gets found.



I still hear that sound when I look at the dress in natural light.  It’s diminished a bit with the discovery of some dye flaws, but it’s still AMAZING.  I’m in love.  I’m in awe.  I can’t wait for this dress.

Dye flaw. Boo. Only really visible on the inside though

Even Mr Dreamy is impressed.  He saw me handsewing the skirt and stopped and said “Wow…that fabrics really amazing!  Is it something special?  It’s so…royal”

Yes, it’s very royal.  It’s sumptuous.  Angels sing.




  1. Zach says

    Boy, I wish I could make a deal on silk like that! The color on that fabric is absolutely wonderful–I can’t wait to see what you make with it. =)

  2. Holy seraphim, you had a hand in that dye pot, didn’t you?

    What a dress it will be!


  3. purrrr! your dye experiments are inspiring. I would be scared to death, but you were too and you did it! and it’s gooorgeous!

  4. Wow, it’s amazing!! Looks so like that second painting! A risk that paid off – huzzah!

    • In person it’s a bit more like the 3rd and 4th painting, but the weathers been crappy so I can’t get it to photograph well 🙁

  5. I also got some of that silk from spotlight! They really didn’t know what it was… I brought 2m of white and 4 of a sky blue colour. Such a bargain. And the results of your dyeing look amazing!

    • Oooh….lucky you! They were out of white when I found it, but I got the last 2 metres of the sky blue. Any chance you want to sell your 4 to me? 😉

      • Madame Ornata says

        And I got 3 or 4m of a darker blue yum!

      • I could probably sell you all but about 0.5 of a meter as it perfectly matches a skirt-length piece of lace that I have, and I’d love to make a bodice for it out of it. Would you like to see it in person to make sure it’s the right colour?

  6. Vera says

    Ooooh! I have never in my whole life seen such a beautiful fabric. It does look like its pure gold. wow. you’re great.

  7. Madame Ornata says

    I’ve seen it real life and it really is utterly, utterly gorgeous *sigh*. Glowing divine yellow. Perfect. Yes I think I can hear those angels too.

    I shall beg for scraps …

  8. Wow, that looks utterly gorgeous, Leimomi! Thanks for sharing. I can’t WAIT to see the finished product.

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