Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Toddler Ruffle Dress from Upcycled T-shirt

Hold your horses folks--I am about to present you with my VERY FIRST sewing tutorial! I have been absolutely crazed with the ruffle shirt tutorials over at Tea Rose Home, (see my recent attempt here) and so I started poking around looking for a toddler dress tutorial which I found at Happy Together. My dress is a combination of both.

For those of you that know me, you know I am NOT great with a sewing machine. I am NOT organized, I am NOT patient, I do NOT use patterns,--basically the way I sew is haphazard, frenzied with excitement and usually with James or Ella (or both) running around. So, my point is that if I can do this, YOU CAN DO THIS!

Start with a tee shirt. I went through my closet this morning and found an old, OLD long-sleeved tee from Old Navy that I used to wear when I was pregnant with James.

I'm not sure why I still have it, as it has a HUGE grease stain on it, but I am sure glad that I hung on to it!

As is instructed by the tutorial over at Happy Together, I found a dress that Ella currently is wearing that I really like the cut of. I folded the tee shirt in half vertically, and then did the same with the dress, which I placed on top of the tee shirt and then cut around it with scissor. See? NO PATTERN!

Then I cut up the side seams on the tee shirt and placed right sides together, pinning them so that I could stitch up the sides (leaving the armholes open) and across the shoulders.

After I finished stitching the two sides together I turned it inside out. Don;t worry about stitching the hem, as you will be covering it with a ruffle. Notice in later photos that when I cut the shape of the dress out, I centered what will be the dress' neckline over the v-neck of the tee. That way there is a more finished look on the dress. Not necessary, but so helpful for someone like me.

Next I cut open the arms of the tee shirt.

I trimmed them with my rotary cutter into a rough rectangle (notice I say "rough" there is blissfully nothing exact about this pattern.) Then I cut two pieces about three inches wide and one piece about 2" wide. I did the same on the other arm.

Now for the ruffle. sew all four of your two-inch pieces together, to form a nice long strip. Next, change your machine settings so that you are using a wide straight stitch. (If this ruffle part makes no sense, I will not be offended if you need to jump over here or over here for a better explanation of how to do it.)

Sew down the middle of your strip. DO NOT BACK STITCH at the beginning and the end.

When you are done, take one end and gently pull the bobbin thread (this is when it is handy to use two different thread colors) or else just try each thread until you find out that when you pull it you make a ruffle. I have also found that if you put your tension way up, on 8, the ruffle can actually make itself. (Hard to visualize, you'll just have to try it.)

THIS is the step that is time consuming, almost frustrating, as it can take some time to get the ruffle to look just right.

VOILA! Ruffle!

Next pin the ruffle around the bottom edge of the dress. Tee shirt material can be a little wonky, so make sure that you aren't pulling or stretching either the dress or the ruffle as you go along.

Next, sew RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE of the ruffle, all the way around. Some people do this step twice, but not me, as I said, I am a haphazard, let be what will be, it may all come out in the wash (fingers crossed that it doesn't) kind of seamstress.

Now make a ruffle out of each of the 1 1/2" pieces for each armhole. Pin them around (start and end at the armpit) and sew again.

Ta-DAAAH!!! I was so excited at this point that I was jumping around the room, shoving the dress at Ella and James and yelling "LOOK WHAT MOMMY MADE!!!"

You could be done at this point, but I was going ALL OUT and felt like I was on top of the sewing world, so I got a little crazy and wanted to add an embellishment. I had made one of the flowers in the Tea Rose Home tutorial and it just about did me in, so I went for what I thought might be an easier approach--the rose in the Happy Together tutorial.

I sacrificed an old tee shirt of James' that is too small for him.

From the back I cut a large oval-ish piece and then began to cut a 1/4" (sort of) piece from all the way around it.

Next I pinned it to the shirt and started winding around it loosely.

Next I stitched it in my typical lackadaisical fashion. Not great, but that is why I like the shabby part of shabby chic. (Wink, wink).

I added a vintage purple button to the center of the rose and that was it! (For the life of me I can't get this photo oriented vertically, so just bend your head to the right and you'll see the dress properly.) HA HA.

My Ella in her brandy-new upcycled tee-shirt dress!! (Seriously, I could stitch some paper bags together, throw them on her and she would look great.) Who can even look at what she is wearing when her smile is co crazy-cute??!!

I hope you try my tutorial! And if you make this dress, please leave me a comment and let me know how it turned out!

This post is part of several link parties, so go and visit them and get inspired for your next project!

Show and Tell Green




  1. That's adorable! I wish I could sew. :/

  2. I sew a lot, but hate sewing on knits. THIS, though, THIS project made me want to head straight to the closet to find an old t-shirt to cut up! THANKS! This is great!!

  3. Allison this is so adorable! I'll be featuring this tutorial tomorrow afternoon on BCD! I added your cute button and invited my readers to check it out! It will post at 2 pm.



  4. Hi Lolavie-, I only started sewing last year. This is a pretty simple project. I've made the mistake of doing something difficult right at the start (a quilt) which turned me off of sewing for a few months. You have to find the right project for you. I like easy with a BIG return! Welcome!

    Shewearsflowers--GO FOR IT! And be sure to e-mail me pics when you are done. I would love to do a recap post sharing photos from dresses that my readers have created!

    Becca--THANKS! Wow I am SO EXCITED!

  5. how fabulous....envy! i need to get a crackin:)

  6. Vic--do it! Get her done and then send me a photo! ;-)

  7. Very cute. I need to try this for my grand daughter!

  8. The dress is soo cute. You daughter's smile is very nice!!

  9. Thankyou!! I am going to try this one!!!

  10. I made can pop over to my blog for a look at the picture (i'm not posting it till tomorrow though so don't rush off just yet). It came out wonderful and i plan on making more. I made it in one Stitch and Bitch session. Everyone loved the idea. Thanks for the tute xo

  11. I am going to my closet right now to steal a tshirt to make one of these for my daughter! Thanks for the tutorial!

  12. lovely! =] you did a great job, and I love your character! keep Rockin' the bobbin! =]


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