In the United States we would not consider a homemade t-shirt dress for a special occasion, but to a girl in an impoverished county, the day she receives her very first new dress, is indeed a special occasion!
I've (Vicki) been sewing dresses for distribution to girls in need for three years. I usually make pillowcase dresses, but have started to make t-shirt dresses since finding instructions for utilizing a t-shirt as the bodice of a dress. See the instructions here.
I have modified the instructions to better fit my style of sewing. Let's get started.
Step 1: Gather Materials
- Cotton or Cotton blend fabric, pre-washed
- Cotton t-shirt, pre-washed
- Fusible interfacing, lightweight
- Fusible webbing (optional)
- Black permanent marker
- Cutting mat, rotary cutter, sewing ruler
- Sewing machine, I'm using a vintage singer 221
- Sewing clips
Step 2: Cut the T-shirt.
- Lay the t-shirt, inside out, front side facing up on the cutting mat.
- Match up the bottom of the armholes with one of the horizontal lines.
- Smooth everything out.
- With the ruler and rotary cutter, cut the bottom of the shirt 3" from the bottom of the armholes.
- Continue to cut 2" strips from the remaining piece to use as trim.
- Mark the front, back, and sides with the marker.
- The selvages will be seamed and will be placed at the center back.
Step 3: Cut the Interfacing
With the rotary cutter, cut one inch strips across the width of the interfacing. Approximately two are needed for each dress.
Step 4: Cut the Fabric
- Refer to chart in the link for the length needed.
- I like to clip one selvage side and tear the fabric across grain to get a straight edge.
- Add about two inches to the finished length to allow for hemming.
- Press the fabric if there is significant wrinkling especially on the selvage edges.
- Mark the center and sides of the skirt with the marker.
Step 5: Make the Skirt
- The back seam is finished with a French seam.
- To make a French seam: Pin selvage edges wrong sides together.
- Stitch a 3/8" seam, fold and press so the right sides of the fabric are now together, pin or use clips.
- Sew again, this time slightly wider than 3/8" so the previous seam is now enclosed.
- Press the seam to one side.
- Gather the top of the skirt.
- This is where I vary from the instructions in the original.
- The original instructs you to add tucks to fit the skirt to the bodice.
- This method is a little to imprecise for my liking and took too much time to finesse.
- Gathering by machine and adjusting the gathers by pulling out gathers to fit or adding small tucks works much better for me.
- Use the machine gathering foot, a tight top tension, and the longest available stitch to gather the top of the skirt.
Step 6: Attaching the Skirt to the T-shirt Top
- Fuse the interfacing to the cut edge of the t-shirt. This is to stabilize the knit so it does not stretch out of shape. Be sure you are still able to see your marks at center and sides of t-shirt.
- With right sides together match up the centers and side marks of the skirt with those of the bodice.
- Pin. Depending on the size of the bodice, adjust the gathering by cutting threads and pulling out gathers or adding small tucks.
- Pin all around.
- Sew 1/4" to 3/8" from edge.
- Sew again about 1/8" from previous stitches in the seam allowance to help prevent fraying.
- Press the bodice seam towards the top of the garment (away from the skirt).
- With the garment right side out, top stitch 1/8" from seam. This gives the garment a finished look and helps with fraying.
Step 7: Step 7: Hem
Turn up one inch for the hem, press, turn up one inch one more time. Stitch close to the folded edge. Add ruffle trim made from the leftover t-shirt strips. Machine gather, top stitch ruffle to the stitched hem line.