Tutorial: Making a Dress from a T-shirt

Copying Children’s Ready-to-wear

One of my favorite sewing challenges is to copy ready-to-wear, so when DD Angela told me that Caitlin wanted a dress with a T-shirt top and a ruffly skirt, I visited the store where she’d seen the dress and of course, surreptitiously took a photo.  This didn’t seem to difficult.

Before I go further, I should mention that while this tutorial is for making a child’s dress, the same technique would work for an adult.  In fact, here’s a similar idea for a summer dress – this was in a storefront when we were in Greece last spring.  It’s still on my list of things to make someday.


Instead of sewing a t-shirt for the dress, I happened to find a cute one on the sale rack.  In the eyes of a child, I am sure it was far cuter than anything I would make, as it had massive amounts of glitter.  Now that I had the t-shirt, my next stop was the fabric store where I purchased 2″ black twill elastic and 1/4″ green ribbon for the skirt. The lace for the skirt was left over from a previous project.


Tutorial:

1.  If you’re using a purchased t-shirt, it is best to use a fitted style, as opposed to the standard boxy t-shirt.  If not, taper the sides so it is somewhat fitted.

2.  Measure the length you’ll need for the sides of the top of the dress. In this case, for a size 5, I aimed for 6″ on each side.  Cut the t-shirt off at this point, making sure to keep the bottom seam even.  I find that it’s easier to hold the side seams together while cutting as the bottom cut will be more even.

3. Now measure a length of elastic – about 1-2″ longer than the child’s waist, plus 1″ for the overlap.  I used a length of 24″.  This should also be the approximate circumference of the shirt.

4. Overlap the elastic about 1/2 inch and sew together with a zig-zag or straight stitch.

5. Mark the center front and back, and the sides on the elastic with chalk or pins.

6.  Also mark the center front and back on the shirt.  

7.  Pin the elastic to the shirt at the center markings.

8.  Sew the elastic to the shirt, stretching slightly if the top and elastic are not the same size.  A zig-zag stitch works well for this.  On my first attempt, I tried a cover-stitch but it didn’t work well.  Admittedly, I’m rather new to cover-stitching so maybe that was the problem.

9.  Now repeat this process to attach the skirt.  (Your eyes aren’t fooling you – the black colors are different from one another).

I’ll do a later post on how to make this skirt as I need to think about how to describe it before I can do a tutorial.

The dress was a huge hit, as I anticipated.  It was for  Cate’s birthday and she wore it for the entire weekend; she even slept in it one night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would I do differently?

The obvious is that I’d try to get the blacks a little closer.  Also, this dress just fits so I would have preferred it a little larger.   In this case the 100% cotton t-shirt was 2″ larger than Caitlin’s chest measurement – would go for a larger size the next time.  Other than that, I’d do it the same the next time.  What a fun dress.  Now I need to make a similar one for her big sister.

The Joy of Having a Grandmother who Sews

Laura Ingalls Bonnet Tutorial

Several weeks ago Angela and Stephen took our granddaughters on a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  From the photos and stories, it appears that one of the delights was living in a rustic cabin.  This experience brought to life the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  It sounds as if they played the part in every possible way.

Here’s an account of our first phone call after they arrived home:

Caitlin:  “Ramma (that’s Grandma), can you make me a Laura Ingalls bonnet?  And one for Mira too?”

Me: “I’m sure I can, I’ll just need to find a pattern.”

Caitlin: “Ramma, I want mine to be brown calico with little dots on it.”

Me:  “I’m not sure if I have any fabric like that, but when you come to visit for Uncle Shaun’s wedding, you can see if there is some other fabric you might like me to use.”

Caitlin: “Well I want it to be brown calico with little dots.”

Me:  “OK, I’ll see what I can do.”

Caitlin:  “If you don’t have fabric with dots on it, I know how to sew and I can help to sew the dots on the fabric.”

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Now that’s a girl who believes anything is possible and will do what is needed to get the desired result!

When Catie and Mira came to visit, they eagerly went through my 3×5 fabric swatch cards.  Based on my guidance on what type of fabric would be appropriate for a bonnet, they touched and stretched the fabric swatches and sorted the cards into piles.  In case you’d like the same direction, I told them the fabric couldn’t be stretchy like a T-shirt or shiny like for a party dress.  It worked.

After careful consideration each of them made a selection.  Catie’s wasn’t brown (no surprise here because I never purchase brown fabric) but it had dots on it.  Whew, we didn’t need to sew on all of those little dots!

As I’m sure you would do, I searched the internet for a free pattern or tutorial and found this great Laura Ingalls Wilder Bonnet Tutorial which spared me a trip to a fabric store.

Mira's bonnet

Tutorial Additions:

If you decide to make a bonnet such as this, here are a few changes which I would  whole heartedly recommend.

  1. Add 3/4″ to the length of the crown piece (will be 17-3/4″ long) to make an elastic casing.
  2. Fold the casing and sew in place.
  3. Run an 8″ piece of elastic through the casing and secure the ends.
  4. Now sew the brim to the crown.
  5. On the side which will be attached to the crown, cut the interfacing 1/2″shorter than the brim pieces.  This allows you to fold the fabric over the interfacing when attaching the brim to the crown and reduces bulk.
  6. Top stitch the edge of the brim – it gives a nice finished look.

Caitlin's bonnet

So in the end, it’s not brown calico with hand-sewn dots, but the bonnets sure are cute.  They’re off in the mail and I can’t wait to see photos of the girls who will likely wear them when their parents lovingly read them the Laura Ingalls stories.  What a joy it is to create treasures and hopefully “grandmother memories” such as this.

Sewing for the girls…..

This holiday season was a sewing delight.  In addition to the usual holiday outfits for Mira and Caitlin, lots of winter leggings, muffs (or hand slippers as Mira called them) and a few miscellaneous pieces of clothing were lovingly sewed for the girls in my life.

Caitlin in her new swirly dress

Proud Mira sewed her stuffed dog

In addition there were the pettiskirts for my grandneices.  With lots of fluff and in bright colors There was a lot of swirling when they opened their gifts.

And for the big girls – for my MIL there were several knit tops in her favorite style, a felted wool jersey top for Angela (oldest daughter) and for both daughters, cashmere scarfs which were felted and re-fashioned from my favorite thrift shop. What fun it was.  Most delightful of all was seeing Mira hand-sew a stuffed dog which she received for a gift.  The photo is priceless.

Muffs (aka hand slippers)

Megan in her cashmere scarf

Angela in her cashmere scarf

Now it’s time to start sewing for Megan’s June wedding.