Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sewing Seeds: How to make a tee-shirt dress

Back in January, while I was still floundering about in the great blogosphere, I started a blog series on sewing. My plan was to call it Sewing Seeds, and all installments would be – surprise! – sewing related. To date, I have only one other post in this category – a how-to on homemade gift bags.

But I am not declaring failure! Today, I continue Sewing Seeds with a tee-shirt dress that I have made for each of my three daughters, just in time for the Fourth of July.

We love to dress for holidays. But holiday garb can be hard to find, so that usually means something homemade. I’ve seen a lot of tutorials around the blogosphere for sewing – and they are fabulous – but I only have time for easy.

Sew So, my tee-shirt dresses are a little more simple.

I found the perfect tee-shirts at Wal-Mart for only $3.47. They had all six sizes exactly. (The boys will match as well – just not with the skirts!) Stuff like that never happens to me, so I was super thrilled with the find.
I chose dark tee-shirts so that my *growing* girls would be assured of modesty and they wouldn’t have to be concerned with the color of their undergarments. I also bought all boys shirts (shh – don’t tell anybody) so that the sleeves would be a bit longer.

After our score at W-M, we skipped over to Jo-Ann Fabrics where I let the girls choose their own skirt fabric. I like everyone to match when we go out since it’s easier to keep track of the munchkins (and it rockets up the cute factor!). But I figured the tee-shirts were matching enough, and the skirt colors would at least be coordinated.

All the states - fun!
I had not prepared and measured my daughters ahead of time, so I bought ¾ yard for the six-year-old and two yards each for the ten- and twelve-year-olds (at 40% off – bonus!). After washing, I cut the two-yard pieces in half, making two one-yard pieces.

The best preparation is to have your daughter put on the tee-shirt and then measure from the bottom of the tee-shirt to the length you want, whether it be to the knee or ankle or anywhere in between. Then, add two inches – one inch at the top for the seam at the waist and one inch at the bottom for the hem. (Of course, you can play around with this and use the typical 5/8 inch seam at the waist and a 1 ½ inch hem.) This is also the time to decide if you want to cut off any of the shirt to raise the waist of the dress to prevent tightness around the derriere. I decided to cut off about four inches for the older girls. The tee-shirts just looked too long. 

With right sides together, stitch in the side seams. Be careful as you match front to back – if you chose a fabric with a pattern or picture that is one-side-up, be sure that the picture is up on both pieces as fabric. 

With this pic, my camera warned me, "Blink detected."
An over-edge stitch
(Also be sure that when you attach it to the tee-shirt that the picture will be up when it is finished. I have been reduced to tears with other projects when I wasn’t careful enough and found my hard work to be all for naught.) On the side seams, I like to put in two lines of stitching for extra durability. Even dainty girls can be tough on skirts and stretching them when they sit or walk or play. I kept the selvage for a finished edge and to prevent fraying. An alternative would be an over-edge stitch in the seam allowance.

Put in your gathering stitches at the waist. (Be careful of those one-side-up fabrics!)

Gathering stitches wrapped around a pin
Pin the skirt to the shirt and pull up the gathering stitches, making sure the gathers are distributed evenly. From following different patterns over the years, I learned to baste first and then turn the dress right side out to check the gathering. Then, I stitch two times around for durability. This would also be a good seam for a zig-zag stitch to prevent fraying.

The hem
Once the skirt is attached, have your daughter try on the dress so you can measure for the hem, cutting off any excess fabric if needed. (Because I had guessed at the amount of fabric needed, I had to cut off extra fabric. But I didn’t throw it away! Click through to the next post to see what I did with it – something super-cute!) Zig-zag around the bottom, then press up the hem. I press up ½ inch, then fold it over and press again. That leaves a finished look on the inside as well. I also like to put in an extra line of stitching at the bottom edge to prevent the hem from rolling up so badly in the dryer.

I did not put in any pressing instructions because I usually don’t press until the hem. I haven’t found pressing seams open, etc., as I go to be truly necessary. It just adds on time and trouble. Plus, I usually only sew in spurts, having to stop in the middle of a project, and I don’t want my ironing board to sit out. Thus said, press whenever you want to!


Andrew, the show-stealer

Matching hair accessory
Don't forget the Lilla Rose 4th of July flexi!

Total time: about one hour per dress
Total cost: about $10 per dress (includes tee-shirt, skirt fabric, and thread)

Do any of you better seamstresses have anything to add? Anything I left out? Have you made dresses like this before? How did they go? Now, do your daughters need matching Build-a-Bear dresses?

Disclaimer: I hope you can make this dress, and it turns out fantastic. If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments. If not, I am not responsible for the outcome of your efforts. J

Receive new posts from this blog by e-mail.
Let’s connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Linking with The Southern InstituteTeagan's TravelsTrue Aim EducationA Heart for HomeYour Thriving FamilyComfy in the KitchenConsider the LiliesHoly-Spirit-Led HomeschoolingThrifty DecoratingOur Simple Country LifeRaising Mighty ArrowsFeminine AdventuresA Wise Woman Builds Her HomeRaising HomemakersWomen Living WellCherished BlissNo Ordinary Blog HopSusan GodfreyLessons from IvyFar Above RubiesGrowing HomeTime-Warp-Wife

Pin It!


  1. Looks like your family is ready for fourth of July. :) Very neat idea.

  2. I love those dresses. You do such a good job. I need to have a sewing party with you.

    1. Thanks, Michelle! Not sure what a sewing party is, but it sounds fun!

  3. I was just talking about tee-shirt dresses with a friend last night. Thanks!

    Stopping by from Raising Mighty Arrows,



    1. So glad you stopped by, and I hope the tee-shirt dresses work out. Have fun!

  4. amen nice post thanks for sharing looking for to visit more..blessings from arnhem

  5. Cute! I'm a new follower from a bog hop and would love if you followed me back at http://iheartpears.blogspot.com

  6. Newest GFC follower. Very creative dresses! Love for you to return the follow when you get a chance.


    1. Thanks for the follow - I'll look you up as well! :)

  7. So creative and comfy-looking. And easy. A major, major plus!

    Thanks for linking up at Thrifty Thursday, Megahn. :)

    1. You can make them more difficult depending on how elaborate you want the dresses to be. I love the versatility of it. Thanks for the link-up opportunity, Anna.

  8. Great dresses. I love the length. Can't wait to try this in some fun summer patterns too. Thanks for linking up at Mom's Library!

    1. Thanks, again, for the link-up opportunity. Have fun sewing!

  9. I really like this idea - and it's nice and simple too. Thank you.

    Just visiting from www.heartforhome-making.blogspot.co.uk

    1. So glad you're here, and I've returned the follow for your cute blog.


I so much appreciate your time and effort in leaving a comment, and I try to respond to as many as time permits. :-)