Sew Brave: Cut and Dye

Hi, my name is Kim, and gluing my sewing badge to my Girl Guide uniform was my first rebellious crafting act.

I don’t follow rules. I have never 100% followed any pattern for anything in my life. I splash paint on canvas and dye on yarn with equal disregard for “ruining it” or “getting it wrong.” I colour outside the lines. I see asymmetry as my birthright. And when I’m done, if it makes half the people in the room twitch, I feel like I’ve done my job as a fibre artist.

And then this happened:

Three folded cuts of hand-dyed merino and silk jersey on weathered hardwood flooring, from left to right: gray with purple and yellow details, blue with purple details, and purple with darker purple

That, my friends, is hand-dyed merino and silk jersey. It’s the most amazing fabric I’ve ever had in my hands. And it is dyed with my usual “what happens if I do _____” attitude. I love it. Every single inch.

So why am I afraid to cut into it?

I’m primarily a knitwear designer and a dyer, and I do both for a living. Around the new year, I dusted off and cleaned the sewing machine I inherited from my mother and decided that it was time to try sewing again. The one and only garment I had previously completed was a Little House on the Prairie-style blouse in Grade 7, but I design knitted garments for a living and know enough about garment construction that jumping in with both feet was not an unusual step for me. Freezing at the sight of this fabric, with tailor’s chalk and a rotary cutter in my hand, was.

Fear in our crafting is something I work with in every class I teach. So much worrying about doing it “wrong” or being afraid we won’t like the results. But it’s unnecessary. Making is an act of creation. If we remember that every act of creation is also an act of destruction, we can also remember that the opposite is also true. It’s a natural cycle. Forest fires are necessary to regrowth and renewal. And so it goes with making. You can’t create clothing without changing the fabric in some way—usually cutting it. It can feel like sewing arson.

So I chose:

A cut of hand-dyed merino and silk jersey in shades of blue with purple details on weathered hardwood flooring

And I drafted a light, slightly lantern-shaped skirt, based on the bottom of this dress:

Schematic of dress with fitted top and lantern shaped skirt.

And I cut. And sewed. And added more waist darts to create a more bubbly, drapey look.

Kim is standing on grassy ground, a background of bright green leaves. Her hair is red and short. She wears glasses with a red frame. She wears a red T-shirt, a skirt with an asymmetrical hem in a merino and silk jersey fabric in blue with dark blue and purple details, and black sandals. The skirt looks drapey and flowy.

When drawing chalk outlines on the fabric, I made sure to include my favorite pieces of the fabric, those cloud-like pockets where dyes mix with folds and create magic.

A detail of the skirt that highlights the drape of the fabric and its colors, blue, dark blue, and purple

At every seam, these pieces of magic interact with each other.

Kim is standing on grassy ground, a background of bright green leaves. Her hair is red and short. She wears glasses with a red frame. She wears a red T-shirt, a skirt with an asymmetrical hem in a merino and silk jersey fabric in blue with dark blue and purple details, and black sandals. The skirt looks drapey and flowy.

The fabric is light and flowy, but strong and wearable. It takes the structure of the angled 3-D seams, making the fabric drape and move in wonderful ways.

Kim is standing on grassy ground, a background of bright green leaves. Her back is facing the camera. Her hair is red and short. She wears a red T-shirt, a skirt with an asymmetrical hem in a merino and silk jersey fabric in blue with dark blue and purple details, and black sandals. The skirt looks drapey and flowy.

I love every angle, and I love the “pull it on and go” quality of this skirt. Exactly what I want for spring/summer!

Another detail of the skirt that highlights the drape of the fabric, the asymmetrical hem, and its colors, blue, dark blue, and purple

I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s taken years for me to get to this point. To take the chance. And now?

Plum merino silk? I’m coming for you. ✂️✂️✂️

A cut of hand-dyed merino and silk jersey in shades of purple rests on top of two smaller cuts of the same fabric, one in blue with dark blue and purple details and one in gray with yellow details.

Kim McBrien is a lifelong textile maven… has tried it all. Start with liberal doses of dyeing, knitting, spinning and designing. Toss in some Arts Management teaching and Social Media guru-ing. Finish off with some yarn-y bon-vivanting. Can be found at Indigo Dragonfly.

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