Friday, August 13, 2010

Pillowcase dress tutorial- Style 1: "The Classic"

I first learned about pillowcase dresses last summer, and loved the idea. This spring I found a selection of sweet vintage pillowcases at a local thrift store for only 29 cents a piece, and started thinking about the unlimited number of ways this sweet swatch of fabric could be transformed into an adorable outfit for my daughters.....and here is what I came up with.
I love the simplicity of this dress- not only in style, but also in fabrication! You can seriously make this up in about a half hour. It will probably take you longer to read my over-wordy instructions!

These pillowcase dresses will fit children from age 2-6. If made with an old pillowcase from home or a thrift store one like mine, this dress will cost only about $2 to make. Lord knows I am not in this hobby to save money (as my designer fabric stash will attest), but I must confess that my Scottish/Ukrainian genes vibrate in joy when I can make something adorable, and for cheap.
Want to make one? Here we go!

You will need:
- a pillowcase
- 2 pieces of 1/4" elastic, roughly 6" in length
- a package of coordinating bias tape, or make about 2.5 meters/yards of your own
- coordinating thread
- a safety pin

1. Measure your little girl from her armpit to about the knee (I usually go a bit longer because I try to make it to last 2 summers!).
2. Fold your pillowcase lengthwise, and cut a j-shaped section from the top (closed) end, with the bottom of the j starting at the distance you just measured from the bottom (open) end of the pillowcase. This will be the armhole. The j should extend about 3-4" into the fabric horizontally, then continue up to the top vertically (see first photo below).
3.Cut a horizontal strip off the top (closed) end about 4" from the bottom (horizontal) segment of the j (see second photo below). Discard, or save scrap for a future vintage sheet quilt!
4. Cut a diagonal line along the non-folded side, starting about 2" into j shape of armpit and extending towards hem (open end of pillowcase). This helps give the dress some taper along the sides, otherwise I found it to be too boxy.
5. Unfold pillowcase and turn inside out. Sew side seems of dress with a straight stitch. Reinforce with a zig zag for good measure.
6.Take top raw edges and fold over 1/4". Press. Fold over 3/4". Press again.
7. Sew, staying close to edge, leaving ends open. This will be the channel for your elastic.

8.. Attach safety pin to elastic and use fingers to work it through the channel until it emerges on other end.
9. Sew ends of channel shut, being sure to catch elastic in stitching to secure. Fabric will gather around elastic.
10. Repeat with second elastic. Your dress should now look like this:
11. This next part might seem tricky if you have not worked much with bias tape, but is really quite easy once you play with it a bit. I will try make this as clear as possible- here goes. Take the bias tape and cut 2 pieces, each of 36" length. Look at the tape. You will notice that one folded side is slightly shorter than the other side. Unfold. Pin raw edge of the wider side along the wrong side of the raw edge of armhole from elastic to elastic. Ensure that length of bias tape is centered (i.e 18" on either side of the armhole center) and folds of tape are all facing down towards the pillowcase fabric. Sew along raw edges from elastic to elastic.
12. Refold bias tape. When you do so, the line you just stitched becomes covered and disappears, the center fold of the tape will cover the raw edge of the armhole, and the short folded side will be on the outside of the dress. Pin in place to secure.
10. Tuck in ends of bias tape, and start stitching along strap portion, short fold side up, to close the tape and make your strap. Continue over the elastic into the armhole area. Since the longer folded side is in the back, if you follow the edge along the front, you sound "catch" the back as well. Continue all the way to the end of the strap.
11. Repeat for second strap/armhole.

Congratulations! You are done!

I hope you enjoyed the Classic Pillowcase Dress tutorial. Come back next week to see my second pillowcase dress style! I'd love to see a picture of yoru dress in my Flickr group ;-)


Gmama Jane said...

I want to make one of these for my granddaughter. I'll have to reread your instructions since I seem to have trouble with written instructions but you have good pictures. I am a good reader but when it comes to sewing instructions, I get so lost. I love your blog and have started one of my own. My craft of choice is quilting and for my blog I use quilting and storytelling to keep a legacy of the stories of my family.
Please drop by sometime.

Anonymous said...

This would be a great dress to send to this organization,
which sends dresses to needy kids in Africa.
They encourage people to sew pillowcase dresses like yours because of how inexpensive and easy it is.

Justine said...

Came upon this via pinterest and this is EXACTLY what I'm looking for! *smiles*, I have already bought some vintage pillowcases and they are sitting waiting to be made into dresses for my girlies. I just needed the right tute,and this is it! Thanks! I can't wait to get started.

grandma said...

I have made these dresses as tops with ruffles and shorts with ruffles to match. My daughter had purchased a dress made from fabric with ribbon used as ties. I did not know that the original dress was made from a pillow case. They're cute and very easy to make. If you buy fabric, use the pillowcase as a pattern.

Smart_Margauz said...

This is so ideal and impressive. We'll try this crafty dress at home. Big thanks.

Krissyg6 said...

I just made this dress for my granddaughter, and it turned out perfect! Thank you so much for this easy tutorial!!