Introduction: Sew a Newspaper Dress

About: Hi, I'm Laura and I make stuff!

This Instructable will teach you how to make a dress out of newspaper using a sewing machine. It makes a great recycled Halloween costume or a very interesting party dress.

This was part of a Halloween costume of The Old Gray Lady, a nickname for the New York Times. (Hence the makeup and hairdo.) It consists of a fitted, pleated bodice, a puffy petticoat, and a removable waistband, all made completely from newspaper and thread, with no glue or tape used in the process. It is surprisingly comfortable and wearable.

To make this dress, you need a stack of newspaper (I used one Sunday edition of the New York Times), a basic sewing machine, basic sewing skills, straight pins, a ruler, 2 feet of velcro, a spool of white thread, a pencil, a pair of scissors, a belt, a mirror, and a friend to help you with a couple of the steps.

This dress should fit around a size medium. It took about 8 hours to fully construct.

See the final step for ideas on how to incorporate this amazing dress into a costume for Halloween!

Note: Please keep this dress away from water and fire as it is made of paper!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

To make this dress, you need:

-a stack of newspaper (I used one Sunday edition of the New York Times)

-2 feet of velcro

-a spool of white thread

-a basic sewing machine (and basic sewing skills)

-straight pins

-a ruler

-a pencil

-a pair of scissors

-a belt

-access to a mirror

-a friend to help you with a couple of the steps

-around 8 hours of time

The dress was designed to fit around a size medium.

Step 2: Start Making the Pleats

-Get three sheets of full-size newspaper and stack them evenly on top of each other.

-Starting at one side, fold up the edge 1/2 inch. Use your fingernail to crease each fold to make sure they are crisp and defined.

-Fold the paper again in the same direction, making a 1 inch fold this time. Be sure to measure and keep the pleats straight.

Step 3: Keep Pleating

-Flip the paper over. Fold the paper up to meet the original edge (see photo)- this will be a 1/2 inch fold. Crease well.

-Flip the paper over. Fold up a 1 inch fold from the side you have been pleating and crease well.

-Unfold the last fold slightly, and fold up a 1/2 inch fold to meet the edge of the last 1/2 inch fold (see photo).

Step 4: Continue Pleating

-Continue pleating in the same way until you reach the end of the paper.
---Fold a 1" pleat
---Fold a 1/2" pleat on the opposite side to meet the opposite fold
---Fold a 1" pleat on the opposite side
---Fold a 1/2"pleat on the first side to meet the opposite fold
---....repeat until finished

-Use a ruler to keep your pleats straight and even, and be careful not to get confused by the fold at the center of the newspaper.

-Crease each pleat thoroughly.

Step 5: Finish Pleating

-Make 3 more pieces like the first pleated piece, for a total of 4 pleated pieces.
(Remember, each of these pleated pieces is made from 3 full sheets of newsprint.)

-This dress should fit around a size medium. In general, you need one pleated piece for every 8 inches of waist circumference if you want to try to adapt it for larger sizes.

Step 6: Sew the Pleated Pieces

-Measure to the center of two of the pleated pieces and draw a line in pencil on each (across the pleats).

-Take the other 2 pleated pieces and measure to 1 1/2 inches above the center point, and draw a line in pencil across the pleats.

-Set your sewing machine to Baste (if it has that option). Otherwise, choose the longest stitch length it has (I used 6), and set the thread tension fairly low if you can adjust it (mine was set to around 3).
This will make the stitches easier to rip out if necessary without ruining the paper, and it will be less likely to tear since they are far apart.

-Sew along the pencil line you drew across the pleats. Be sure to keep the pleats folded properly while you're sewing. Remember to backstitch at start and finish. Do this for each of the 4 pleated pieces.

-You may need to fold up the end of the pleated piece before you start sewing to fit it through your sewing machine.

Step 7: Sew the Front Bodice Pieces Together

-Take the 2 pleated pieces with the stitching down the center. These will form the front of the bodice of your dress.

-Lay them down next to each other and line them up.

-Overlap the pieces by 1/2 inch.

-Carefully sew them together, sewing 1/4 inch from the edge of the piece. Remember to backstitch at start and finish.

Step 8: Sew the Back Bodice Pieces to the Front

-Take one of your pleated pieces with the off-center stitching. This will be one of the back bodice pieces.

-Line the piece up alongside your front bodice (the center-stitched pieces), aligning the stitching but not the top and bottom of the paper. (see photo)

-Overlap the pieces by 1/2 inch.

-Carefully sew the back bodice piece to the front bodice along the center of the overlap, 1/4 inch from the edge of the piece. Remember to backstitch at start and finish.

-Repeat this step for the other back bodice (off-center stitched) piece. Make sure that the back bodice pieces are at the same height and not reversed (see photo)- they should be aligned with each other but not with the front bodice piece (center). Sew the other back bodice piece to the front bodice, but do not sew the two back bodice pieces to each other.

Step 9: Trying on the Bodice

-For this step, you need to be wearing thin clothing or your underwear for proper fitting.

-Wrap the bodice around your body with the center in front, and flipped so that the back bodice pieces are lower than the front bodice on your torso.

-Carefully wrap a belt around your waist and fasten it to hold the bodice pieces in place.

-The center stitching should be somewhere around your natural waist, the narrowest part of your torso. Use the belt and tighten it if necessary to get the bodice in the right place.

Step 10: Fitting the Bodice

-Press the pleats down across your chest so that they lie close to your body.

-The pleats should be pulling apart across your wider parts, and at the neckline they should come together again and possibly overlap a bit.

-Use straight pins generously to hold the pleats in place. Be careful not to pin yourself or pin the newspaper to your clothing. You may want to stand in front of a mirror while you do this.

-Keep pinning the neckline until the pins are holding the pleats close against your body at the top of the dress.

-Use a pencil to draw a pretty neckline along the top of the dress. (see photos) Use a mirror to see what you're doing.

Step 11: Sew the Neckline

-Sew along the neckline of the front bodice 1/4 inch from the top of the dress. Careful not to stitch directly into pins. You can remove the pins as you go- be careful not to forget any. Backstitch at start and finish.

-Retrace over your neckline in pencil, making it even and symmetrical.

-Sew along the neckline again, this time sewing 1/4 inch below the pencil line you drew. Backstitch at start and finish.

-Carefully cut along the pencil line, making sure not to cut through the last line of stitching you did.

-Sew again along the neckline at 1/4 inch from the top, and at 1/8 inch from the top, to make sure the pleats are held together.

Step 12: Make the Armholes

-Put the dress bodice on again using a belt to hold it in place, just like you did in Step 9.

-Space the pleats out slightly along your side so that the dress fits well.

-Draw a line where the armhole cutout should be. You might ask a friend to help you with this step. Do this for both sides of the dress.

-Take the dress off. Space the pleats out slightly as shown in the photo. Sew 1/4 inch from the edge to keep the pleats spaced out like this, backstitching at start and finish. Your seam should go from the edge of the front bodice piece to the end of each back bodice piece.

-Tidy up your armhole lines, then sew another seam 1/4 inch below the line. Carefully cut out the armhole, being careful not to cut through this second line of stitching. Do this for both sides of the dress.

-Try the bodice on and double check the fit of the armholes. If you need to make adjustments, draw a new line, then sew 1/4 inch below it, then cut, never cutting through the bottom line of stitching.

-When you've got the armholes so they fit, sew a few more times below the cut to reinforce it and make sure the pleats stay as you've spaced them.

Step 13: Add the Velcro Closure

-Cut a piece of velcro about 15 inches long.

-Take the soft side of the velcro and sew it just at the edge of the inside surface of the right back bodice piece. Line up the top of the velcro with the top of the bodice. It won't reach all the way to the bottom of the bodice.

-Put on the dress bodice again. Have a friend pull the bodice closed in back so that it feels like it fits snugly but comfortably.

-Have your friend draw a line with a pencil along the edge of the back dress opening.

-Place the scratchy side of the velcro to the right of the line your friend drew and sew it in place.

Step 14: Sew a Second Waist Seam

-Measure 3 1/2 inches up from the original waist seam you sewed on the pleated pieces.

-Sew a seam around the entire dress that is 3 1/2 inches above the original waist seam.

-Make sure the pleats are completely flat and folded where you sew this seam.

-This seam will be at around the height of an empire waist, whereas the other waist seam is near your natural waistline. It will help to shape the dress in a more flattering way.

Step 15: Trim the Back Bodice

-Cut an even curve along the bottom of each back bodice piece to transition from the shorter front to the longer back of the dress bodice.

Step 16: Make the Straps

-Take 3 sheets of newsprint and stack them on top of each other.

-Fold up the edge 1 inch and crease.

-Fold this edge over again and crease it.

-Fold it up 3 more times, creasing each time.

-Cut this folded piece off from the rest of the newspaper sheet.

-Make a second folded piece just like this one.

-Sew each of these strap pieces 1/4 inch from the edge of the fold along either side, and down the middle as well.

Step 17: Attach the Straps

-Pin the straps to the edges of the front bodice piece. Careful not to pin yourself or your clothing.

-Have a friend pull the straps over your shoulders to the edge of the armholes on the back of the bodice. Adjust the straps to a comfortable tension and ask your friend to mark with a pencil on the strap a line at the height of the top of the back bodice.

-Sew the straps to the dress at the front and the back. The straps should be inside the dress bodice. Use several lines of stitching to reinforce it.

-Trim the excess length from the straps.

-Congratulations! You finished the dress bodice. The rest is easy!

Step 18: Make the Petticoat

This portion of the dress is much easier than the bodice.

-Stack 3 sheets of newsprint on top of each other.

-Scrunch up the narrower end as you sew 1/4 inch from the edge of the piece. The seam will hold the scrunching in place. Scrunch it a lot of greater volume in the petticoat.

-Gently crumple up the top 2 layers of the panel with your hands to give them volume.

-Repeat this 6 or so times so that you have many scrunched panels of newsprint.

-Sew the bottoms of the 3 layers of 2 panels together.

-Sew these pieces together at the top (scrunched part), overlapping by 1/2 inch.

-Repeat until all of the pieces are attached, but do not sew them into a complete circle.

-Cut a 3 inch piece of velcro.

-Put the skirt around your waist and mark the edge where it meets. Sew in a velcro closure at the edge of one piece and along the line you drew on the other side so that the skirt closes.

The petticoat is finished! You can adjust and re-crumple as necessary until it poufs appropriately.

Step 19: Make the Waistband

-Start with 2 stacks of newsprint with 2 sheets each. These can be the half-width pages left over from various sections.

-Try to pick a side that has a contrasting color from the rest of your dress. My dress was light grey, and I picked a dark black image to contrast.

-Set the side you want to be the outside of the waistband face down.

-Overlap the 2 stacks by 6 inches on the shorter side.

-Sew a seam 1/4 inch from the edge of each piece (so, two seams total).

-With the outside of the waistband face down, fold up 3 1/2 inches from the long side and crease well. Use a ruler to make sure it is straight and even.

-Keep folding over neatly 3 more times, creasing each time.

-Trim the excess newsprint along the edge of the folded part, just like you did with the strap.

-Sew along the 2 long folded edges 1/4 inch from the fold.

-Attach a 3 1/2 inch strip of the soft side of the velcro along one edge.

-Put on the dress bodice with the help of a friend, then wrap the waistband around your waist. Have your friend mark where the velcro edge meets the rest of the waistband.

-Take off the dress. Sew the scratchy side of the velcro along the line your friend drew.

-Trim the excess length from the waistband.

Step 20: You're Finished!

Congratulations, you have made an amazing dress completely out of newspaper!

To wear the dress, first put on the petticoat. Then, have a friend help you fasten the bodice over the petticoat. Lastly, put on the waistband over the bodice.

This dress can be just worn as a very interesting party dress, or can be incorporated into a number of different costumes.

Some ideas:

--The Old Gray Lady
    -A nickname for the New York Times, this makes a perfect outfit for going as the New York Times personified. Do spooky gray makeup and weird gray hair.

--The Death of the Newspaper
   -Do zombie makeup and make a nametag of a recently discontinued newspaper and go as a newspaper come back from the dead.

--The Recycling Fairy
   -Add some wings and some glittery makeup and you are the perfect eco-fairy.

--A Project Runway contestant
   -Pretend you're wearing your fashionable Newspaper outfit from this season's Project Runway.

--As the basis for any costume that requires a fancy dress. Add some paint and sequins and you could be an awesome, recycled rendition of any princess or queen.

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