T-shirt to Toddler Dress Tutorial

Last winter I made my first forays into refashioning cast offs into clothes for my daughter. I posted about it in “Rags to Riches, the tale of a favorite t-shirt” . Several of you were interested in a more detailed how-to of that little project, so here we go…

Remember! Knits are real forgiving. Don’t be mislead into thinking I know something you don’t know and that’s why my project turned out so well. You can do it, too – just jump right in! If you need to, review some of the ‘sewing with knits’ tips I share in my Cami Tutorial

Step 1 – your pattern.
When sewing for Claire, I choose a favorite article of clothing she already has (perhaps something she’s growing out of and we know we’re gonna miss) to be my pattern. Such was the case with the little purple dress on the right. We love that it’s easy to pull on, but has some nice styling, with its curved yoke, slightly puffed sleeves, and gathered skirt. When cutting out the new dress, I simply added length and width where I thought we needed it to make it one size up.

Step 2 – your cloth.
The whole fun of this kind of project is taking something old and making something useful out of it again. In this case it was a cute t-shirt that had gotten too small for its owner, who kindly passed it on to me to cut up. You can use yardage for your project, but the beauty of using an old t-shirt is that you can utilize all the existing seams and hems to save time and get a real professional look.

Step 3 – cutting out.
 Use the main body of the t-shirt for the skirt, leaving the hem and side seams in tact. Cut the sleeves off the t-shirt and size them down by trimming the under arm seam, leaving the shoulder seam and sleeve hems in tact. Finally, cut your bodice – in this case, just a small yoke.(with the other dress I made it was a full bodice).  For the neck, you will want to cut the t-shirt along the shoulder seams and trim the neckline down to toddler size (you will the sew new shoulder seams back together later). Then you’re ready to sew!

Front and back views of the waist seam and gathers

Step 4 – Waist seam
Gather the top edges of the skirt to fit the bodice. Pin in place and sew with a nice little zig-zag stitch. Be sure to remove your gathering stitches when you’re done with the seam – they won’t stretch like the zig-zag so you just wanna get rid of them.For my dress, I confined most of the gathers in the front to a two inch section, but spread them gently along the back seam.

With this dress, the arm holes extend partly beyond the tiny yoke, so I made a little angled cut into the sides of the skirt to make sure my arm hole was big enough for the sleeves.

Step 5 – Shoulder seams
The shoulder seams are a quick little job, but I like to add a little top-stitching so the bulk of the neck binding lays flat. I do this by zig-zagging down the center of the finished shoulder seam and a little to both sides for the width of the binding, anchoring all those layers of shirt and neck binding.

Step 6 – Sleeves
Last step! Sew the under arms seams of the sleeves, then pin them into your arm holes. My sleeves were just a bit bigger than the arm holes, so I collected the extra fabric toward the top of the shoulders to create some little gathers.

Sew the armholes, trim your threads, and you’re done!

It literally took me 30 min. to sew this together, and it looked adorable on Claire! It should fit her well into the fall, when we will pair it with the perfect pair of black, lace leggings. I will post pics of Claire wearing it when I get a chance. She was so cute and comfortable in it when it was so hot last Sunday. I want to make her several more ’cause it’s such a quick and cute outfit!

OK, now it’s your turn! Grab that old shirt that you are sentimentally attached to but can no longer wear in public, ☺and transform it into a play dress for a special little princess in your life. Let me know how it goes!

3 responses to “T-shirt to Toddler Dress Tutorial”

  1. johnswife Avatar

    you are amazing to me!!!

  2. Miki Avatar

    I am thinking I could make some super nifty little dresses to sell using this method! Thanks for sharing♥

  3. Abbey Avatar

    Claire did look so cute and comfortable on Sunday!

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