Tag Archive | dress

Sundress Tutorial

After making my shirred, pocket skirt my prima ballerina begged for me to make her an outfit. Of course, it was always something I was going to do, but she kept at it every day…”Mom!! Make me a dress!!!”

I thought about what would be a good dress to make and explain here, so I’m going to make a simple sundress with buttons on the back and ties to tighten at the waist. This will be an easy dress to make for relatively new sewers. It didn’t take long to make it, and it turned out super cute.

my oldest in her new dress

my oldest in her new dress

My daughter wears size 6 in girls, so I’ll be going off of that, but here is a link to measurements for all sorts of sizes. The only thing it doesn’t include is the length of the dress, and for that I just measured from her shoulder to where I wanted the dress to end-just below her knee.


  •  1 1/4 yard of fabric
  •  5/8″ ribbon in coordinating color of fabric
  •  Double fold bias tape in same color as ribbon
  •  Thread
  •  2 buttons



  1. I took a dress she currently has, and I measured the bodice height. It came out to 6″ finished. I like using current clothing to help me find what will fit my children. Add 1 inch for seam allowance, so I have 7″.
  2. I took my girl’s chest measurement (from the chart) and got 22″ and added 1 inch for seam allowance-giving me 23″.
  3. I cut out 2 rectangle pieces at 7″ x 23″.

Skirt part

  1. I took her waist measurement (26″) and multiplied by 1.5 so that I can have a gathered effect on the skirt part making 39″.
  2. I measured from her shoulder to just below the knee which was 25″. Because we are doing straps, I subtracted 2″, making the end length 23″.
  3. Since I will be using bias tape for the hem, I don’t need to add anything for the bottom hem, but I added a half inch for the top seam that meets with the bodice.
  4. The height of the skirt will be 17.5″ because I took the total finished length 23, subtracted the bodice finished length 6″, and added half an inch for seam allowance = 17.5″.
  5. Now I measure and cut one rectangle 17.5″ x 39″.
cut fabric

cut fabric


  1. Cut 1 length of ribbon at 44″. This will be for the waistband.
  2. Cut 4 lengths of ribbon at 10-12″.  This will be for the straps and will be tied like a bow, so if you want bigger bows, cut 12″.



  1. Pin bias tape on the bottom hem

    pinned bias tape hem

    pinned bias tape hem

  2. Sew hem
  3. With nice sides facing in (you see bad side), pin sides together so that the skirt is closed and the bias tape hem is on the bottom. Sew side using zig zag stitch.

    side of skirt pinned with bias tape hem on bottom

    side of skirt pinned with bias tape hem on bottom


  1. Face the nice sides of the fabric towards each other.
  2. I started in the middle of the pieces on the top.  This will be the front center of the bodice.  Since I decided to have the top of the front be 6 inches finished, I measured 3 1/4″ on either side (included 1/4″ seam allowance).
  3. I then went on both sides and measured 3 1/2″.

    bodice measurements (yellow is the fabric)

  4. With the arm holes, I took a bowl (or you could do a cup if you need smaller circles) and made a semi circle between the two measurements.  I repeated the same on the other side to get the other arm hole.

    bowl for arm holes

    bowl for arm holes

  5. Cut fabric.

    bodice pieces cut out

    bodice pieces cut out

  6. Pin fabric, leaving the bottom open (this will be attached to the skirt).
  7. Take the 4@10-12″ ribbons.  These will be the shoulder straps.  Put them inside the two pieces of fabric because once you sew them on, they will be shown with the “nice sides”.  As shown in the picture, two of the strips are in the middle for the front, and one of the strips are on either side that will end as the back straps.  Pin these so they are straight up and down and will be sewn into the seam.  I like to put the ribbon a little further from the seam so that it gives a square look to the top. You can see in the close up picture of my daughter the squared edges when you put the ribbons further from the seam.
    bodice with ribbon straps pinned

    bodice with ribbon straps pinned

    my beauty

    squared edges on top

  8. Sew seams at 1/4″.
  9. Flip inside out and you will see the straps coming out of the fabric.


  1. Gather skirt.  This can be done several ways.  I tend to do these by hand, using a running stitch.  This basically means take the needle and thread and go over and under the fabric in a straight line, leaving a length of thread on both ends so that you can pull it to gather it.  You can also do this with your sewing machine using a “straight stitch” and just make sure you give yourself a lot of thread to pull it.
  2. Pin the gathered skirt to the bodice.  Match the seam of the skirt with the sides of the bodice (the sides with come together with buttons later).  You can pull the thread or loosen it to make sure that it is evenly gathered while pinning it to the bodice.  Make sure you pin the skirt with the nice side on the inside so the seam is kidden when you sew.

    skirt gathered and pinned to bodice

    skirt gathered and pinned to bodice

  3. Sew in a zig zag stitch to give your skirt more reinforcement.


Waistband and Straps

  1. Fold the ribbon in half so that you can find the center.  Then pin the center on the front of the bodice in its center just about of the seam between the bodice and the skirt so that the bottom of the ribbon is slightly hiding the seam.
  2. Pin the ribbon to ONLY the front so that you will leave the ribbon loose on the sides and back to tie later.  You can do this by lying your dress flat and don’t pin the ribbon down on the back of the dress.
  3. Starting on the side, sew as close to the edge of the ribbon as possible.  Sew in a rectangle on the ribbon.  HINT: When you want to turn your fabric, turn the knob to put the needle down into the fabric.  This way when you lift the presser foot lever, you won’t lose your spot in your sewing.
  4. I then took a lighter and finished off all the ribbon edges that I cut.  To do this, you hold the ribbon in one hand and take a lighter back and forth across the edge (without letting the flame hit the ribbon so that it doesn’t melt the whole thing).  This creates seal to the edges so they don’t fray.


Honestly, I was too intimidated to try to make a button hole with my sewing machine, so for this project I used a technique that I found on the website ysolda.com.  She gave a great tutorial, so I want to give her credit for this sewn button loop tutorial.  Then I hand sewed two buttons on the opposite side.buttons on back

THAT’S IT!  Here are a few pictures of my cutie pie wearing the dress.

my beauty

back with waist and shoulder straps tiedmy oldest in her new dress

Once I finished the sundress, my daughter immediately tried it on and danced around the room.  This is how she gets to be known as my Prima Ballerina.  Let me know what you think and if you’ve tried it yourself!


Pillowcase Dress

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!

Finished Dress!