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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pillowcase dresses

With the warmer weather approaching and spring consignment sales picking up, I am obsessed with finding quick, easy sundresses for Maggie.  Unfortunately, they are priced more than I want to pay for something that is either going to be worn through mud and manure or only as a bathing suit cover up.  So I started searching the web, and came across these "pillowcase dresses."  

The original design for the dress is centuries old I imagine - made literally from old pillowcases.  Ones I saw online are typically made of those charming vintage cases with the lovely embroidery on the open side.   After looking at several sites, I decided I could probably make the dress myself.  And I could do it without a pattern.  

I wanted some color and pattern to my dresses so I headed to JoAnn for a look-see.  I fell in love with HUNDREDS of fabrics.  But I limited myself to just a few this first go round.    I ended up with a watermelon print, a sweet turquoise and celery paisley and I grabbed this strawberry fabric because it has the elasticized top that makes a really cute dress, and would be so easy to make!  I also picked up coordinating green satin ribbon for the straps/neck ties and 

some ribbon and embellishments for coordinating hair bows.

 My pattern choices

 My trusty Brother sewing machine.  I haven't used it in years but she always comes in handy!
 My mom got me this sewing box back when I was planning on a blue and yellow theme for my living room.
 This is my Grammie Foster's sewing basket.  I love the red paisley quilted top.  It is still full of stuff of hers.  I don't know what to do with most of it, but I keep it.  The spools of thread are marked 5 cents!
 This is a dress I picked up at a consignment sale for Maggie for about $2.  I decided to use this dress to fabricate some sort of pattern for the pillowcase dresses.
First I folded the fabric so that it was basically turned inside out.  Right sides facing each other.
 Then I traced around the dress with one of the kids washable markers.
 I measured across the chest of the red dress, then divided the number in half and added another 1/2 inch or so to the measurement for seam allowances.  Then I folded the fabric in half so that the chest portion of the dress was in half,
 then I cut the dress out.
 When you unfold it, it will look like this and the top of the dress is still attached .

 The one yard of allowed me to cut three dresses from that particular fabric.  This will vary depending on the width of your fabric.
 I then took a piece of felt and traced the dress pattern again.  Now when I go to make more dresses, I just have to fold the fabric in half, lay the pattern on top and cut the pattern from the felt.  I did it with felt A) because I had felt lying around and B) I thought felt would be more durable than paper.
 To give some character to the dress, I decided to make the hem in a complimenting pattern.  I cut fabric slightly longer than the length I wanted to achieve, pinned "right' sides together and sewed the hem fabric in place.
 The most difficult part of the task was the arm holes.  Thankfully, I had the red dress to use as a pattern. Many of the designs I saw online suggested using bias tape to finish the arm holes.   I do not know how to use bias tape, so I just folded the arm seams over once about 1/4 of an inch, ironed it well, folded it over again about 1/4 of an inch, then used a zig zag stitch to sew the seam.  It came out looking pretty good if I do say so myself.  Of course, in my focus on figuring out how to make the dress, I forgot to take thorough pictures of my process.

This is the first version of the dress I made.  I didn't add anything to the chest of the dress, just folded down the top of the dress about 1/4 of an inch, ironed it, then folded it over again about 1/2 an inch and sewed it straight across.  Then I took green ribbon, attached a safety pin to one end and threaded it through the front and back "yoke" of the neck.  The ribbon can be tightened to accommodate almost any size.

 The second dress, I folded the green ribbon over the "yoke" of the dress and threaded a gossamer organza ribbon through it.

 The third dress, I got a little fancier and made a "yoke' to match the hem.  It was relatively easy.  Cut the strip of fabric to fit the "yoke," fold in the top and sides about 1/4 of an inch and iron.  Make sure to sew the sides before you fold the entire thing in half because you'll stitch your openings shut!  Fold the fabric in half, iron then fit it close to the top of the yoke and stitch very close making sure you have the patterned fabric inside your complimentary yoke or it will fall apart or miss catching the fabric.

 I found this fabric a few days later at the fabric store and since some of the dresses were for presents, I had to pick this Hello Kitty Easter fabric up for one of the girls as Hello Kitty is one of her favorites!
 I also made coordinating hair accessories for the dresses.  This little number got a cute silver headband with a green flower accent.
 The headband up close.
 This is the watermelon pattern.  I gave it a turquoise yoke, but did not make a matching hem.  This dress I cut a little wider than the others because I wanted it to be shorter  and a little blousier than the others.  I got coordinating celery green leggings to be worn with it, so hopefully, it turned out cute.
I also made a matching headband for it with the little pink and white polka dot flowers.

I'm still experimenting with technique, but overall, it's been a rewarding process.  I'm not sure if I'm saving that much money as fabric is still rather price, but I guess if you factor I'm getting on average two dresses per yard, and I only am spending $3.99 a yard, the dress prices out under $5.  Not bad for a novice seamstress.

Now, here's hoping Maggie likes all the dresses I make!

1 comment:

  1. i found your blog - yay! i love sewing little clothes for my boys, - unfortunately they dont' wear dresses as i could eat up all the fabulous girly material i always find - paisley, flowers, great color combos. i love the pillowcase dress you made - so lovely!