30 Days of Sundresses – Indigo Dyed Beach Cover Up

Indigo Dyed Beach Cover-up
My good friend Melissa from Melly Sews is a fellow Austinite. You might have seen me talk about her a few times.

30 Days

Like last year I decided to join her month long celebration of summer-y dresses but this time I wanted to mix it up so I made a fun beach cover up. And as my upcoming island vacation is not for another couple of months I’m afraid my backyard fence will have to stand in for white capped waves and beach umbrellas.

Indigo Dyed Beach Cover-up

I was inspired by the tunic-style simple dresses I’ve seen. I also liked long sleeves because I hate to get sunburned. It rather short, and the front slit rather deep so no one would mistake this for a real dress. It’s very much a walk-from-the-beach-to-the-resort-lobby kind of garment.

Indigo Dyed Beach Cover-up

I like the breezy look of white fabric but I wanted an extra bit of flare so I decided to dye my fabric.

Indigo Dyed Beach Cover-up

Oh, and pom poms! ‘Cause when else do you really get to flaunt some chunky pom poms on your clothes?

For this design you will need:

– About 2-3 yds of natural fiber white fabric. I used a linen/cotton blend.

– About 3 yds of big pom pom trim.

– A bucket or large container WITH A LID. Plus another bucket or bowl for water to soak your fabric.

– A dowel rod or something that can be used to stir the dye – NOT a food utensil.

– Water

– An indigo dye kit (I used this one, which has all the materials you need) or your own dye.

– A plain t-shirt or woven bodice sewing pattern with sleeves. I’m using Grainline’s Scout Tee because it doesn’t have any darts and I am too lazy for darts.

Indigo Dyed Beach Cover-up

Dyeing the fabric:

I dyed my fabric prior to cutting out the pieces just in case I messed up.

I did cut down my fabric into two smaller sections so that it would be easier to fold and handle.

Following the kit directions I went outside and put 4 gallons of warm water to my plastic box.


Then I poured in the indigo dye. It quickly starts to change color once it hits the water. Neat looking, right?

After that I added the reducing agents and mixed. The key to indigo dying is to not introduce oxygen in the dye so you always need to stir very slowly without splashing and cover the dye container in between uses. Oxygen “sets” the dye so if too much gets in the dye vat it won’t work.

Stir the mixture gently and let sit, covered, for about half an hour or until the liquid itself turns a lime green color and the top of the vat has a layer of darker blue on top (called “flower” or “bloom”). It kind of works like a protective barrier to keep oxygen out.

Prepare your fabric by folding it up. For my square pattern I folded it accordion style down one direction then the other making a nice little stack of fabric. The kit comes with a booklet of patterns to try.

Then I placed the two wooded boards included in the kit on either side and secured them with rubber bands (also in the kit).


I soaked the fabric in water and squeezed out excess air and fluid and transferred it to the dye vat.

You’ll need gloves for this part, obviously. Push the flower aside and carefully dip the fabric in the vat. Don’t let it hit the bottom as sediment can collect down there.

I kept my fabric submerged for only 2 min or so but you can keep yours in longer.


Then take it out and set it aside. It will look lime green but after exposing the newly dyed fabric to air it will begin to turn blue.


The fabric looks darker while wet.

When you’re finished you can keep the vat covered and it will last for about a day just in case you decide to go dye-happy and find every white shirt and pillowcase in your house and dunk it in there.


Cutting pattern pieces:

After the fabric has dried, gently wash and iron it.

From here you need a few measurements. 1) The length of the dress from the center front neckline point to hem + seam and hem allowances, and 2) the length of the sleeve from the underarm point to hem + seam and hem allowances


I took the front and back pieces of my scout tee and aligned on the fold of my fabric. Then, with my ruler I extended the center front line down from the neckline to my new hem (Measurement 1). I next extended my side seam down and slightly outward from the underarm point and drew a gently curved line connecting my new center front and side seams at the hem.


I made the sleeves longer by doing something similar – extending the seam lines down and out to give the sleeve a bit of a “bell” shape, and adding a slightly curved hem (Measurement 2).


For the neckline you have a few options. You can simply bind it with bias tape or you could make a facing with a neckline slit like I did by copying the neckline curve from the original front and back pattern pieces.


Almost finished! From here I put together the pieces like normal.

If you made a new facing sew it on like this:


  • Add interfacing if you like to the facing pieces.
  • Sew the dress front and back at the shoulders. Sew the facings at the shoulders.
  • Finish the raw outer edges of the facings.
  • Right sides together, sew the facing around the neckline. When you reach the front slit, stop, pivot, and continue down to your slit end point. Pivot and continue back up making a narrow “V” shape. Pivot again back at the top and continue around to the end.
  • From here you can cut the slit. Be very careful not to cut through the stitches. Clip the corners. You can undersitch the seam allowances to the facing if you’d like.
  • Turn right side out and press.

For the sleeve and dress hems I folded the raw edges inward 1/4″, slipped the pom pom tape inside so it is covered by the folded fabric (and you only see the poms from the outside) and zig zagged around the the edge.

Indigo Dyed Beach Cover-up
I hope you found this tutorial helpful!


Melly Sews is also hosting weekly giveaways celebrating 30 Days of Sundresses. This week you have the chance to win one three detailed and informative online pattern drafting classes (Melissa has her own pattern company so she has a lot of experience in that department). You can click here to enter.

Thanks for reading!

Indigo Dyed Beach Cover-up

My Sewing Room Tour

My sewing room

Cut Out + Keep is hosting a photo tour of my craft room. This is kind of a big deal. Not because my room is extra special or anything. Rather my room normally looks like this:

That means I dumped a bunch of half finished projects in the hall furiously cleaned my room to take these pics. There’s also a little interview if you want to read that.

You can head on over to Cut Out + Keep to witness this one-time only miracle.

Sew Liberated Esme Top

Sew Liberated Emse Top
I feel like I’ve been doing a decent job of keeping up with my unofficial goal of taking blog photos somewhere other than my old standard- the Blue Wall of Blue.

Justin kindly walked ankle deep through this creek to take pictures of me. However, this benign little stream is deceiving. We took these shots last week but not a week before that we had such intense rain around here that this creek was rushing probably 12 feet higher than this. Lots of flooding in Central Texas lately.

Sew Liberated Emse Top

The Goal: I’ve been teaching sewing classes at a new fabric store in town and the owner and I are planning upcoming classes, one of which shall be for the Esme Top. I sewed this version up as a sample.

The Pattern: Sew Liberated’s Esme Top. My first foray into Sew Liberated was with their Myla Tank which I quite like (although I’ll need to sew another one as my original is now hanging up in the store).

Sew Liberated Emse Top

I liked the button bib front with the gathers underneath and I was surprised to find the sleeves are cut on the bias which is a nice touch.

The Fabric: Ugh, I wish I could remember the details on this fabric but I bought it so long ago. I know it’s a cotton voile and probably from one of those recognizable fabric print designers like Anna Maria Horner or something. Anyone recognize it?

The buttons came from my stash.

Sew Liberated Emse Top

The Changes: Only one – when I finished the top I liked it but the overall fit seemed rather large. On the other hand the sleeve cuffs are a little tight. Next time I’ll add about an inch to the cuffs.

It seemed like the back of the shirt was the culprit for the roominess in the fit. I mean, it’s supposed to be a loose, casual top, but even Justin suggested it could be smaller. It fits well in the shoulders and in front so next time I think I’ll just take a few wedge slices out of the back to compensate.

Sew Liberated Emse Top

For this go around, though, I just decided to do a little trick of making a pleat at the center back. I just sewed a 2″ line vertically a couple inches inward from the center back. It makes a little box pleat and helps to nip the fabric in at the waist.

I tried this before on an Archer shirt, but the pleat was pretty small and easily hidden in the plaid fabric. This shirt however needed to be tightened up quite a bit. I don’t love this fix but I suppose it’s better than taking an awkward slice out of the center back and leaving a back seam instead.

Sew Liberated Emse Top

The Results: I think this top is pretty fun. I like the loose feel and the long-ish sleeves. I’ve seen a few versions in stripes which I quite like the look of. I have a stripe fabric in mind that might work great with this pattern.

Bonnell Dress Tester Round-up

I’m so glad that after months of hard work the new Bonnell Dress is finally out. I hope you all love it as much as I do.

But I couldn’t have done it without help from my very wonderful pattern testers. Testers are so important. They not only catch small errors that I seem to be blind to, they show how a design will look on many body types, they help me figure out what parts of the pattern are difficult to understand or should be altered, and their individual opinions help me decide how best to make necessary changes. If I get similar responses about one aspect of the pattern from several people then I know something needs to be fixed.

Like many people, it’s hard for me to take criticism sometimes, even when I ask for it. Yet I know all these testers want the same thing I do: a great finished pattern. Not every change can be implemented – no pattern will fit every body right out of the package and sometimes I have to make compromises for economy and ease of use. But with help from these ladies the end result is 100% better than the first version I sent them out to test and I am so grateful.

These are just a handful of the ladies who helped me out but I wanted to again say thank you to all my testers!

Click the photos or links to head over to each blog post:

Ashlee from Smash Knits



Lindsay from Design by Lindsay (who is also a fellow Austin-ite!)



Zoe from Hello Zoe B



 Caroline from CJ Made

cjmade1 cjmade2


Katharina from Froebelina



Mary from Mary is Sew Fast



Melissa from Mahlica Designs



Johanna from Old House Mama



Emily from Mai Attique


I loved all the different fabric choices everyone used from double gauze to African wax prints, two-tone color combos to border and panel prints. Hopefully their dresses will inspire you to sew up your own!