Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tutorial: t-shirt to little girl's dress

Feeling inspired by this shirt tutorial I mentioned in a previous post, I may have gotten a little carried away by the knit flower embellishments.  But it's so easy and cute, and a great way to use all those t-shirts you never wear (or that your husband doesn't really need, right?)
So, here's a tutorial on how to turn an old t-shirt into an adorable toddler's dress in just one afternoon!

First, cut off the bottom of your t-shirt just under the sleeves.
Then, I cut along both sides of the graphic in the back to leave myself a large rectangle of solid blue. (If your shirt has no graphic, you can skip this step and use the whole thing.)  Once you have cut off the section you don't want, fold it in half, right sides together, and sew a new side seam.  (Be sure to use a stretch stitch and a ballpoint needle whenever working with knits!)  You should have a tube at this point, with the old shirt hem at the bottom and a raw edge at the top.

 Next, fold the tube in half, with the shirt hem at the bottom, and matching your sides.  (Notice I matched the side with no seam with the stitch line of the side seam, rather than the actual edge.)  Cut a small curve into the top side edge, about 1" in and 2" down.  This will be the arm hole.  Having your sides together ensures that the armholes are symmetrical.  

Next, take a look at your hem line.  I wanted the hem to be unfinished and curl up, so I cut off the bottom hem.  You can also leave it on for a more finished look!
Now, sew two lines of gathering stitch across both top edges, armhole to armhole.  Decide how wide you want the dress to be at the chest.  I measured across the top (armhole to armhole) of a onesie I knew fit her, instead of trying to measure a squirmy toddler!  I came up with 7".  Add an inch to that to allow for seam allowance.  That gave me 8".  Cut two pieces of ribbon your desired length and heat seal the edges.
Cut two more pieces of ribbon the length you want your straps (measure the onesie from the place you measured the chest, and add 1") and heat seal those edges too.

Now, pin the straps in place, and pin the other ribbon, raw edges even with the armhole edges, and about 1/2" from the top edge (covering the raw edge of the strap ribbons).  Pull the gathering stitches until the top edge is the same length as the ribbon.  Pin and stitch the ribbon down along both edges.
Repeat for the back.

It should now look like a little dress!

One more step and then the fun part.  Turn under about 1/2" along the armhole edge and sew it down with a stretch stitch, catching the raw edges of your ribbon.
Okay, here's the fun part!  Gather up all the scraps you cut off your t-shirt -- sleeves, tops, etc. and fuse two pieces of knit together with a double sided fusible webbing (I used wunder-under).  Trace whatever shape you want to use and cut out your flowers.  I cut a few out of another t-shirt too, to add a little more color.

Now, pin all those little flowers in place on the dress where you want them to be.  Stitch them down, putting a little pucker in the material if you want to give it more texture.
Trim your threads and you're done!
Stitch a pucker into any leftover flowers, clue them to a metal clip and you have a matching hair bow!

Now go play!

Like I said, they were so simple and cute that I may have gotten a little carried away one night when Steve was out of town.  I used several maternity tops someone had given me that were much too big.  (Much more feminine colors than any t-shirts I could find in Steve's drawer.)  Also, instead of the gathering stitch and ribbon across the top I finished my armhole edges first and then folded down an inch along both top edges to make a casing for a ribbon.  This "drawstring top" makes it much more adjustable, so they can go in my stash for gifts for any size little girl!


I tried embellishing a couple plain little onesies too, cutting up stained onesies for the flowers.

Try one next time your little ones are napping!


  1. These are gorgeous! I will definitely make some for my 1 year old and some other little girls. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. great idea, i will definately try it

  3. great thanks, will have to try this