Last week my church made some new t-shirts available in adult sizes. After my husband and I picked one up, I thought there must be an easy way to make them into dresses for the girls. So we brought home two extra-small women’s tees. Of course, once we got them home I needed more than just a dress to make them happy. Gray is “boring” apparently – we needed to add colour as well. I totally should have seen that coming!

A little research later and my great love of collecting coloured Sharpie’s has finally paid off. We spent a few fun hours colouring in all of the screen-printed lettering. I let them dry for 24 hours, (no idea if this is necessary, it just seemed like a good idea). Then I heat-set them in my dryer (inside out) on high for 20 minutes. After that I washed and dried them with a dark load of laundry, just to be sure the colour was permanent.

The pillowcase dress style is nothing new, but since I made them in a super-easy way and prevented the usual “knit stretching” fiasco with interfacing I thought I’d put up a little tutorial for them. I hesitate to call things easy too often, but seriously – this is easy! After the first one, I made the second in about 1/2 an hour. It left me wanting to take all of my small tees and turn them into dresses for the girls!

You will need a ballpoint needle for your machine – but don’t be afraid! They are easy to buy at your local sewing supply store. If you don’t know how to already, grab your manual (or look it up online) and find out how to change your needle. Once you have sorted out how to change it you will wonder why you haven’t done it yet! You can find out why you need to use a ballpoint needle here.

Ready to start?

You will need:

  • one adult tee  – it is best if the tee is not much larger around than your child & the “right” length for a dress or tunic
  • one long knit or woven scrap 2″ wide by about 44″ long (or you could use ribbon)
  • lightweight fusible interfacing (knit or woven is fine)
  • ballpoint sewing machine needle
  • matching thread, scissors, water soluble or other fabric marker, your regular sewing supplies

Here we go:

  1. Wash and dry your tee in a normal load of laundry. This will prevent it from shrinking after it is finished.
  2. Fold the tee in half, so the armholes seams match up. Take extra care to make sure all of the parts of the t-shirt are laying flat.
  3. Measure about 1/3 of the way down the armhole on the tee, in my case this was right under the neckline. You will need at least 2″ of un-printed area under this line if you want all of the wording on your tee to show. Mark a line across the tee, including the sleeves, at your measured point. Cut your tee across this line.
  4. Next, unfold the tee and open up the sleeve area. Cut each sleeve about 1/2″ away from the armhole seam. You will not be cutting the body of the tee, you will be cutting into the sleeve following the curve of the armhole seam. (see photos below)
  5. Fold each sleeve along the seam-line, so the 1/2″ of extra sleeve is tucked inside the armhole. This creates a facing (nice finished edge) for your dress’ armholes. Pin and stitch each side once or twice as desired.
  6. Cut two rectangles of fusible interfacing. They should be 1.75″ high each and as wide as the top edge of your shirt, just inside the armhole stitching. If you are using knit interfacing, make sure to cut the length of the interfacing along the direction of least stretch. Fuse the interfacing to the top of the tee. If you have done this correctly, the top of the tee will not stretch from side to side.
  7. Fold, press and pin each interfaced edge down. Line each raw top edge of the tee with the bottom of the interfacing to make a casing for your straps. This helps keep your casing an even width across the top. Stitch along the bottom edge of each casing about 3/4″ away from the folded edge. (sorry, this stitching is not pictured)
  8. Get your strap fabric. I used knit, so I also cut a piece of interfacing 1″ wide by the length of the strap fabric (again, the length is cut along the direction of least stretch).
  9. Fuse the interfacing to the centre of the 2″ knit fabric strap (if using). The strap should not stretch along the length if the interfacing was cut correctly.
  10. Fold each strap edge into the centre and press. I used the edgs of the interfacing as a guide for where to fold. The edges of the fabric tend to fold over where the interfacing starts. Your strap will be about 1″ wide with each edge folded to the centre. Fold the strap again, so the folded edges meet. Pin along the length of the strap.
  11. Stitch once on each edge of the strap.
  12. Use a safety pin to thread the strap through the casing front and back. Be careful not to twist the strap.
  13. Try the dress on your child and tie the strap in the correct position. Cut each strap about 5-6″ away from the shoulder knot. Knot the bottom of each strap to finish it.
  14. Pin the straps in place on each edge of the casing, making sure that the front and back “neckline” of the dress are the same width. Also make sure the straps are the same length before pinning.
  15. To permanently tack the straps in place, stitch over the casing and strap at each of the 4 ends of the casing – as indicated in the photo below.

And you’re done! I hope your little one enjoys her new summer dress. You can share your projects on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #alongforthreadride, or post them on the Thread Riding Hood Facebook page. And, of course, if you have any questions please be sure to contact me on any of the above or email I’d love to hear from you!