Friday, March 11, 2011

Craft Tutorial: Refashion Two T Shirts into a Girls Dress


I wanted to make something for the girls to wear on St. Patrick’s Day, but more on the subtle side. I’ve had this fabric for a few years that I bought because I thought it was cute with nothing to make with it in mind. The little clovers made this fabric perfect for an applique. I also added some little accent appliques in green.


I used two t-shirts that I found on sale. It must have been cheapo t-shirt week…Michael’s had regular t-shirts on sale for $2.50 each (I got size XL to get the most fabric!) and at Walgreens of all places, I found a bin of $1 t-shirts. I liked the Walgreens one because of the neckline that I knew I could reuse. It was a size small and I’m not sure if it’s a women’s small or kid’s small??? Anyways, I scooped up a couple of each.

The small light purple t-shirts from Walgreens made up the bodice, and the big t-shrts from Michael’s made up the little sleeves…


…and the skirt. I was also able to use the hem of the t-shirt. So reusing the neckline and the hem saved me a lot of time. This was also the first time in a long time (I’m talking high school) that I’ve sewn with knits, so I really appreciated the shortcuts!


How to Make a Dress from Two T-Shirts



  • Two t-shirts as mentioned above. One big and one small. My girls are a size 4 right now, so the small shirt should be bigger. Or, use a shirt that’s already the right size, and you can keep or omit the shirt/sleeve steps below.
  • A shirt or shirts that fit well to use as a template. I liked the top of the printed shirt, and I liked the little skirt on the red dress.
  • Applique fabrics
  • Fusible webbing such as Steam-A-Seam2
  • Water-soluable fabric pen
  • Not shown: Rotary cutter/straight edge, scissors, sewing machine, serger (optional), thread


Lay your template shirt out onto the small tshirt and trace the arm holes and sides. Use a straight edge to help make sure it’s level. Then repeat on the back, joining the lines at the shoulders.



Cut along the lines, keeping the shoulder seam intact.


Before we sew up the shirt, let’s sew on the applique. I cut out a heart on a piece of paper. That looks like a good size.


Trace the heart onto one side of the Steam-A-Seam2. I also free-handed the little accent shapes. Cut around the outline. Follow the rest of the directions on the package: peel off the non-traced side and press it to the wrong side of the fabric. Cut along the tracing line. Then peel off the non-traced side of the accent shape and cut along the tracing line, then peel off the other side and press onto the right side of the big heart.



Then fuse to the t-shirt, and top stitch along the edge. Also top-stitch along the accent shape.


Now let’s cut the sleeves and skirt from the XL t-shirt. Cut six inches off the bottom, leaving the hem intact (that’s pretty much all of the XL shirt you’ll use…still lots of fabric left for something else!).

Then cut about 5 inches off the side, leaving the side fold of the shirt intact. For the sleeve, I cut a little rock-of-gibraltar shape and cut it on the fold.


Open it up and this is what you get.


I put two spools of thread in my serger to sew a rolled hem along the sleeve. You don’t have to do this…you can either leave it raw (cut it more nicely than I did!), fold it over and zig-zag a hem, or make the sleeve two layers.


On my serger, here’s how the rolled hem looks…I definitely need to play around with the tensions (or something!) a little more to make the stitches closer together.


Fold the sleeve in half and put the half-way mark on the shoulder seam. Pin the straight edge along the arm hole.


Put the other two spools into your serger to do regular serger stitching. Starting at the armpit of the shirt, start serging. If you don’t have a serger, again you can use a zig-zag on your regular machine.


Keep going as you attach the sleeve to the shirt, all the way to the other armpit. Repeat with the other sleeve.


Here’s how the sleeve will look when you first attach it. By the way, in addition to pins, you can use a little temporary basting glue to keep the corners in place.


Iron the sleeve to face the other way, and this will also create a folded over hem for the rest of the arm hole. Press that down too.


Using a straight stitch on your regular sewing machine, sew the arm hole hem down starting from the armpit, and you’ll stop once you hit the tip of the sleeve.


At that point, lift up the presser foot and turn the fabric 90 degrees so that it’s sewing towards the outside.


You’ll get a little right-angle at the start of the sleeve. Backstitch as well. I saw that they did this on my template shirt!


Serge or zig-zag stitch the sides of the shirt together.


Now for the skirt. Serge or zig zag the raw edge that you cut earlier.


Then mark the midpoints of the skirt starting with the middle, then the middle of the middle, etc, so you have 7 marks. The side seam is the 8th point.


Turn your shirt upside down and right-side out. On the right side of the fabric, do the same thing. These marks will be where you join the skirt and shirt together.


Use a basting stitch on your sewing machine and pull the bobbin thread to gather. For me, it didn’t need much gathering.


With right sides together, match up the marks you drew on the shirt and skirt and pin.


I was nervous about serging it right away! So I basted the skirt and shirt together. Then I serged it and removed the basting stitches with a seam ripper.


And you’re done.


I like that it’s great for St. Patrick’s Day, but they can still wear it all year, layered or by itself. Speaking of layers, the only time they’ve worn these dresses is over their PJs! So when I get a proper picture of them wearing the dresses, I will update the post! {Edited: Here’s a pic!}


And this was a great learning experience using my new serger (a Christmas gift from my mom) and working with knits, refashioning something to something else, making clothing, and creating my own pattern. Lots of firsts for me and lots of fun. Can’t wait to do it again.

This is also my first new tutorial since starting this blog just over a month ago! Welcome to my new craft blog! I’ve moved most of my past tutorials to this blog as well. Let me know if you’ve try this or any of my other tutorials, and I’d love to feature you here on The Silly Pearl!

Oh one more thing…our internet isn’t working this week. I’m using my hubby’s phone as a 3G hotspot, so I can only blog when he’s home. I’m working on lots of projects in the meantime, plus a giveaway coming up in a week on The Vintage Sheet Blog! Hope you’ll stick around!

Linking up to these craft linkys, as well as Crystal’s Craft Spot’s monthly challenge. This month’s theme is Fabric.



  1. Great idea! I'm jealous of your serger ;) Thanks for sharing! xx

  2. Cute! Thanks for the idea! :)

  3. I love these! Like Rissa, I am very jealous of your serger. DO you think this would work without one? I'm dying to make my daughter tank top dresses but worry about not having a serger.

  4. Hi Pati,
    Before I got my serger, I did look into sewing knits with my regular machine (my girls won't wear anything but knits). I learned you can either get a ballpoint needle, or a double needle that sews two straight stitched on top and a zig zag on the bottom. I think the ballpoint needle is more widely available. As for hemming/finishing edges, some are ok with folding the edge over once with a zigzag (since knits don't fray) while some like to fold over twice. 

    I remember my mom made my ice skating costumes for me using swimsuit material with her Elna from the mid 70s, long before she got a serger herself. So it can be done!!!

    Hope this helps. Let me know if you'd like more specifics, or if you try it yourself I'd love to hear about it!

    Have a great weekend and thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. These dresses are lovely, they look amazingly cute!

  6. Great job! Love the fabric used for the applique! It's cute!

    I am having a gibeaway on my blog. $38 + free ship from busy little hands to buy a cute kid backpack from her store. She has tote's for mom too. All you have to do is leave a comment.Do check it out.

  7. I used to skate, too! lol! Great tutorial, btw, now I wish I had the energy and time and my mom's serger.... :p maybe one of these days! It doesn't look TOO hard.... ;-) Thanks for sharing!

    Found you from Tip Junkie's linky list today!


  8. What sweet little dresses! Thanks for such a detailed tutorial.

  9. You make it look so simple! Thanks for the tute and thank you for linking it up at the DIY Craft Party at FineCRAFTguild

    Hope to see you again next week Wednesday!

  10. Very cute! Thanks for your tutorial! Those girls are just too cute for words too!
    Thanks for linking up to Making It With Allie! I can't wait to see what you have for next week!

  11. My daughter loves to wear dresses. This is a great idea for me to create some additions to her wardrobe!

  12. Steph, your dresses are so sweet and wonderful, and your tutorial made the project very approachable. I really need to get a serger one of these days.

    Thank you so much for continuing to be a part of "A Little Birdie Told Me..." Tuesdays!

    Jenn/Rook No. 17

    P.S. Love the new site!

  13. OMG! That's sooo cute! I wish I could sew!!!

  14. You go girl! Great idea! I don't see why I couldn't do a little recycling of some of my old t-shirts for part of it to make a dress for my daughter! Thank you!


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