Sew a fantastic dress with your child from their favorite pillowcase!
At first glance, this may seem like an ambitious project to try with your child, but I promise you it’s not. The pillowcase dress is not only easy to make but is loads of fun for both parent and child. The sense of achievement when you finish the pillowcase dress is great! my daughter wears hers all the time and ayers it with colored tops and funky tights.
There are many ways to sew a pillowcase dress and you will find plenty of patterns and wonderful free tutorials online. I have tried a few of them on my own and put together one tiutorial which is esy to teach to your little ones. You will need a sewing machine for this project.
Material that you will need to sew the pillowcase dress:
- Needle and thread
- Scissors and dressmakers pins
- A pillowcase wide enough to comfortably fit your child
- Some satin ribbons, ric rac and buttons to decorate
- Elastic (approximately 12 inches long and 1/2 inch wide)
Let’s get started. Follow the instructions below (and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need additional pictures or additional step-by-step instructions)
Step 1 – measuring and cutting the pillowcase dress
Iron and press your pillowcase before starting.
Measure your child from shoulder to the finished dress length starting your measurement at the open end of the pillowcase. Get your child to measure you so they can learn hwo to take body meaurements, this also help them learn the basic steps in sewing garments. Add an additional inch for seam allowance and pin to the finished length (at the closed end). Cut across the pillowcase following the pin marks. For example, if your child measures 50 inches from shoulder to desired dress length, add an extra inch for seam allowance and measure 51 inches starting at the open end and finishing at the closed end, then cut across. (See image below).
Important note on pinning: Pin the front and the back of the dress, on the left and the right (so that’s 4 pin marks) to mark where you will be cutting. Because pillowcases have been used and washed many times, they are not straight and tend to be longer on one side. We pin front and back to make sure we the pillowcase dress is cut straight.
Step 2 – cutting the armholes
On each side of the cut edge of the pillowcase, cut the armholes to 3 inches deep for a small child and 4 inches deep for a larger child. The armholes are cut in a J shape, the top of the J is the cut edge of the fabric. (See image above).
Step 3 – folding and stitching the dress’s neckline
With the pillowcase turned on the right side of the fabric, turn the top edge 1/4 inch to the inside and press with an iron (I find that children find it easier if you get them to pin the 14 inch fold first, and the iron it). Once pressed, (remove pins if you have used them) fold down again to 3/4 inches and press again. You now have a double turn which is neatly pressed. Stitch long the first fold, this will form a casing for the elastic should you want to use it, otherwise it will form a neatly stitched top edge for your pillowcase dress. (see step 4)
Step 4 – finishing the neckline
You now have 2 options to finish the top of the dress depending on experienced your child is at sewing.
Option 1 – A stretchy neckline: Thread an elastic through the casing you stitched in step 3. To do this, cut the elastic into 2 pieces measuring 6 inches each, attach a safety pin to one end, and get your child to “feed” the pin into the casing from one open end to the other. Once the elastic is fed through the casing, stitch across the open ends to hold it in place. Repeat with the other elastic for the back of the dress. you now have a stretchy neckline.
Option 2 – A straight neckline: Press the casing flat and form 2 darts at the front of the dress. the width of the darts depends on your child’s measurements. A dart takes in fabric to add shape to the dress, and the one to use on your pillowcase dress has one pointed end. Click here to see full instructions on how to form and sew a dart on your pillowcase dress.
Step 5 – folding and sewing the armholes
Now let’s deal with the armholes. Just as you did in step 3, fold the armhole edge to 1/4 inch and press, then again to 3/4 inch and press again. Stitch along to form the casing. I must warn you that this is a bit of a frustrating step because of the nature of the curved edge of the fabric. Be patient and instruct your child to work slowly, pinning carefully each time they fold a bit of the fabric. Pinning the armholes before and after pressing makes it easier for children to handle the curved fabric.
Step 6 – finishing the armholes & the shoulder straps
Now that you have formed the casing for the armholes, cut 2 pieces of 28 inch long ribbon and get your child to thread each of the ribbons through the right and left casing using a safety pin (much like in step 3). Once threaded, gather the ribbon inside casings to make a gathered armhole and then sew the ribbons at the side seam to stop it from pulling out of the casing. You should now have loose ends of ribbons at the open end of each armhole, Great! tie the loose ends of ribbon into a bow at the top of the shoulder. you just made your pillowcase dress shoulder strap
Step 7 – Decorating your pillowcase dress
You now have complete artistic liscense to add decorative accessories to your pillowcase dress. You can sew ric rac or ribbon 4 inches from the lower edge of your dress making sure you catch the “pillowcase envelope” when you sew (this will ensure it doesn’t flap open). Add little bows or buttons, etc.
Have a look what the girls did here. they made a fabric flower (tutorial to follow in another blog so stay tuned), and hand stitched it on the front of their gorgeous dresses.