Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pillow Case Dresses


Pillowcase Dress Size Chart:

Shoulder to Hem
6m- 15"
2T- 21"
3T- 23"
4T- 25"
5- 27"
6- 29"

If you use a pillowcase, measure your child from shoulder to where you want the hem to end; shoulder to just above knee, on the knee, below knee, mid-leg calf, or ankle, (the original pillowcase dress was meant to be worn tea length,) but any length is fine and looks just as cute.

Press your case to get out the wrinkles, lay out flat and measure on both sides from the bottom (the opening of case) up towards the top of the case the measured inches you got from measuring your child for length. Let's say your child was 17 1/2" from shoulder to mid-calf, I stick a pin all the way through both front and back layers of pillowcase at that point on each side (left and right) of the case. Then measure from that point another 7/8" up, and pin mark both sides again.

Fold the case back under matching your top two pin points on either side, press with iron for a good crease all the way across. While still folded, take your scissors and cut your case off straight across the width of case on your fold line. This helps to get a straight cut all the way across. The total length of your cut case now should be 18 3/8". (I do it this way especially when using vintage cases, because sometimes one side is a little longer than the other side, and if you don't measure both sides evenly, your dress will look a little lopsided.)

Now fold your case length wise, making sure sides together are even to be able to cut out both the armholes with one cut. Take armhole template; lay it on your case on the edge of the side's together with the bottom part of the armhole template laying right on the edge. The top part of the template will lay right on your 17 1/2" line. Pin and cut.

As you're cutting out the curve and coming up the straight part of the curve near the top of the template, just keep cutting the case straight up to the top of the case which will be the added 7/8". Now you have two perfect matching armholes.

Now when you fold the top down the 1/4" across then press and then fold down again the 5/8" to sew across for the ribbon casing, your armpit hole size will stay what you want and you don't lose any of your measured dress length. Otherwise when you fold down for your ribbon casing it takes up your armhole space and can cause the dress to fit snug up under the armpit of the child and you lose some dress length. When you loosen up the ribbons to bring the armpit down lower, then the front of the dress drops lower too, and I like my front to hit just a little bit below the collar bone. You kind of have to play with this according to your taste and child but this works beautifully for me.

Now: If you're making your dress from fabric you purchase, just measure the width of a pillowcase using regular size or queen either is fine, Or just hold a pillowcase up to the child and see how much space there will be and you'll know what size case measurement you'll want to use, because you want space, then measure out your length, sew the sides together for just one seam, have that seam in the back of dress, and then follow the rest of the directions for cutting the armholes from above. If you want two side seams, that works ok too.

Once you do one or two, it should only take about 30 min to complete one dress. When making these to wear for a top with shorts, jeans, or skirts, just measure from shoulder to again where ever you want the hem to lie. The dresses are really cute with pantaloons, capri's, and leggings. In colder climates they look adorable with turtle neck long sleeve shirts.

Please Read - Make Sure the Pattern is Correct Before You Cut.

To double check to see if it’s printed out the right size the small pattern that's enlarged to 150% should measure like this. With your measuring tape measure: width across the top of the pattern – 4 1/8”. Down left side of pattern length wise should measure: 4 5/8”. Across the bottom of the pattern is should measure: 5 2/8” + a tad more. The larger pattern enlarged 175% should measure like this with your measuring tape: width across the top of the pattern –4 6/8” width wise. Down left side of pattern length wise should measure: 5 3/8 + a tad more. Across the bottom of the pattern is should measure: 6” + to almost 6 1/8”.

Pillowcase Dress Instructions

How to make a Pillowcase Dress - new and improved instructions!

The traditional method of making pillowcase dresses creates a drawstring casing around the child’s neck, which makes the dresses adjustable for a growing child. This method eliminates the drawstring casing which can be a choking hazard (using elastic instead) while preserving the adjustability of ties.

Start with one pillowcase, cleaned and pressed. You’ll also need 12″ of 1/2″ wide elastic, and one package of bias binding (you get this in the notions section of the fabric store–look for double fold binding tape) or 60” ribbon. You’ll need a couple of safety pins for threading your elastic. Extra rick rack or ribbon is required to decorate the lower edge of the dress (optional).

Full instructions are below but here is a quick summary diagram:

Step 1: Measure your child from the shoulder to the desired length of the dress. Measure this distance on your from the open end, and cut straight across. This cut edge will be the top of the dress.

Step 2: On each side of the pillowcase at the cut edge, draw arm armholes. The shape is like a letter “J” with the top of the “J” at the cut edge of the pillowcase. For a small child, it should be about 3” deep, for a larger child make it 4” deep.

Step 3: Fold the two top edges ¼” to the inside and press (don’t worry about making it exact-just get close enough). Fold down and press these edges again, this time ¾”. Doing this double turn makes the finished edge neat. Stitch along the first fold, from one end to the other, forming a tunnel (this is known as a casing).

Step 4: Cut your elastic into two 6” pieces. Attach a safety pin to one end of one piece and use that to thread the elastic through one of the casings. As you thread the elastic, the casing will draw up, forming a stretchy neckline. You’ll need to pin the other end of the elastic when it gets to the casing so that it doesn’t come all the way out. Stitch across the open end of each casing to hold your elastic in place. Repeat with the other elastic and casing.

Step 5: You’re almost done! Cut two pieces of binding, each 28” long. You’ll notice that the binding is folded lopsided-one side is wider than the other. This is to help make sure you get both sides stitched. Always stitch with the narrow side of the binding facing up and you can be sure you’re catching the back side as well.

Slip one armhole edge into the fold of one of the bonding pieces, leaving about 10” edge into the fold of one of the binding pieces, leaving about 10” or so overhanging the top – these form the ties. Pin as much as you feel you need in order to keep things neat. Beginning at one end of the binding, start stitching alond the free edge, continuing all the way around the armhole and to the other end of the binding. Repeat for the other armhole.

Instead of the binding, you can fold a casing (as you did earlier in step 4) and thread a piece of narrow ribbon 28” long into each of the arm holes, tying into a bow at the top. Once the ribbon is threaded through, sew a couple of stitches at the side seam to keep the ribbon from being pulled all the way out.

step 6 Sew some ribbon or rick rack approx 3 ½ - 4” from the lower edge, catching the original envelope opening of the pillowcase so that it doesn’t catch when your child puts the dress/top on.

Making a Pillowcase Dress

Looking for an easy, fun and creative way to make cute clothes for your little girl? All you need is a pillowcase and some ribbon and you can create this lovely pillowcase dress with very little skill required! Any Embroidered Pillowcases are perfect for this craft, especially Pillowcases with Ribbon and Flower Embroidery. The instructions below, will show you how to create these pillowcase dresses step by step.

Materials Needed

• One Embroidered Pillowcase

• Needle and Thread (Sewing machine recommended)

• 2 yds of 3/8-1/2 inch ribbon, cut into 2 pieces

Directions How To Make A Pillowcase Dress

1. Measure your child from the shoulder to where you want the hem to rest and then add approx 7/8in to the total. (Figure 1)

The following measurements can also be used.

  •  6 months - 14 1/4 in
  • 12 months - 16 1/4 in 
  • 18 months - 17 1/4 in
  • 2T - 18 1/4 in 
  • 3T - 19 1/4 in 
  • 4T - 20 1/4 in
2. From the hemmed edge, measure up the length that you just determined and cut straight across the top to remove the pillowcase portion. This cut portion will be the top of the dress. (Figure 2)

3. Fold the pillowcase vertically in half (Figure 3)

4. Cut armholes into the pillowcase. (Figure 4) By folding the case in half, you have now created two identical armholes. (Figure 5) The shape of the armholes should be like a J. For a smaller child, make the armholes 1.5in wide and 3in deep. For a larger child make it 2in wide and 4in deep.

5. Now hem each armhole to avoid fraying.(Figure 6)

6. Fold the top of the front and back of the pillowcase, first 1/4in then 5/8in to form a casing. (Figure 7)

7. Sew a seam to stitch this closed. (Figure 8)

8. Thread 1 yd of ribbon through each casing by using a small bobby pin. (Figure 9)

9. Tie a small knot at the ends of each ribbon. (Figure 10)

10. Take the ribbon from the front and back, and tie bows on the shoulders. (Figure 11)

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9

Figure 10

Figure 11

How to Sew a Pillowcase Dress

1. Take a clean pillowcase and fold it in half lengthwise so the side seams meet. Press flat with a warm iron.

2. Measure your child from her shoulder to where you want the dress to fall. Using those measurements, start at the closed end of the pillowcase and measure to the open end. Cut across the fabric in a straight line.

3. Open the pillowcase, and cut a hook-shaped armhole on each of the sides, starting at the top of the fabric. The size of the armhole will vary depending on the size of your child, 1.5 inches to 2 inches measured in from each side, and 3 inches to 4 inches curved down.

4. Use store-bought bias tape to hem the armhole seams.

5. Sew a casing on the front and back of the top of the pillowcase using the bias tape.

6. Thread a ribbon through each casing, making sure that they are of equal length. The ribbon is what cinches the dress at the top once it is tied over the shoulder and adjusted.


• Once you learn the basic method for sewing a pillowcase dress, you can be creative with how it is finished. For example, embellish the dress by adding lace at the hem. Instead of using ribbons to secure the dress, create fabric straps instead.

• Shop your local thrift store for vintage and embroidered pillowcases.

• You can adjust a pillowcase dress for older girls as well, by simply cutting a bigger armhole and adding fabric to the hem. The nice thing about sizing a pillowcase dress is that it doesn't have to be precise.

Supplies/Tools Needed

• 1 pillowcase
• bias tape (optional, you can also use the extra pillow case for this)
• elastic
• safety pins
• scissors
• measuring tape

First measure you child. You will need to measure across the chest. You will also need to measure the length that you want the dress to be. This measurement is from the chest to knee or mid calf. The chest measurement is for the elastic.

Standard (American) Dress Lengths for Little Girls

6 - 9 months: 14 inches
12 months: 15.5 inches
18 months: 17.5 inches
2T: 19.5 inches
3T: 21 inches
4T: 22 inches
5/6: 24 inches
7/8: 26 inches

Next you will cut the pillowcase. When you cut across the top of the pillowcase (i.e. length), add an inch to the length for your casing fold. For the arm holes cut a 'J' edge, along the side seams, that is about 3 - 4 inches high/3 - 4 inches wide.

If you want to make your own bias tape from the pillow case selvage, you should cut that now. For a 1/2 inch bias tape, you need to cut 2 1/2 inch strips. Cut two strips.

Next you will iron the casing for the elastic in the front & back of the pillow case. Starting at the raw edge, iron a 1/4 inch fold then fold & iron a 3/4 inch fold.

Finally sew the casing closed. Sew as close to the edge as possible, leaving a 3/4 inch casing. This step does not have to be perfect.

Now while you have the iron out, iron the bias tape. This is how I make bias tape, if you make it differently; make it how you usually make it.

First Iron in half, open. Then iron both raw edges to the center. Finally fold & iron in half again. Your project should now look like this.

Now you will feed the casing with elastic. You will want to cut the elastic the length of the chest minus 1/2 inch. You will need 2 pieces of elastic the same length. Attach a safety pin to either end of the elastic for feeding purposes.

Feed the elastic through the casing. Then sew all four raw edges of casing, sewing the elastic into the casing.

Now pin the bias tape to both arm edges.

Starting at the edge of the bias tape, begin sewing the tape closed. Continue sewing closing the dress in the tape. Make sure you give yourself enough room to catch both edges.

Finish off the bias tape by using your button hole stitch on the diagonal.

Snip all of your seams. Viola, finished dress.

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