Monday, May 25, 2009

Simple Tee-Shirt Dress Tutorial

The last time I made OG a tee-shirt dress, I mentioned to Ginger over at Ginger's Place (, that I'd post instructions with photos. So, with no further adieu ...
(please click on the photos for a close-up view, if needed)

Step 1 - Prepare the tee-shirt.
Put the tee-shirt on your child. Measure from the arm pit seam to your child's waist. On this particular tee-shirt, OG's measurement was 5 1/2 inches (note: Every shirt has a different fit, always measure each shirt individually Also, remember to measure twice, cut once). Add 1/2 inch for a seam allowance. I will cut this tee-shirt off 6 inches below the arm pit seam.

Step 2 - Pinking shears.
I use pinking shears, which prevents fraying, to cut the tee-shirt 6 inches from the arm pit seam. I discard the left over.
Step 3 - Preparing the skirt fabric.

Since I make these little dresses for OG to play in, she likes plenty of "leg" room, it's not fun to have a skirt too narrow at the knees when you're trying to run or ride a bike. I also prefer OG's skirt length to be below the knee, so I measure from her waist to the desired length. OG wanted this dress' finished hem to be 20 1/2 inches long. After measuring TWICE (I want to be certain the measurements are correct), I, again, use my pinking shears to cut the fabric 54 inches wide (that's 1 1/2 yards), by 22 inches long (the extra 1 1/2 inch length is for a seam allowance and the hem). The 54 inches being the distance around the waistline and knees. The 22 inches is the length from waist to hem of the skirt.
Step 4 - Right sides together.
Holding the long ends (54 inches), fold the fabric in half, right sides together. Pin this seam with straight pins.
Step 5 - Straight stitch.
Stitch the seam together using your machine's straight stitch.

Step 6 - Iron the seam open.

Step 7 - Hem.
Since this dress will be used for play, I am not going to hand stitch the hem. A machine stitched hem will be more durable. Fold the hem of the fabric over 1/4 inch and iron. Fold the hem of the fabric over a second time 1/4 - 1/12 inch and iron. Secure the second ironed fold with pins. Stitch the hem with your machine's straight stitch.

Your skirt will be tubed shaped like this:

Step 8 - Basting the waistline.
Using a single strand of thread (I like to use contrasting thread, it's easier to see when it comes time to remove it), hand stitch very LARGE stitches 1 inch below the waistline.

Step 9 - Gathering.
When you've basted the entire waistline, pull the thread creating a tight gather. See how bunched up the fabric is in the below photo?

Step 10 - Pinning the skirt to the tee-shirt.
Lay the tee-shirt flat on top of your work surface. Open the gathered end of the skirt so that it is the same width as your tee-shirt. Find the skirt seam and align it with the center of the back of the tee-shirt, with RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, secure the skirt seam to the center edge of the back of the tee-shirt with pins. Now work your way around the skirt and tee-shirt securing each gather with pins. (click the photo for a close up view).

Step 11 - Stitching the skirt to the tee-shirt.
Being careful that your tee-shirt is laying flat under the skirt fabric (we don't want the tee-shirt to bunch up into the waistline seam) straight stitch the skirt to the tee-shirt, removing the pins as you go. I like to double stitch (sewing a seam twice) the waistline for more durability. Clip and remove the basting thread.

Below is what the wrong side of the stitched tee-shirt and skirt will look like when you take it off the machine and pull the tee-shirt out.

Below is a close up of the right side of the stitched seam of the tee-shirt and skirt.

After you make one or two of these simple little tee-shirt dresses and are comfortable with the technique, you will be ready to get creative with various embellishments. OG wanted a ribbon sash and pockets on this little "sun dress".
Total cost:
tee-shirt - free
fabric & ribbon - $4.47
1 1/2 hours time


  1. Absolutely adorable! I really like the colors, so cheerful. And I wanted to make sure I at least left you a short note to thank you for your concern about me. That really means so much to me, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth :) I'm a horrible blogger, but I just haven't had the urge to post. I shall try to remedy that shortly. Love you dear sister, thank you again :)

  2. How cute! Thanks for the great instructions! I made my first one finally! It is a drop waist. I will try to post pics. I'm not very good at blogging but I will try to post pictures of my Bailey.

  3. Ginger,

    I glad the instructions were clear and Baily is enjoying her "new" dress.

    I look forward to seeing photos of your work.



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