photos by rad and happy
I’ve had the idea for a lemon print dress in my head for over a year. And I would have made it way back then, but I could never find a fabric that I liked. I searched online so many times and could never find exactly what I wanted, and then one day a couple of months ago I had a breakthrough — I could paint the lemons! I’ve been wanting to make my own textiles for a long time, and after making my fabric for my Valentine’s Day dress, I was itching to try it again. 
So for the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I schemed about this dress, not wanting to make it until I delivered so I knew what size to make it. Then as soon as San was born and my mom was here for a week and a half to help with the kids, I took advantage of a few nap times to pump this dress out. 
When I designed this dress, I knew I had to make it nursing-friendly, so I put a zipper in the front. I chose a chunky plastic sport zipper since it added a fun visual element in the front and I love how it adds a little bit of sportiness against the sweet print of the dress. I finished it just in time for Easter Sunday and wore it to church, which you can see here, but I had to grab a lemonade from our local Lemonade for this shoot — it was just a perfect fit!
I cannot wait to do more textile stamping this summer — I have a bunch more fun ideas, and plan to do a full video tutorial on my youtube channel on the entire process. So stay tuned for that.
But today I’m excited to share the step by step tutorial to make this dress! 

Click READ MORE below to find the full tutorial.

for the dress:
2 yards ponte knit fabric (I found mine at a local shop, but here’s a similar one online)
12 or 14-inch sport separating zipper (get one shorter or longer depending on the length of your torso)
22-inch invisible zipper

for the stamping:
yellow, green, red, and black screenprinting ink (I used the colors from this starter kit)
small paintbrush (you don’t need anything fancy)
stamp carve block
x-acto knife
paper plate
sponge brush

Step 1. Cut all your pieces out. Make sure you do this before you paint your fabric. You’ll need 2 BODICE FRONT and 2 BODICE BACK pieces, 4 NECKLINE pieces, 2 SLEEVES, and 2 SKIRT pieces. For your skirt pieces, the width should be:
(your waist measurement X 1.5) / 2
And then make the length as long as you’d like the skirt to be, plus 2 inches for your hem. Then cut two rectangles using these measurements. If you need more help making your pattern from your own clothing, use this free video tutorial here
Now it’s time to paint your fabric. I’m planning to do a video tutorial on this process in the next month or so, but for now let me walk you through it step by step. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments! 
1. First you need to cut your stamp. Use a pencil and draw out your lemon design on your carve block, then use the x-acto knife to carve around the design so the lemon is raised a few millimeters above the rest of the stamp (just like a store-bought stamp). 
2. Using your sponge brush, dip it in the container of yellow paint, brush an even coat onto the stamp, and then stamp your fabric. Repeat until all your fabric pieces are stamped. You’ll need to re-apply paint every time before stamping so you get a nice even layer of paint. Let these dry overnight. 
3. Now it’s time to add a little dimension to your lemons. Mix a tiny bit of black with yellow on your paper plate. Then using a small paintbrush, swipe a streak of this darker greenish/yellow color across the sides of some of your lemons to give them dimension. Let this dry completely. 
4. Now time to add our leaves. The green that came in the starter kit was too vibrant for what I wanted, so I mixed green, yellow, and a tiny bit of red on a paper plate to get a more subtle green. Then use a small paintbrush to paint green leaves next to the lemons. Let this dry completely. 
5. Finally, take a very tiny paintbrush and paint little black stems to connect the leaves to the lemons and paint the crease down the center of the leaves. Let this completely dry. 
6. Once everything is completely dry, you need to seal the paint. Turn the fabric pieces upside down and press with a hot iron (as hot as the fabric allows). Do not iron directly on the paint or it will lift off onto your iron. Several seconds of pressing should be enough to seal the paint. 
Ok, whew! Now time to move to the rest of the dress. 
Step 2. First take your FRONT BODICE pieces and insert the sport zipper. If you don’t know how to insert a zipper, I have a video on it right here
Step 3. Now it’s time to add darts to the FRONT BODICE pieces. If you don’t know how to do darts, I have a video on that too!
Step 4. Take the BACK BODICE pieces and FRONT BODICE and attach them together at the shoulder seams with a straight stitch. 
Step 5. With right sides together, pin the top of the SLEEVE and the top of the shoulder together, as shown. Continue down the rest of the arm hole, pinning the sleeve in place. 
Step 6. Sew the sleeve to the arm hole with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the other sleeve. Check out this video for full sleeve instructions
Step 7. Once both sleeves are added, pin the bodice with right sides together, matching up the armpit seams, and sew from the end of the sleeve to the bottom of the bodice on both sides. 
Step 8. With right sides together, sew your NECKLINE pieces together to make two half circles. Make sure these half circles are slightly smaller than your dress neckline so they have to be stretched to fit around.
Step 9. Then, with right sides together, pin the NECKLINE along the neckline of the dress, matching them up the shoulder seams and then stretching evenly so it fits around the neckline. Sew with a 1/2″ seam allowance around the entire neckline, stretching slightly as you sew so the pieces lay flat. Trim the seam allowance and then tuck the lining inside the dress and press flat. Topstitch around the neckline to keep the lining in place. This video goes completely through necklines if you need help
Step 10. Take your two SKIRT pieces and sew them together at the side seams, then cut down the middle of the back skirt piece so it’s open like the back of the bodice (This is where your zipper will go).
Step 11. Sew around the entire circumference of the skirt with a basting stitch and then gather it until it matches the width of the bodice. Make sure to spread your gathers evenly. 
Step 12. Pin the skirt to the bodice with right sides together, as shown. Sew across the entire waistline, attaching the skirt to the bodice.
Step 13. Insert your invisible zipper following the instructions on the package, and then sew up the remaining opening of the dress below the zipper. 
Step 14. Finally, hem the bottom of the dress, and the sleeves to your desired length, press all your seams, and you’re done!
  • Phae Feaga

    I’m working on this right now and I realized (too late) that you need to add the seam allowance for the zipper to each front bodice piece. luckily I had enough fabric to cut two new pieces.
    Maybe you should make a note about that in the tutorial, since normally you wouldn’t think about adding any extra seam allowance in the middle of your bodice?
    Hope it will turn out half as pretty as yours when I’m done!

  • Kaitlin Taylor (Spooner)

    Since we have the zipper on the front, is the zipper in the back necessary? I’m working with a jersey knit that’s pretty stretchy, so wondering if I could save myself a step by not including the invisible zipper.

    • merrickwhite

      You could skip the back zipper only if you insert the front zipper farther down the dress past the waistline. If you want a fitted waist, you have to have a way to get into the waist, and that’s the purpose of the back zipper. Hope that makes sense!

      • Kaitlin Taylor (Spooner)

        That does make sense! Even though the fabric is stretchy, I forgot about the thread around the waist not being stretchy. I’m still fairly new to sewing! One more question…I’ve noticed that you always cut two rectangles for the skirt. If I have a long enough piece for one big rectangle, would it mess up the drape to make the skirt from just one piece? Maybe I’m not patient enough, but I seem to have trouble getting an even cinch around the skirt when the basting stitch goes over other seams.

        • merrickwhite

          You absolutely can use just one piece for the skirt. Totally up to you!

  • Ashley Koopmans

    Oh my goodness! This is amazing! You don’t know how long I’ve been trying to find the right lemon print! Every time I find one, it’s sold out! I’ve also been thinking about making my own prints so this is PERFECT! I’m beyond excited to try this out! Thank you! Thank you!