My first official sewing adventure on this blog is the “pillowcase dress.” I’m going to start by putting in a few disclaimers:
- I am moderately knowledgeable in sewing. I’m not going on Project Runway anytime soon, but I know my way around a standard sewing machine.
- I’m going to use pretty standard sewing techniques, so this project is not going to be a “learn as I go” craft. I will in the future try my hand at some new sewing techniques, so stay tuned for those!
- I am not using a pillowcase to make this dress. I’m sure that’d be the easy way to do this. That’s just not my style. I seem to take simple projects and turn them into custom-designed nightmares for myself and, thereby, my family. I wanted more unique colors, and I wanted one to fit my littlest, miss Lady Bug, as well as a coordinating one for her sister, the Prima Ballerina.
With those points in mind, I’ll go through the process to make a non-pillowcase “Pillowcase Dress.” If you do decide to make it out of a pillowcase, you probably would be able to skip a lot of the steps that I’ll describe. I then applaud you for being less OCD than me.
Here is a list of supplies:
- Two coordinating fabrics of your choice (3/4 yard for the more dominated fabric and 1/4 of a yard for the smaller used fabric)
- 30 inches of ribbon (7/8″ width) that matches
- Thread that matches so it blends in with the fabric
- I also bought some medium rick rack to add a little detail, but this isn’t necessary (1/2″ wide)
I always tend to buy a little extra fabric than is probably necessary. I’m not a fan of multiple trips to the fabric store because I end up spending an hour going up and down the aisles, starting new projects in my head with items falling from my overfilled arms. This is where I succumb to the phone call to tell my husband that I understand that I was supposed to be home a long time ago but got sidetracked. Target also has this effect on me.
I made this using the measurements for my 4-year-old that is 42 inches tall. I measured from her shoulder to the top of her knee to get the finished length that I wanted for the dress, which was 22″. I measured a standard pillowcase width and got 19″. In the future, I think I will make it less wide because it was pretty wide for my daughter. It still looked cute, though!
I kept the fabric folded in half with the wrong sides facing each other (you can see the nice side). I then measured from the fold and cut at 19 1/2″ to get the width of the dress plus an inch seam allowance. Then I measured and cut lengthwise to desired length minus 7″ (which will be the other fabric) plus seam allowance of 1 1/2″, equally for my dress 16 1/2″.
If you were to unfold your fabric the measurement would be 39″ by 16 1/2″.
Cut the second fabric the same way but with the measurements 19 1/2″ (width) by 8 1/2″ (length).
two fabrics cut-notice the folded edge on the left
Next, you sew both pieces together and finish with zig zag stitch. Zig zag stitching is a cheaper means of serging seams. Not many people have sergers, anyways.
Two fabrics with nice sides facing each other, pinned, and ready to be sewed.
This is where I added my rick rack. I pinned it very carefully on the seam of the two fabrics in order to hide the seam, and then sewed it.
rick rack pinned to seam
Then hem the bottom. I used a rolled hem so that it gave it a cleaner finished look. A basic explanation of how to make a rolled hem is fold the edge of your fabric and then fold it over again so that the edge is hidden. I then pin it to keep it from coming undone and sew it. This hides the edge and makes it look more professionally finished. Ironing the folds make it easier to work and also keeps it an even hem.
What my rolled hem looks like before I sew it
Now sew together the sides. The main thing is to make sure the seams of the fabrics match. I line up the fabric with the nice looking sides facing inside. Then I make sure that where the two fabrics were sewn together meets up at the side about to be sewn. I pin my fabric to make sure it stays where I want. Sew and then zig zag stitch to keep the edges from fraying and looking messy.
Keep the fabric nice side in for the remaining of the sewing.
Instead of using a pattern for the arm holes, this is where I get a little creative. I took a large plate and placed it on the top of the dress. I approximated arm holes (it was about 5″ down and 2 1/2″ across). If you use the plate, you don’t have to exactly trace, but get an approximate curve. What’s nice about these types of dresses is that it isn’t fitted so there is a lot of play room at the top to adjust to different children’s upper body frames. Then cut.
use plate to get curve of arm hole
Then I use the rolled hem technique to do the arm holes. Start from a side rather than the middle. This lets your fabric “give” a little easier into rolling rather than if you start in the middle it tends to be more difficult to roll it.
Now time for the place to put the ribbon. Start with one side. What I do is fold my fabric to an inch and iron the fold. Then I fold the edge like I’m going to do a rolled hem (essentially this is a rolled hem, but you are leaving enough space to put a ribbon through it). Make sure you leave 3/4″ in order to put the ribbon through when you are finished. Note that I’m using a 7/8″ ribbon but only leaving myself 3/4″ inside the hem for the ribbon. I’ll explain this in a minute. Sew the hem, leaving yourself 3/4″ from the edge to the stitches. Repeat with the other side.
pinned hem with 3/4″ space for ribbon
finished hem with 3/4″ space for ribbon
This completes the sewing part of the dress. Now turn your fabric back to show your finished work (nice side out).
Last part is inserting the ribbon into the hems at the top. Cut a 30″ piece of ribbon. Take a safety-pin and attach it to one side of the ribbon. This makes going through the hem SUPER easy. Insert the safety-pin into the hem and work it through with your fingers. After you finish through one hem, continue with the other (make sure you keep the other end from going into the hem of the outfit). once it has gone through both hems, take the safety-pin out. Because I used a satin ribbon, I just cut the little edge off where the pin made a hole, but that’s because I’m a little OC about perfectionism. This technique helps when using a wider ribbon than the hole you leave for yourself. I did this because when the dress is on, the ribbon will naturally bunch anyways, so I didn’t want to leave a larger than necessary hem.
Safety-pin attached to ribbon through the hem in the top of the dress
I take a lighter and just heat seal the edges of the ribbon to prevent fraying in the future. There are specific heat sealers for ribbon. I just typed in heat sealer for ribbon and got this so seems easy enough to find if you want one. I think a lighter works fine. Just go back and forth by the edge of the ribbon with the lighter until it slightly melts and seals the edge of the ribbon. Don’t put the lighter right on the ribbon or it will probably catch on fire.
Now just tie a bow on the side of the neck, and you’re done! Congrats! This whole thing with taking pictures and writing down information for this took me an hour. I’d think it would take me a half hour or so to do now that I know what I’m doing. I will definitely be making more of these! Super easy and cheap!