Made Back When – Toddler T-shirt Dress Tutorial

So I haven’t posted in ages, and I feel like life has never been more frantic, so I decided that despite not having time to make anything I should post something which might help me get my rhythm back!

So here’s an old but hopefully gold project making a very cute dress for my very cute daughter an unbelievable 4 years ago. Not eactly sure where that time went…. I wrote it for a blog back when I first wanted to write one but never really got it off the ground, I hope you like it!

image

Normally I am out of time, life having gotten in the way, but today my lovely number 2 daughter is recovering from a tummy bug so we’ve enjoyed a lazy PJ type of morning and I’ve had the pleasure of making this t-shirt dress for daughter number 3.

image

I bought a pack of 3 t-shirts for my youngest a while back with the intention of customising the 2 plainer ones. Having done one I thought I’d just do a similar kind of thing for this one, but I’ve been watching re-runs of the Great British Sewing Bee this week and I think that is enough to explain the expansion of this project 🙂

The other fabric I used was a vest from a pyjama set I no longer wear. I’d seen a cute dog image on a baby grow that I thought I could recreate and decided a black, white and yellow colour scheme would work well so I set to work.

What you need:

For the dress –
Sewing machine
A t-shirt
Fabric for the skirt – could be from an old top like mine
Bias binding (optional – here’s a link to a great tutorial with info on bias binding by Caila Made)
Matching thread
Shirring elastic
Scissors
Stitch ripper (optional)
Pins

For the appliqué design –
Design on paper
Fabric scraps
Iron-on interfacing a guide to interfacing can be found here
Embroidery silk (optional)
Hand sewing needle (optional)
Embellishments such as a bow (optional)

Here’s my go at explaining how to complete this project:

image

The first job is to dismantle the vest top – I wanted to use the binding to finish the hem of the dress and so I removed it. To do this you can either use some small sharp scissors or a stitch ripper.  First remove a couple of stitches until you can make an opening and begin to cut the stitches but putting the scissors between the binding and fabric.

image

This does take a while but I was being thrifty and enjoyed recycling so much of the vest. You can always buy some binding or just hem the edge of the dress if you want to.

I also removed the bow to add to the dress later.

image

Once removed you need to press it flat which will make it much easier to work with and greatly improve the finish you are able to achieve.

image

image

You’re likely to find a load of small pieces of thread still in the binding from the old stitches that you’ve cut off. A short cut to removing these is to use a length of masking tape which you can stick to the binding and pull off (think leg waxing). It generally removes most if not all of those loose threads and is a great time saver, though I found it needed to be ironed again afterwards to get it flat again – a small price to pay!

Next you need to decide how long you want the dress to be. I decided where on the T-shirt I wanted the skirt part to attach and then measured it against a dress I already have that fits the bubba to get how much of the vest I needed to cut.

I didn’t need a seam allowance for either the hem or for where the skirt and top sections attach.  If you want a different hem or want to skip the shirred skirt top and are going to attach this straight onto the top you need to allow for the extra length do do this. Approximately 1.5cms per seam should be sufficient.

image

Length decision made, get cutting!  Measure it to make sure it’s straight if you need to.

Using a top like this meant I didn’t have any side seams to do, but you could just as easily make the skirt section from a long strip of fabric with a seam to join it into a large loop.

If you do use a top like I’ve done cut out any labels so they didn’t get in the way.

I used the fluted edge of my vest as the finished top edging of the skirt. If you don’t have a finished edge, now is the time to either complete a small hem or fold the edge over enough to sew the raw edge in side when you do the first shirring seam.

image

Next, get to grips with shirring. You can see the normal thin top thread here and the thicker shirring elastic coming up from my bobbin.  Being a novice at this technique I hunted for a good ‘how to’ and found one on Made By Rae.

If you’ve not done it before have a go on a test piece of fabric to get the feel of it.

image

Sew the shirring seam, using a long straight stitch close to the top of the fabric. My machine has grooves in the metal plate which I use to help guide straight lines as I sew.  Once you’ve made it all the way round, secure the ends by reversing and going forward over a few stitches to ensure the ends of the elastic are really anchored.

You need to do at least one more shirring seam. Use the edge of the machine foot to help guide you. It’s important that the seams are evenly spaced all the way round. The second seam made a difference in tightening up the gathering. It was pretty much a perfect fit for the T-shirt. If your skirt is larger than the t-shirt consider doing an extra line of shirring.

image

You should end up with a skirt with a lovely elasticated gathering at the top.

To attach it to the T-shirt first pin it in place. I matched the side seam of the skirt to the side seam of the T-shirt on one side then folded the T-shirt to ensure I set the other side at an even height.  Feel free to measure with a tape or ruler if you’d prefer.

image

Once pinned in place, you’re ready to sew it. Keep the shirring elastic in your bobbin to do this, it will help the seam have some elasticity which will make it more comfortable for the wearer.

image

Sew directly over the top of the highest shirring seam you have already sewn. It will not gather the same way it did with one layer of fabric as it will be too thick, though it may do a bit if both the T-shirt and skirt material are thin.

image

It’s important to have matching thread for this otherwise the finish will not be great unless your sewing is incredibly precise.

image

Time to get the hem done.  Change back to normal thread on your bobbin and match it and the top thread to the binding. Unfold one edge of the binding and line its edge with the bottom of the dress. The right sides of the dress and binding should be facing one another. Stitch into place slightly away from the fold.  These stitches will not be visible on the finished dress as they will be enclosed by the binding.  Where the binding first joins, fold about 1cm in so that the raw edge will not be seen.

image

Cut the binding to fit. It should overlap the folded front edge by about a 1cm.

image

Fold the binding back down and over so that the edge of the bottom of the dress is completely encased and check it is even on both the front and back. If you need to pin this into place ready to sew.

image

Top stitch the binding close to the inside edge using a medium length straight stitch. Do this carefully as a wonky line of stitching here may not capture the front and back of the binding properly.

image

This is the join in the binding. No raw edge is visible. It’s quite bulky going through the machine though so you may find clipping the corners of the edges you fold under helpful to reduce the amount of fabric at the joint.

image

The basic dress is complete!  If you want to know how to complete the appliqué design, read on.

image

Start with a picture of you design. You can print something out or draw freehand.

image

I like to trace it onto greaseproof paper to make a pattern, but you can use a print from the computer or whatever you have to hand.

image

Next prepare the fabric you’re going to use for the design. I used some scraps from the vest top and from a pair of fuzzy leggings that had masses of holes in them. They both needed something to stabilise them to enable the pattern to be cut out accurately.  You can use bondaweb or iron-on interfacing to achieve this.

image

Fabric stabilised, use the pattern to help you cut out the pieces of the design. Remember you may need to flip the pattern before you cut the design if you want it to come out the same way round as the original sketch.

Start by cutting around the whole outline of the design. Then cut out the details as smaller pieces to lay on top.

On the inside of the t-shirt, lightly iron on a piece of interfacing that covers the area of the design you’ll be sewing on to stabilise the t-shirt fabric. This will make it much easier to sew on your appliqué design, stopping it stretching out of shape.

image

Pin your main background piece in place. Sew onto the t-shirt with a mid-width, short length zig-zag. This will prevent any fraying and make sure it can survive a great deal of wear and tear.

image

You can continue to zig-zag all the pieces of the design on, but I wanted some variety and decided to hand stitch these in place using a back stitch (see tutorial here) with embroidery silk.

image

To finish the face off I used embroidery silk to do the pupils and nose. For a good finish, back stitch the outline of the feature to begin. Fill the shape with long straight stitches that are close together.

image

The reverse should look a little like this.

image

Now trim the interfacing so that it fits around the border of your design neatly. This will stop it from restricting the natural stretch of the jersey fabric unnecessarily.

I stitched the bow I’d taken off the vest onto the dog’s ear. (This position was insisted upon by my recovering patient from the sofa!)

You, of course, can embellish your design any way you want to.

image

The finished article!

Were I doing another one, I’d probably attach the skirt slightly higher on the t-shirt, but other than that I’m very pleased with the result.

image

Modeled by my cutie pie 🙂

I really hope that you like my project. If you have a go, I’d love to see what you come up with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s