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The Amazing Pillowcase Dress Sew~Along {one shoulder tie & empire waist}

Yikes, getting the tutorial up late is becoming a habit. Hopefully one I will break next week.

This is our fourth week and if you’ve been making a dress each week I bet you’re becoming quite confident in the construction of a pillowcase dress. Also, I hope you are beginning to realize the variations are almost endless.

Today’s dress will have a one shoulder tie and a ribbon tie for the waist.


Pillowcase (or fabric)
7/8″ – 1 1/2″ ribbon
Sewing machine
Safety Pin

Thin nylon rope

1. Make your own “pillowcase” (if using an already made pillowcase skip this step)

Cut rectangle to size. I cut my rectangle 47″ wide by 24″ long. The fabric I’m using has a cute underwater scene appliqued at the bottom and so I only want to have one seam. I’ll position it in the back.

2. Cut off fold of pillowcase

If you’re using a pillowcase or you made one like I did you will need to cut off the folded area so that you have a tube. If you made your own “pillowcase” but didn’t use the fold on your fabric and you already have a tube then you are good to go…just skip this step.

3. Make lining
This is just what we did last week since the pillowcase was sheer. Since this is a pretty heavy fabric I’m only going to line the bodice (the top part). But you feel free to line the whole dress like we did last week or not line the dress at all like the first week. Whatever works best for you is great however, you can’t do a one shoulder tie if you use the elastic version from week 2. (ok, as I think about it you can but I’m saving that technique for next week’s dress) 
So, my lining measures 7″ long by 47″ wide. Sew the short ends together to make a tube the same width as your dress. I didn’t hem the lining I just did a zig zag on the edge since it’s just going down to the waist.
4. Make armholes

Fold your dress in half longways. On the seam side you’re going to go 1.5″ to 3″ in and 3″ to 4.5″ down.

I cut the dress first and then used the part I cut out as a pattern for the lining so that they would match. 
5. Sew in lining

Turn the dress right side out and pin the lining to it. The lining will be wrong side out so that the patterned side of the fabric for the dress and the lining are touching.

Pin all around the armholes and front and back.

Stitch the entire area that you pinned.

Clip the corners making sure that you don’t clip through your stitches.

Now clip the curves in the armholes just like you did last week.

Turn the dress right side out so that your lining is inside the dress.

Iron the seam so that your lining will lay flat.

Topstitch just the armholes. (Remember that topstitching is just sewing really close to the edge so that the lining will stay down)
6. Make a casing for the tie

Fold down about 1 1/2″ of front (between the armholes) toward the inside of the dress. Iron if you want to.
Make sure that the casing is plenty wide for your ribbon.

Stitch along the edge.

Using a safety pin insert the ribbon into the casing.

 7.Make the tie

Cut a piece of fabric (can be just like the fabric you used for the dress or a co-ordinating fabric) that is about 3″ wide and long enough to go across the child’s front, back, one shoulder and make a tie. I cut mine to 47″. Remember it’s always easier to shorten the tie than it is to lengthen it.

Tie a knot at the end of the nylon rope (which needs to be at least a little longer than your fabric) and lay it just to one side of the center of the fabric with the right side up.

Fold the fabric and pin the rope in and then pin all the way down the long open side. Stitch the rope in going back and forth a couple of times.

Stitch the long open side of the fabric together.

Holding your long tube loosely, pull the nylon rope… it should begin to bunch up.

This is what the end will look like. See all that extra fabric around the knot? You need to help it over the knot as you continue pulling the rope. The tube will begin to turn into itself.

This is what will come out of the tube. Continue pulling down the fabric until it is all right side out. Cut off the end of the fabric with the rope sewn in. Now you should have a thin tube that is open on both ends.

Iron your tube. You can either put the tube down the center like I did or you can put it to one side. Turn each end into itself about 1/4″ and topstitch closed. I actually topstitched all four sides.

8. Gather the front

To gather the front you just need to sew a couple of rows of basting stitches. (Basting stitches are really long stitches and you don’t backstitch at the beginning or the end to lock them in place in fact you need to leave long tails on each end.)  Yes, you need two rows, not one. (just in case my sister is reading this – she who thought one would be fine even though I said two)

I used my lining as my guide for my first row of basting stitches. If you didn’t line your dress or if you lined the whole thing just mark off how far down you want the waist to be and draw a line across the front. Similar to what we did last week to put in the elastic waist but this week you’re only gathering the front.

I made my rows about 1/4″ apart which is plenty.

Turn the dress right side out and carefully begin pulling one set of strings ( I forgot to turn my dress.)
9 Adding a ribbon waist

Measure how the wide you want the front to be and then mark that on your ribbon. Make sure to take it out of the middle and leave equal amounts on each side of the pins. I used 12″.

Now, pin each side to the where your basting stitches stop. It should be about the middle of the armhole. If you have 2 side seams it will be your side seams.

Pin the top of the ribbon to the dress using your top basting stitch as your guide.

Stitch the ribbon on make sure that you’ve put your stitch length back to what you normally sew with. This is one time I just sew right over the pins. I really want this to be as straight as possible so it’s worth the risk of bending a pin. But if that just freaks you out, take out the pins as your go.

Now stitch the bottom of the ribbon onto the dress. You’ll need to gently tug the bottom of the dress every so often so that the gathers will fall nicely. Otherwise you’ll end up with a lopsided skirt. The skirt portion will be much larger gathers than the bodice is.
If you used a pillowcase you’re done! Unless of course you want to add some embellishments. If you didn’t use a pillowcase keep going.

10. Hem your dress

I know you’re shocked but I actually hemmed this dress properly. I folded about 1″ of fabric and ironed it. I opened that up and tucked the raw edges in and ironed that so I have about a 1/2″ hem.

You, of course, can use the bias tape method or the ribbon method if you want. There’s just so much going on at the bottom of this dress that I didn’t want to distract from it.

11. Enjoy

Any questions? If so leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them there. Also, if you’ve made some pillowcase dresses be sure leave a link in the comments so we can all see your creation.

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Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Jessi W

Thursday 12th of July 2012

I love this dress! The little ribbon on the dress that ties into a bow on the back is just too cute :-) Thanks for linking up to The Fun In Functional!

Rachel E.

Friday 6th of July 2012

This is so cute. It makes me yearn for my sewing machine, but I would need to make my curtains first.


Tuesday 10th of July 2012

Thanks Rachel! I love making curtains. Hopefully your machine will get there soon.