A Simple Red Dress

Hi guys! It’s been so long since I took a photo of myself that I feel really out of practice. Even in my front yard I felt a bit camera shy.

Cloth Habit | red tank dress

But I made something! (That wasn’t lingerie.) Actually I sewed up four projects in a week, an all time record for me, and here’s why: I had the flu last week. And it was my birthday too! Getting the flu is like one long Twilight Zone episode, a strange dream outside of time. And when you’re stuck at home with little energy for anything more than 15 minutes at a time, what do you do? I eat a lot of comfort foods, shlep around in my pjs and take lots of naps.

And since nothing is worse to me than mental boredom, in my spare spurts of energy I went on a patternmaking and sewing binge. I managed to cut, sew and fit this dress, a t-shirt, and two pairs of pants, and drafted two more pairs of pants I want to make this winter. That was my birthday present to myself…

So here is my belated birthday dress. Because sick or not, one must have at least one new dress for a birthday, no?

red knit dress | Cloth Habit

This was one of the silhouettes I came up with for my summer capsule wardrobe. I really wanted to have a few easy, throw-on knit dresses for our very hot summer days.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make many non-lingerie pieces this summer. Nor did I buy any clothing. I’m really committed to not filling my wardrobe back up with impulsive buys or ill-fitting clothing but instead want to work toward a thoughtful whole, no matter how long it takes me. However, all this discipline, combined with purging about 75% of my closet in the spring, left me with little variety. So I wanted to knock at least one summer piece off the list before the heat completely disappears.

The Pattern

This is just a simple little knit tank dress. I drafted the tank portion off of my fitted t-shirt pattern. For the skirt, I wanted something in between a quarter circle and half circle skirt, but with waist gathers. Frankly, I don’t like the way circle skirts lay over my tummy. So I drew out a quarter circle skirt, then slashed and spread down the center for the extra ease.

All in all it was pretty slapdash (for me) but I will probably make a few more next summer!

red knit dress | Cloth Habit

The Fabric

The fabric is a lovely cotton and modal blend knit that I sourced wholesale over the spring. Wholesale means: I bought an ENTIRE ROLL! Yowzas. It was my first business fabric purchase and I was quite nervous about keeping that kind of inventory/stash but once I unrolled the fabric, I knew it was the cotton of my dreams. It is also undyed, also known as PFD: prepared for dyeing. This means the cotton has its natural off white color and there are no treatments on the surface. It is quite a glorious fabric to dye!

I used Dharma Trading’s fiber reactive dye in Scarlet, which turned out a lighter red than I wanted so if there’s a next time I’ll make sure to use a little more dye for deeper color.

red knit dress | Cloth Habit

By the way, if you have never tried fiber reactive dyes (also known as Procion MX dyes) on cotton, rayon or linen, you are in for a treat. It takes about an hour to do a solid even dyeing but you don’t need hot water to make them permanent, and after a proper after-dye rinsing and washing it does not bleed or fade. At all. I’ve been using these dyes for over a year and washing items dyed with them quite a bit, so I speak from experience!

I’m so glad to be out of the Twilight Zone and have a little color back. What do you guys do when you’re sick? Are you a fighter or take-it-easy sort? I guess I’m a little bit in the middle…


  1. Emily says:

    Wow, that dress looks awesome! I’m very impressed that you managed it while sick — when I’m sick I can usually work on preexisting projects, but I know anything I tried to come up with a pattern for wouldn’t end well.

  2. Sarah says:

    Happy belated birthday, and congrats on the wholesale fabric purchase! I’m curious about dyeing peace silk (which can be difficult to find in black) but I’ve been forbidden from dyeing fabric in the apartment..

    • Amy says:

      Hi Sarah! Silk is sooo easy to dye. A total sponge. It can be dyed with both fiber reactive and acid dyes, the latter of which requires hot water but is easier on the silk since it uses a lower ph. I’ve also read that it’s hard to get a good black on silk with fiber reactive dye. I have used Dharma Acid Dye in True Black on silk, and it is a very beautiful deep black. Just in case the verboten is ever lifted!

  3. crab&bee says:

    I had to laugh because I do the same thing when I’m sick, and sneak off to my sewing space for short intervals of sewing. It’s hard to be at home with time on my hands and not sew! I’m glad you’re feeling better, and happy belated birthday. And I’d never heard of the designation PFD – is it more commonly used in wholesale?

    • Amy says:

      Thanks! I soooo wanted to be gardening because it is planting season here, was way too sick to manage it! Sewing it was…

      PFD isn’t just wholesale and usually you can find it at places that sell fabrics for dyeing. Usually this fabric hasn’t had any starches, whiteners or other finishes applied so it’s very ideal for dyes. For example, Pacific Denim sells pfd denim, Dharma Trading sells pfd cotton, linen and some other fibers.

  4. Ginger says:

    This soft red is really nice on you! I really like it! I can’t really imagine working while sick – you’re a trooper! I’m one of those people who are sick so rarely that when I do get sick, I’m super sick. But it’s only once every 7 years or so, so I really can’t complain!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Michelle, thanks! Yes it’s a belt, a beaded elastic belt that slips over the head. I wear it all summer on my dresses!

  5. Kaitlyn says:

    This is a really lovely dress; love the colour and the fall of the skirt. I don’t get very sick very often. When I have a cold I seem to try and ignore it and power through! Not always a good idea though

    • Amy says:

      Lucky you! I never used to get sick–I think I sailed through my 20s without a flu but now it’s kind of like a yearly thing!

  6. Rebecca says:

    Happy belated Birthday to you and what a pretty dress! Great color on you and I’m definately going to attempt to copy it as it’s still hot here in the California desert!

    • Amy says:

      Ugh, I know. It’s 95 here today in Austin. I look at Aussie sewing blogs to get inspiration because they’re going into summer and coat weather seems a long way off here!

  7. Amanda says:

    This is so lovely! That drape on the skirt is fantastic- and such an amazing colour! A belated happy birthday and I hope you’re feeling much better!

  8. sallie says:

    Wheee!!! Happy Birthday!!
    I am definitely NOT a fighter when I am sick, I’m a giant baby. And if I absolutely HAVE to do something I’m a total martyr about it. Basically, I’m a nightmare! But this reminded me that about 4 years ago now, when I was first starting to sew, I came down with the flu and became OBSESSED in my delirium with making a red knit dress! I remember dragging my ass to the local fabric store and muttering ‘red wrap dress’ over and over. And when Nick would question my feverish serging I would just shout at him “RED WRAP DRESS!” I still wear that dress!
    Anyway! This is a great little red dress – perfect for our still summer temps, and definitely the kind of thing I want to wear everyday in the thick of the summer heat and humidity! You look gorgeous – and I love the way the scarlet dye turned out. In my experience Procion dyes always rinse out to be slightly lighter than they look in the dye bath. But I love Procion dyes! And I think Dharma makes the best!

    • Amy says:

      I can totally relate! Both being a big baby and starting in on something pretty extreme. I think the last time I was sick I decided I MUST HAVE A CAPE! Pretty amazing what we can pull off in the delirium.

  9. Heather Lou says:

    Great dress, great colour. You know, I never even CONSIDERED dying knits but you make an excellent case, especially since I have a few deep jade-y green colours in mind I can NEVER find when I’m shopping.

  10. Liliana says:

    I love that dress, so simple and yet so pretty! And I also really like the colour… I’m currently sick and have no energy at all to do anything except browsing through the web and reading… I wish I was able to a bit of sewing now! 🙂

  11. Nicole says:

    What a wonderful birthday/getting-getting-over-being-sick gift to yourself! I love the beaded geometric belt(?) you have on, it’s absolutely divine. And your pictures were great, the camera wasn’t being shy towards you. 😉

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