Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Making a (non) pillowcase dress

I really hate sewing. I'm definitely no "seamstress." But, I decided to make something else crafty this week (a mei tai!), and while I was at it, I decided to give these cute dresses a try, too.

Have you seen these pillowcase dresses that are in every boutique and Etsy store these days? They are SO cute. I've seen adorable ones with embroidery, monogramming, all kind of cuteness. But gracious, they are EXPENSIVE for being such an "easy" item!

So, for less than $5, I made my own. And if I can do it, ANYBODY can do it!

First, find a cute print that you like. If you are starting with a real pillowcase, your life is that much easier because the sides are already sewn shut and you shouldn't have much trouble lining everything up so it's even. But if you are like me and don't honestly know where they sell pillowcases that are cute enough to be dresses separate from the rest of the bedding set (and for this cheap!), you can just buy a yard or so of fabric (depending on the size of your little one, of course). I bought two squares of pre-cut fabric from Wal-mart that were 18"x21" a piece. I wanted something for my little girl to wear on the Fourth of July in a few days, so I went with a red cotton with white stars.

Isn't it cute?

But... here's what's not so cute. Every anti-seamstress' dread.

The sewing machine! Brings back horrible memories of junior high home economics class, and having to make my own skirt. Which I then had to wear. To school.

I borrowed my mom's sewing machine, since I have misplaced mine (due to never having used it in the six years I've had it). My mom said the reason it's called "brother" is because when you get it out to work on a project, you end up saying "Oh, brother, why am I doing this?!"

Okay, but it's truly not that bad! At least this project isn't. You'll first want to break out the iron (another task which I dread, but it does make life easier on this one occasion) to fold down your hemlines. Then, I hemmed what would become the bottom of each piece.

You'll need to cut off both corners at the top to allow for the armholes. One site I found said to measure 2" along the top and 3" along the side, then cut a straight line across to connect those measurements. Another site said to simply cut out a "J" shape from each corner. I kind of did a mix of those. The measurements the first site gave didn't quite seem big enough, so I fudged them a little with the "J" shape idea. It's fine. We're into individuality.

Fold down the top and allow room for a ribbon to pass through. Hem.

Next, you'll want to lay your two separate pieces together, outsides facing in toward each other. Double check to make sure your tops and bottoms are lined up. You don't want the dress to be three inches longer in the front than in the back.

Stitch both sides together, leaving room at the top to allow for the armholes.

And, I don't know what took me so long to notice this, and maybe there's a totally different use for this feature of the sewing machine, but right about this time (after I'd been using the sewing machine all day) I noticed these nifty little lines parallel to the needle. Could it be this was put in place to help lopsided sewers like me keep their fabric in a straight line while sewing? I felt a little smarter after that.

The last step involving the sewing machine was to hem each of the armholes. You really could do this earlier in the process, but I saved it for last, mostly because I thought it would be the hardest part. I also wasn't sure if I had left enough room for my toddler's skinny little arms to squeeze through. I ended up folding the edges down once more to open it up a smidgen.

Turn the dress right side out.

Both your top and your bottom should be open, so it's more of a "tube" or a "tunnel" at this point, rather than a dress.

You should have two wides hems to allow for two ribbons to run through them.

And what would be cuter for an Independence Day ensemble than navy blue ribbon? I used a grosgrain ribbon that's not quite an inch wide. String a ribbon through each side. Length depends on how long you want the ribbon to hang down upon completion.

Bunch the fabric together a bit to make the top a little more fitted. Tie the ribbon into bows. Or, if you like, double knot and let the ribbons hang flat. That looks cute, too.

And, in one of the newly discovered words from my daughter, ta-da! Finished product. Totally simple, totally cheap, and totally CUTE!

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