For quite a while now I've had it in my head that I was going to make Phoebe a dress using a t-shirt that I picked up from Ross for $3.99. First I'll show you where I got my inspiration to make this dress and then I'll share how I made it so you can make one too.
I first got the idea to use a t-shirt as the top of a dress from the blog I am Momma Hear Me Roar's tutorial on how to make an Upcycled T-shirt Dress:
While this dress is super cute and I still want to make it with a bunch of dad's old t-shirts, I wanted to start a little simpler: t-shirt and skirt. Two parts, KISS (keep it simple Sammy). So when I picked up this dress at Ross for Phoebe,
I knew exactly what I was going to do with this t-shirt.
Make a dress out of it. The sleeves and neckline are great and I didn't have to sew them!
Let's get going and I'll show you how I made this simple and cute dress.
1/2 yard of coordinating fabric (for a 4T skirt)
First, I used my inspiration dress to measure where I wanted my top to end and my skirt to begin. If you don't have an empire cut dress or shirt to base your measurements on, I'm sure that you can eyeball it by measuring your little model and then the t-shirt.
Next, I added a half inch for seem allowance and then marked my shirt and cut it.
For the next step, I measured the length of the skirt on my inspiration dress, because it fits Phoebe perfectly, to find the length for my skirt. For the hem I added 1 1/4", for seem allowance another 1/2" and finally I added another half inch for growth and garment shrinkage - my material was pre-washed but things still seem to shrink. When I had my measurements and additions all added together, I came up with a half yard for the skirt of a 4T dress. Again, if you don't have a dress that fits to use for inspiration measure from right below the bust of your model to her knee or right below and add the hem and seem allowances to find the length of your skirt.
Now I was keeping this simple, so it's not a science; but to find the width of my skirt, I measured around the bottom hem of my inspiration dress. With an inch added for two half inch seem allowances, I ended up going from selvage to selvage (the finished edges of your material). If you're doing a bigger skirt, you'll need to cut two pieces instead of one; so divide your total width by two and then add an inch to find the width of your two pieces. Also, when sewing your skirt you'll add one more seem than I did to mine.
Once you've figured out your skirt measurements, mark and cut your pre-washed and pressed fabric. A rotary cutter would be great for this project, but I only have scissors and they worked just fine.
Here is the skirt piece I ended up with, an exact half yard.
Now it's finally time to start sewing. To begin my skirt, I zigzagged (or you can serge if you have a serger) across the top edge of the skirt to keep the material from fraying. Next, I used a faux gathering technique that I learned from MADE's Market Skirt Tutorial. First you crank your tension to the highest number it will go to, that's 9 for me, and then you whip your stitch length out to the longest it will go, that's a 7 for me. Finally, sew about an 1/8" from the edge, keeping the zigzag between your new stitch and the edge, and your material will come out gathered like this:
Note: If you are sewing a skirt with two pieces of fabric instead of one, sew one side seem before gathering so that you have one long piece like I do.
Now before gathering, make sure that you have extra long strings at the beginning and ending of your stitch so that you can make your gathered piece longer if necessary. I forgot this part and had to take out my first gather and do it again with extra string length so that I could adjust the width of my skirt to fit my top piece.
Also, because my top is knit, I'm hemming the bottom of the skirt and my side seem is selvage, I don't have to do anymore finishing than the zigzag (or serge) on the top of the skirt. If you are sewing a bigger or smaller skirt, remember to finish the material at the seems so that fraying will be minimized. This is another thing that I forget to do and always have to come back and do at the end of a project.
Next we'll want to make sure that our skirt width matches our shirt width, so place the two together like pictured below and adjust your gather either tighter or looser to make the two match up.
With the skirt at the correct width, fold it right sides together, pin and sew your side seem with a half inch allowance.
Once you've sewn your seem it's time to hit the ironing board. Iron out your seem and then press your hem.
To press my hems I use a 1 1/4" pressing strip. The pressing strip is pictured below with a big 1 1/4" written on it.
To make your own, you take a file folder, like pictured here, and measure 1 1/4" from a straight edge, mark and cut. Now to use it, you fold the fabric where you are hemming with the strip between the folded material and the cut edge coming to just the very top of the pressing strip. Move your strip around the hem line as you press.
Next you open out your hem and then press another quarter inch in as pictured below.
I use a seem gauge to start the quarter inch press and then eyeball it to finish after I have an accurate start.
Finally, I pin my hem. With the quarter inch turned under, I now have a one inch hem.
Once you're pinned in place, sew away!
(If any part of my skirt instructions were unclear, you might look at MADE's Simple Skirt Tutorial. Minus the waist band, we're doing basically the same thing here.)
Now we have a finished skirt to connect to our t-shirt top. Let's start with pinning. You'll want to have the right sides of the fabric touching, so here are two ways to look at that:
The first picture is to help you visualize how to get the right sides together, but you'll want the skirt on the outside for sewing. So here is how you get picture number two, the way you'll want to pin and sew the pieces together: with your skirt wrong side out, drop your top right side out and upside down inside the skirt and pin the cut edges together.
Once you're pinned, sew. Leave yourself a half inch seem allowance.
After sewing the pieces together, pull out your top and iron out your seem downward for the wearer's comfort and a finished look.
Once you've ironed, you're done and you've got a simple t-shirt babydoll dress!
And that's it! Sewing project number 6, tallied and done. This dress could be easily embellished with pockets, appliqués, buttons, a tie around the waist... the options are endless, but I get bogged down on projects with too many details so I'm going to KISS this dress and move on to the next project. Besides, it's cute just the way it is.
For those of you watching your budgets, this is a great project or gift. The t-shirt was $3.99 and the fabric was under $5 for the yard at JoAnn's and I only used half of it - and I didn't buy anything else to make to make it, so the total cost comes in at under $10.
Finally, this fun project took me - a beginning sewer - only an evening to make, start to finish. So go on, grab a t-shirt and get sewing. I know that I'll be making many more of these as Phoebe loves to wear dresses lately.
Have fun and let me know how your dress turns out!