After finishing the body of the dress, I still had to decide on the floral embellishments at the hip and shoulder. My Etsy ribbon-flower appliques did indeed arrive in time, but they were kind of boring-looking– too pale, not enough color to them. Besides which, when I pinned them to the dress they looked a little off– too fancy compared to the simple fabric.
I decided to go in a different direction, making ribbon flowers out of ombre-dyed taffeta ribbon. And because I can never take the easy route to things like this, I decided to dye my own ivory ribbon rather than buy it pre-colored.
Remembering how well things had gone with my Dye-Na-Flow seam binding for the Wisteria Gown, I picked up an “exciter pack” of Dye-Na-Flow so I’d have a bunch of colors to choose from. After doing a few test dips on scraps of ribbon, I took lengths of ribbon, wet them (important step so your colors will blend), and dip-dyed them in various colors. I did a few that blended from end to end, and a few that blended from edge to edge, just for variety. I then unwound the ribbon, set it on edge on a rack, and let it dry completely before ironing it to set the dye.
I got a bunch of lovely pastel shades of pink, orange, and blue (which I later realized were too vibrant for my dress, but I’ll get to that later). I used wired ribbon, so I first pulled the wire out of one side of the ribbon– the side that would be the inside edge of the flower petals (the center of the flower).
Then I took a needle and thread and stitched a series of “U” shapes down the length of the ribbon before drawing the thread tightly. You can see that the bottom of each “U” runs along the non-wired side of the ribbon, making it easier to draw up tightly.
I stitched the first three “U” shapes to be about 1 1/2 times the width of the ribbon, and then increased that to 2 times the width of the ribbon for the remaining petals– this made the flower look more natural as the outermost petals were larger. Remember, the petals will actually form in reverse of the stitching, so make sure your colors are oriented properly!
Once I had a line of petals I simply coiled them into a single flower and stitched the ribbon to itself on the back to keep it in place. I used the wire along the outer edge of each petal to shape the flower attractively. Each large flower took about 24 inches of 1.5″ ribbon, and each small flower took about 18 inches of .75″ ribbon.
Okay, so here’s the issue with the dye color– at first I was wetting my ribbon by dipping one edge of each roll quickly into water and then dipping each edge into a some undiluted Dye-Na-Flow, which then travelled up the wet ribbon to cover the whole thing. I used my fingertips to help it along, and it looked nicely pastel on its own. However, once I held the finished flowers up to the dress itself they were clearly too bright. So I had to dye more ribbon, this time diluting the Dye-Na-Flow just a tiny bit more than 1:1 with water. You can see the difference between the results below. I only used about 7-8 drops of each color dye (with as much water added) for 2-3 pieces of finished ribbon.
I repeated the process with various colors and added a few ribbon leaves to make two clusters of ribbon flowers, one for the shoulder and one for the hip. I stitched the clusters down onto a white felt backing, trimming away the excess felt so it wasn’t visible from the front. Then I hand-stitched the felt to the dress, so the flowers will be easy to remove if I need to wash it.
And I even made a small cluster for my cloche!