Today we are going to learn how to make a toddler dress out of a simple t-shirt. I love these tutorials because you’re using what you already have instead of going out and buying a pattern. We will be using the child’s current shirt to make the dress/top. If there’s anything that helps us stay on our budget, it’s #1. Using what I already have in the house and #2. Making Libby clothes tailored for her (or the occasion) that she can wear for a long time.
First, let’s go over what you’ll need.
- A current shirt or top for your pattern
- Fabric scissors
- Ruler or tape measure
- Fabric (1 yard each of 2 coordinating prints/solids – yes you’ll have leftovers)
Let’s get started.
We are going to take one of our fabrics and fold it in half twice like the pic below shows. Then we will fold our t-shirt in half twice so we can trace out our pattern. I have deliberately placed the t-shirt a little over to the RIGHT of the 2 folds because I need extra fabric to make the seams. T-shirts have some give because they are knits but woven cotton does not.
Next, we are going to draw our pattern. I like my daughter to wear clothing that’s higher up on her chest so I’ll draw my line across and then draw the arm curve (add about 1.5″ inches on both sides of your t-shirt to give it more room). THIS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT!!! Because this will have straps attached, we do not need a curved neckline.
Then we are going to cut out our pattern. We also need to cut the bottom fold like this:
You will end up with 4 top – (also called BODICE) – pieces like these:
Now for the fun part. The SEWING!
The first part we will sew together are the SIDES. You will sew down the sides of two sets like this. Let me show you (so you’ll be sewing 4 seams):
The next step can feel tricky but hang in there with me. We are going to sew the FRONT and BACK bodice pieces together at the ARM HOLES. Take one of your bodice pieces and turn it right side out. Place it INSIDE the other bodice piece so that the RIGHT sides are facing each other. PIN the arm holes so you can sew around each one like this:
Now you’re going to sew across the TOP of the BACK bodice section like this:
We are going to make our straps next.
You need to cut 4 pieces that are 2″W X 8″ L. We are going to sew 2 of them facing each other TWICE down the sides like this:
Now turn them each inside out and we’ll attach them to the FRONT bodice piece. Take your front bodice piece and place the straps inside of it like this:
Sew across the top closing it shut completely:
Now turn your entire bodice right-side out. You’ll notice the ends of your straps need fixing, right? Here’s how to do that. Fold the ends inside itself and sew closed like this:
Now admire your work so far. Half the dress is finished!
We are going to make the skirt portion next. This can be as full as you like. I like a really full skirt to give Libby more movement (and she loves them that way).
Place your bodice piece over your fabric and decide how long or short (for a blouse) you’d like this to be. Here’s what I did. I cut 4 pieces of fabric 19″ HIGH X 24″ WIDE. I was running out of fabric and needed to improvise. Don’t be afraid to add chunks of matching or white fabric to make the dress more full.
So I ended up with 2 print pieces and 2 white pieces. Here’s how to assemble them. Sew 1 white to 1 print up the side like this and do it with all the pieces alternating between the print and the solid:
You’ll end up with 4 side seams and a HUGE full skirt. Feel free to alter this any way you like but Libby LOVES clothes like this:
Now we are going to attach the bodice to the skirt. I’m going to use my serger but if you do NOT have one, don’t panic. Simply use an overlocking stitch on your normal machine. Place the BODICE inside the SKIRT upside down with RIGHT sides facing each other like this:
I’m going to bunch up the skirt all the way around making sure the RIGHT and LEFT side seams line up. Because the skirt is so full, have fun with this part. It does NOT have to be perfect at all. Just bunch it all up until the skirt is all pinned to the bodice like this:
Now we’re going to sew all the way around securing the BODICE to the SKIRT. Go slowly and carefully. Take your time. Also, do NOT sew over pins. I have broken needles doing this and it’s dangerous as pieces could fly into your eye. Seriously, don’t risk it!
Now turn your garment right side out.
Now all that’s left to do is sew on the snaps to the BACK and hem it. I won’t show pics of sewing on the snaps as that feels self explanatory but to hem it we will do this. Turn the dress inside out. Fold down the hemline 1/4 inch like this:
Fold again and pin into place all around the skirt. This will take a while but will insure a beautiful hem line. Sew all around the hem and YOU ARE DONE! See? No need to spend money on patterns when you can use the clothes you already have.
If you like this tutorial, you’ll love my CHEAP sewing class full of 10 classes/videos/PDF that’ll teach you so much more. You’ll make 8 projects with me leading you every step of the way. It’s only $17!!! That’s a steal! It’s great for homeschoolers!