Pillowcase sundress for toddlers – a tutorial
Do you have pillowcases that you know you’ll never use? Or maybe you ended up with Gramma’s vintage pillowcases and you don’t know what to do with them? Or, if you’re like me, you go to estate sales and rummage sales looking for…..something. I must be drawn to something about the nostalgic pillowcases because I always end up finding that pile of them. Some are beautiful with embroidery or lace, and some are just cool fabric patterns from years ago that kind of seem like they would fit into the world again. The ones I used in this pillowcase sundress tutorial look JUST like some sheets my mom had when I was a kid!
So now you don’t have to feel bad about buying them for no real reason, because now you have a reason! These little sundresses are super easy and fairly quick to make. They are adorable, nostalgic and useful all at once. Plus you can get the pillowcases for lots cheaper than fabric by the yard and the dress is half sewn for you! The only thing you need to buy if you already have the pillowcases is the elastic. I may just try it out on the next one and make it with a drawstring instead of elastic…..just to say I can skip that extra ingredient.
One other thing that is good to have is the measurements of the child you plan to make the pillowcase dress for. Most pillowcases are about 20 inches wide, making them 40 inches around. So you can pretty much make them any size within these measurements. Just keep in mind, the larger the size around the less gathers you will have. The dress I’m making in this tutorial is for a two-year old with the chest measurement of about 20″. So let’s get started.
Things you will need:
- Measuring tape; scissors
- Chest measurement of child (measure around where you want the top of the dress to hit the chest).
- Length measurement – from where you measured the chest to where you want the bottom of the hem to hit the knee/leg.
- 1 pillowcase for each dress
- 3/4 inch braided style elastic the length of the chest measurement plus 1 inch.
- Thread to match
Start off by squaring off the sewn end of the pillowcase if necessary, because it just makes measuring easier. You can do this by measuring in from the finished end of the pillowcase. If it’s already square you still need to cut the seam off the end.
Making the tie straps
Next you will cut the ties. Cut them from the end you just cut. cut two strips 1-5/8 each right across the cut end. Then cut the seam ends off the strips.
Now you can press the ties to get them ready to sew. First fold them in half lengthwise and press. Then open strips again and turn the long edges toward the center and press each side. Then fold along center fold again and press again. The photo below explains it best.
Stitch each tie piece along open edge, then cut each piece in half.
Making the body of the dress
The next step is where you will need your length measurement. Using your measurement as mentioned before (from chest to desired hem length) add 2 inches and measure from finished edge of pillowcase; then cut across width. I cut mine at 20 inches.
You will now be creating a casing for the elastic. Press 1/2 inch of the cut edge (top of dress) to inside. Press again turning under 1-1/2 inches.
Measure from side edge at casing (this will depend on how much room needed for armpit). Approximate sizing would go like this: size 2=5″; size 3=”5-1/2″; size 4=6″ and so on. This will be your tie placement. Pin all four ties to these measurements aligning with the bottom of the casing.
Adding tie straps
Then sew along inside edge of casing, sewing over the bottom of each strap as you go. Be sure and leave about three inches open for threading the elastic through.
Sew 1/2 inch away from top edge of dress all the way around, sewing over straps again as you go. I like to go back and forth with the stitching as I go over the straps here to add a little reinforcement.
Next you will cut your elastic. Use your chest measurement and add 1 inch. Use a safety pin or whatever tool you might already have and attach to the end of the elastic.
Start threading your elastic through the casing, pinning down the loose end when it gets near the opening so you don’t pull it through.
Then thread elastic all the way through and remove pins. Overlap ends of elastic by 1/2 inch and sew together.
Pull gathers around elastic so they are distributed evenly, and then sew opening of casing shut, stretching elastic so you have a flat space to sew. You’re almost done!
Now all you need to do is decide just how long you want the ties to be. I just put the dress on the little one and tied them how I like them. Then if they are too long, tie a knot at the length you want and cut the rest off outside the knot.
I couldn’t help myself and had to add some rick-rack to the hem. So I used the pillowcases hem stitching as a guide and stitched it just below that. And now you have a pillowcase sundress!
For those of you don’t sew or don’t have time, I made some brand new dresses just for you! Check out my Toddler Sundresses among lots of other handmade things in my Little Marigold Shop at Etsy. They come complete with pockets for treasures and they are all ready to wear!