stitch: pillowcase dress tutorial

One of my favorite kids is turning two next week and for her birthday, I decided to make her a pillowcase dress. This simple pattern is so fun because it doesn’t require any special materials and is washable, because its cotton — a must for any active girl and her parents!

This sweet birthday girl has the biggest blue eyes, so I decided to go with a green and white Lisette fabric and my favorite blue and white polka dot ribbon. The following tutorial fits a size 2T little girl.

Here’s what you’ll need:
+ 1 yard of cotton fabric
+ 2 1/2 yards of 3/4 inch wide grosgrain ribbon
+ Rotary Cutter & mat
+ Ruler
+ Sewing Machine, pins, scissors

Start by washing, drying and ironing your fabric. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise (with the selvages together). Using your ruler remove the selvage. Then using the following measurements, cut your fabric:

Since you will need two identical pieces, a shortcut is to fold the fabric twice. So after your first fold (matching the selvages, fold your fabric again widthwise.) The original fold should be lined up against the 20 1/4 inch cut and the second along the 10 inch or bottom of the dress. I’m a visual person, so here is the process (using different fabric). Click the image to enlarge.

So once you have everything folded and lined up, use your rotary cutter and ruler to cut according the measurements listed above. The armholes should be 6 inches down from the neck and 3 inches out.

Once you have cut the pieces out, make one last cut along the bottom (10 inches folded) to make two separate matching pieces. If you are using a patterned or striped fabric, you will want to take extra care in cutting your fabrics so that your stripes or pattern line up. If this is the case, make a template using copier paper and lay it out on the fabric before cutting. And you may need more than 1 yard of fabric to make sure your patterns match.

Once you have cut the two pieces, lay them flat on your table. Cut two 20 inch pieces of your grosgrain ribbon, place the top of the ribbon two inches from the bottom of the dress (the 10 inch cut, 20 inches long if unfolded) on the right side of the dress. Pin and sew ONLY the top of the ribbon in place.

Then, place the two pieces wrong sides together down on your table. Pin from the bottom of the armhole to the bottom of the dress and sew using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Remove the pins and press the seam to one side using your iron. Make sure that it is on the appropriate setting for your fabric so that you do not damage it. Do not press the seam open! Repeat on the other side. Then turn the dress inside out. Again, pin from the bottom of the armhole to the bottom of the dress. Sew again, using a 3/8 inch seam allowance. This is called a french seam and eliminates the need to surge or zigzag the edges.

Next, with the dress inside out, fold and pin the armholes in using a 1/4 inch seam. Carefully sew in place. Cut the remaining ribbon in half, you should have two 25 inch pieces. Find the center of the ribbon and pin the wrong side of the ribbon to the wrong side of the neck at the center. You will want to pin the ribbon 1/4 inch from the edge. Sew in place the width of the ribbon. This will hold the ribbon in place but will still allow you to gather the fabric on it later to form the neckline.

Once the ribbon is sewn in place, fold both the ribbon and the fabric down 1 1/4 inch to create the casing at the neckline. Pin in place and sew. Be careful not to sew the ribbon during this process. This will prevent you from being able to gather the fabric on the ribbon for the neckline.

Lastly, finish the dress by sewing the bottom hem. Fold the raw edge of the fabric up 1 inch and pin in place. Turn the dress right side out and make sure that the bottom of the ribbon is pinned in place. Make adjustments if necessary. Then turn the dress inside out and sew the hem in place.

Once you are finished, turn the dress right side out and gather the fabric on the ribbons at the neckline and tie the ribbons into bows. There you have it, the pillowcase dress. I can’t wait to see her in it! I imagine, it will look a little something like this:

Blurry (because two-year olds are very busy…) but loved. Happy Birthday WEW!