Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pillowcase Dress

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My daughter is having a blast telling everyone that she's wearing a pillowcase.  We went to church tonight and I cringed the first few times she said it but then I got over it when everyone was telling her how cute she looked. :)  She is just so impressed that she has a dress made out of a "real" pillowcase...

 
This is a standard size pillowcase; the ruffle on the open end of the pillowcase becomes the ruffle on the bottom of the dress.  How cool is that?  I bought a matching set of cases from Whimsiedots and I can't say enough good things about her and her shop.  She is queen of all things vintage!

 
I took me less than an hour to make the dress and I thought I'd share how I did it here...

 
Accross the width of the pillowcase, cut the enclosed edge of the pillowcase off.  This is where you will determine the length of your dress.  For my 6 year old, I ended up cutting approximately 3" off.

 

 
Take that strip and cut it into a 2.5" wide strip {it will still be the length of the original edge of the pillow case}.

 
Cut your strip in half {I followed the natural crease of the fold} and set the two strips aside.

 

 
Now take your the case which will be the body of the dress.  The bottom of the dress is already hemmed for you because it's a pillow case so all you have to do is hem the top!  Fold the fabric 1/2" and press.  Fold over again another 1/2" and press again.

 

 

 
Topstitch as you desire and then you have the top of your dress hemmed and the real fun can begin!

 

 

 
Get your elastic thread and wind your bobbin by hand.  Don't wind it too tight or too loose.  Now you are ready to sew your rows of smocking.

 

 

 
About 1/2" below your hem, start your first row of stitching.  I backstitch at the beginning and the end of each row but I'm a habitual backstitcher... ;).

 

 

 
Once you finish your first row, move on to the next row.  I just let my presser foot follow the edge of the first row to get the spacing for your second and so on...

 

 

 
At this point it's up to you how much smoking you want to do.  I did five rows which gives a nice ruffle and structure to the dress.  My daughter complains about a lot of smocking being "itchy" and we certainly don't need that!

 

 
Trim your stray threads and then you are done with the body of the dress.  Not bad, huh?

 
Grab your strips that you set aside earlier.  Fold them right sides together and press.  With right sides still together, stitch lengthways down the strip.  Repeat for the second strap.

 

 

 
Now here's the not so fun part... turn each strap right side out.  As my friends across the pond say, "it's a bit fiddly...".  I can think of a few other words to use instead of "fiddly" but I'll leave those off this blog.

 

 

 
Once you have the fiddly part done, with the seam running down the middle of the strap, press.  This will hide the seam and give the straps a nice finish.  Lastly, topstitch down each side of the straps approximately 1/8" away from each edge.

 

 

 
You're almost done!  To attach the straps, I put the dress on my daughter so they would be perfect on her.  While threatening being stuck with a pin if she wiggled too much, I eyeballed where I wanted the straps.  Pin them to the inside of the hem and extricate your child from the dress without messing up where you pinned the straps.

 
With a normal stitch, sew the straps to the inside of the dress.  I recommend backstitching a few times on both edges of the straps for extra strength.  Press the dress if you need to and then you are done!  One vintage pillowcase turned into a super-cute summer dress!

 

 

 
I am by no means a seamstress so if you have any questions or need clarification, please let me know!

 
Edited to add:  If you don't have a pillowcase, you can substitute two pieces {the front and back of the dress} of fabric that measure approximately 19" x 24".  Place those pieces right sides together and sew down both sides to create your own "pillowcase".  Before turning the dress rightside out, serge or zig-zag stitch down the raw edges of your seams.  After that, adjust the length of the dress the same way by cutting a strip off the top of the dress which will give you the fabric for the straps.  You will have to hem the top and bottom of the dress but otherwise, all the instructions are the same.  As you hem the bottom of the dress you could also add a ruffle...

Edited again... :) I have received lots of questions about the elastic thread:

  • You can purchase it at almost any craft store that stocks sewing notions. 
  •  
  • Wind the elastic by hand around your bobbin.  Don't wind it too tight; just wrap it securely without actually stretching the elastic. 
  •  
  • Only your bobbin will hold the elastic thread.  Use regular thread for your top thread! 
  •  
  • Don't try to thread your machine and sew with elastic thread as the top thread... that will be a mess.
  •  
  • I used elastic thread regularly and it has never hurt my machine.

Happy sewing!

41 comments:

Karen said...

What a fabulous idea! Built in frill too. Too easy really. However I am no seamstress but feel I could actually make one. I would love to try sewing with the elastic thread. I saw a fabulous scarf made with the elastic thead.

Maria said...

What a great idea for a quick and easy dress.
I remember making dresses for my DD with Shirring elastic over 30 yrs ago.

Heather said...

That is darling! My daughter is almost 14. I'll have to ask if she'd like a pillowcase top instead! I've never worked with elastic thread. All the big box fabric stores are having sales this weekend - I think I'll seek some out and give it a go. Thanks for the tut.

Megan said...

Very cute! I might just have to make matching dresses for my friend's little girls.

elle said...

Well, she looks pretty cute. I've no time to sew for a 4 month old grand daughter but her mum sure could! I hope!!!

AllieKatMom said...

Well I have been wanting to make a pillowcase dress but don't have any pillow cases I like. Where do you find pillowcases that are cute? Locally? Your tutorial is great. :) I need to find a pillowcase pattern like this that uses yardage instead. I have 3 yards that are supposed to become dresses but I dont have a simple pattern for them.

Rachel said...

Jennifer- The dress is too cute! Much cuter than any of the pillowcase dresses I have seen. I have never worked with elastic thread and now I really want to try it. Pretty positive my grandmother had these exact pillowcases when I was a kid. Have to make one for my daughter now.
Also- just out of curiosity- which shop is your favorite for quilting and sewing supplies in the metroplex? Or do you order most things online?

felicity said...

Adorable! I may just get over my fear of elastic thread if I win this giveaway!

Carla said...

Jennifer, this is adorable with the smocking at the top...haven't seen that before. My daughter and I have been discussing making a pillowcase dress for Lula. It would be fun to have it match your cutie pie's dress! Your tute is very clear and well done! Pick ME!

D'Anne said...

Thanks for the awesome tutorial! I have been wanted to make my daughter some simple cute dresses and I think this pattern is it!

a good yarn said...

That's very clever and it's such a beautiful dress.

shelia said...

so cute. i haven't tried it with the elastic...and i love the way that looks. You have inspired me! :)

Bellgirl said...

What a beautiful dress! As the mummy of a little boy, I don't get to make too many dresses, but I'm itching to make a pillowcase dress for my husband's niece!

BTW I know your giveaway is nearly finished, but I've just started a new blog for international giveaways, would you like me to list this on it? it's at http://sewmuchtowin.blogspot.com/

Valentina said...

Oh, oh oh How cute!
I have a niece that would LOVE such a dress! :)
Thank you so very much for the tutorial!
:)

Dee said...

Just love the dress and the model is too cute. As a lover of vintage, it's neat to see new things repurposed into such pretty projects!

mayhem5@softhome.net

Lilysunshine said...

To turn the straps out, my grandma (a seamstress) taught me to use a safety pin attached to the side you're pushing in. It makes it easier to have something solid in there. But you probably already knew that. :)

That Girl said...

Rachel, I go to Quilt Country in Lewisville sometimes. For notions, I typically go to Joann's or Hobby Lobby because they have the good weekly coupons. I do a lot of my shopping online because it's easy...

I laughed when you said that you are pretty sure that your grandmother had the same pillowcases... I was waiting for someone to say that. :)

Oh, and BTW, if you want, you can add your email in your blogger profile, people can reply to your comments via email. I didn't know that when I started blogging until another blogger told me about it.

Jennifer :)

roseylittlethings said...

Would love to add this tutorial to the vintage sheet blog http://vintagesheets.blogspot.com email me please at roseylittlethings@gmail.com

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

Well is it absolutely wonderful!

Kari @ Ucreate said...

Absolutely ADORABLE!

Emily said...

So cute! :)

lizz said...

THIS IS A GREAT idea. and sewing is new to me. hope i can manage the elastic thread. I have 3 grand daughters and there all 2 years old. this is an cheep way i can make pretty dresses. that i can afford for all of them.

Anonymous said...

Cute. Nancys notions also has a pattern, made a little differently, to make and send to her and she sends them to Africa for girls there.
For more information on this chairty, you can go to littledressesforafrica.org/blog
Mary Ellen

Sheryl said...

This is such an adorable variation on the pillowcase dresses I've been making. I have a fancy new sewing machine and have been wanting to try smocking. Thanks for the advice. If you or any of your readers are looking for charities to donate your sewing talents to (I noticed the other one listed) check out my blog. I have a "Project Pillowcase" going on right now. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi, This is so cute. Do you zigzag over the elastic thread or encase it? Thank you. littlejs@shentel.net

Janine said...

Hi That Girl!
Love your cute dress...Please check out this website: www.dressagirlaroundtheworld.com to see what I discovered late last summer...

I have been making pillowcase dresses since then and we send them with people traveling to countries where there are little girls in need of a dress. Most are dressed in rags. To receive a handmade dress like this means the world to them! Please look at my Facebook page "like" it to keep up with what I am doing in Connecticut with Dress a Girl. (Dress a Girl Connecticut)

I just received a request for 10,000 dresses to go to Africa in July so if you'd like to sew some more for a good cause...contact me!

Thanks for sharing your very cute pillowcase dress pattern!

Janine - dressagirlct@gmail.com

Trell said...

Hi That Girl,

I am so grateful for this simple pattern that you showed because I have two beautiful daughters that I want to sew for but I'm kind of teaching myself. Your pattern was simple and beautiful. Thanks so much!!! pleazd2bme@gmail.com

Dana

Vonda said...

I love this version of the pillow case dress. I didn't know you can buy elastic thread, Where do you purchase this? All we have in my small community is a Walmart, no sewing stores.
vondaboze@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

you could also buy pillow cases at yard sales or thrift shops

Anonymous said...

I Love this dress and it is my first dress pattern, so I have a few questions. What size needle do you use for your machine? Is the top thread elastic also?

Anonymous said...

Woops my email is weaverdebra@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

I have never sewn with elastic thread. Do you use the elastic thread on top and botton and do you use a zig zag stitch when you are sewing the elastic thread to the garment. This is the first time I have seen your website. Please reply!

Anonymous said...

Love this dress idea. I have been making it but I cant get the smocking to turn out right. It doesnt seem to be sinching up very tightly. Maybe my pillow case is too big? Any ideas on what to do?

Anonymous said...

Need more info on the elastic thread. top and bobbin? Do you put in the tension of the bobbin or just in bobbin? What stitch do you use?
Thanks
Nana

Chanel said...

I didn't know I could put elastic in my machine - I've never smocked. Could you please tell me more about that? It makes me nervous!

Chanel

Marie said...

I love this idea! Hadn't thought about using the smocking but I am going to now! Chanel - you only need to put the elastic on the bobbin, and normal thread in the top. Perhaps using small stitches would help? Not too sure myself either, going to practice on something else first. Cant wait to give this a go, thanks for posting it.

Anonymous said...

Like so many others here I have never ever heard of sewing with elastic thread. I want to make a few of these pillow case dresses and send them to a missionary friend. She lives in South America and this dress would be just right for the climate there. Will using elastic thread bunch up my machine tension? I just paid $60 to get my machine oiled and settings set properly and can't afford to have anything mess up by using elastic thread. Thanks for any help you can give and thanks for sharing with all of us. You have fabulous ideas.
topolx@yahoo.com
Tanialee

elliesue said...

Thank you for this easy to follow Tutorial, I love it.
Elaine

sewing sam said...

Love the idea of smocking the top. I have done it to several already since seeing this. I found I had to pull out one of my older machines due to the drop in bobbins not working for me. But my older machines with the pull out bobbin holder works well with elastic thread. I tightened my bobbin and lengthened my stitch and it does a beautiful job.

Melanna said...

I just whipped this dress together this afternoon (not from an actual pillowcase, just some vintage-y looking fabric I had). I actually just wanted to try smocking. And to my amazement it worked way better than I thought it would! I had set my bobbin tension a little too loose at first, so the first couple of rows didn't tighten as much as I wanted, but steaming with an iron drastically helped. I'm hoping once it's washed it will tighten some more. Thanks for the great tutorial and the sweet dress for my little girl for the summer. Now I just need the sun to start shining!

Deanna Robertson said...

Just came across this and think it is fabulous! Thanks! Also for the "fiddly" part, I remember my mother and grandmother always used to pin a great big baby diaper pin to one end and push it through (though I'm trying to imagine it in my head and am not sure how that worked exactly - going to try it out though). Cheers!

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