Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sewing: Patriotic Pillowcase Dresses

Aesthetic Nest: Sewing: Patriotic Pillowcase Dresses


I wanted to make some quick outfits for the girls to wear to Fourth of July celebrations this year. Last year I made some dresses from Portabello Pixie patterns, which turned out beautifully, but I was literally finishing them while the celebratory BBQ was beginning. This year I decided I would make some simple pillowcase dresses--less time intensive and more playful for the casual celebrations too. So I went on a fabric hunt and wasn't finding anything that seemed patriotic but not too cliche. Then I found this fabulous anchor scarf panel! It's Bar Harbor by Minick & Simpson for Moda Fabrics. I love this nautical pattern! I love the cadet blue and off white coloring. I thought it would be so perfect for a pillowcase dress with some red accents. And it is!

So here are Audrey and Scarlett in their Patriotic Pillowcase dresses:


I used a red cotton for the tie and added a ruffle to Audrey's dress. Not only do I think the ruffle is darling, but it adds some length to the dress--she is getting so tall! I left the ruffle off of Scarlett's dress as it was plenty long on her. I think the dress is so cute and fun with and without the ruffle--can't wait for them to wear these to our BBQs this weekend.

Here's the tutorial for making these dresses in a size 4 and a size 2, with and without ruffle (click to read more after the jump):

Supplies for one dress:

  • 1 package seam binding in off white or oyster

  • 1/2 yard red cotton fabric for ruffle and tie (54" wide or wider)

  • Off white/oyster thread and red thread

Start with a Bar Harbor Anchor Scarf panel (these measure 23" x 44"), which includes a set of two "scarves," which will be the front and the back of the dress. Trim the selvage so the pattern is centered on the fabric.

Then you'll need to cut out the arm holes. Do this by folding the panel (the two "scarves") in half lengthwise so you can cut perfectly symmetrical arm holes.  For size 4, you'll need to cut down 6 inches from the top of the fabric and two inches from the sides--round the corner as shown in the chalk markings below.  For size 2, cut down 4 inches from the top and two inches from the side, rounding the corner.


Then use french seams to join the front and the back "scarves" by first pinning and seaming with wrong sides together (I stitch this first seam with the fabric aligned with the edge of my sewing foot),  then pressing the seam to one side, turning the garment inside out and seaming right sides together. This second seam should be slightly wider than the first so you encase the first seam inside it. (You'll want to seam the folded edge of this panel just as you do the raw/cut edge to keep the dress symmetrical.)

I love french seams because they produce such a nicely finished garment--no need to zigzag or serge the seam allowances inside.

Now use the seam binding to finish the arm holes. Do this by opening out the fold and lining up the edge of the seam binding with the edge of the fabric, right sides together. Pin carefully, especially around the curve, to avoid puckering and pleating in the fabric. Stitch in the fold line of the seam binding. Trim seam and fold seam binding to the inside/wrong side of the dress. Pin carefully and top stitch on the right side of the arm hole being careful to catch both halves of the seam binding.

Next is the casing at the neck for the ties. Fold down 1/4" from the top of the front and the back sides of the dress and stitch a small hem. Then fold the tops down 1 and 1/2" and stitch in place to form the casing in the front and the back.

You can now hem the bottom of the dress by folding under the fabric 1/4" twice and top stitching. (I cut off about 1 1/2 inches from the bottom first before hemming for my two-year-old to make it a bit shorter.)

There it is: your finished pillow case dress. You could now use ribbon to cinch the neck and form the ties, but I love the look of a wider fabric tie.

To make the tie and ruffle, cut strips the width of your 54" cotton fabric: two six inch, for the ruffle, and one four inch for the tie. I cut mine with the fabric folded selvages together (just as it comes off the bolt).  (You may certainly use 45" wide fabric, the ruffle just won't be as full and you will need to measure your child--use a piece of ribbon in place of the tie perhaps--and see if you need to cut an extra strip to lengthen the tie.)


Hem the edges of the tie by folding under twice, as narrowly as possible--I'm always aiming for 1/4" or less. To save time, I fold under twice and stitch as I go, which is what my mom taught me, but you could certainly fold once, pin and stitch and then do it again. Finish the ends similarly. You can miter the corners if you would like. The tie is now ready to thread through the casing. I found using a large safety pin as a guide was helpful.


To make the ruffle, sew the two 6-inch strips of fabric right sides together on the short ends to form an ring. press and finish the seams with a zigzag stitch or serger.  Now hem the bottom edge by folding under 1/4" twice and top stitching (similar to the finishing of the tie).  Then finish the top edge with a zigzag stitch or serger. You're ready for the gathering.

I think the easiest way to gather a long piece of fabric such as this is to use the zigzag-dental floss method! Do this by laying the dental floss under the middle of your sewing foot and sewing over it with a wide, long zigzag as shown below:

This will allow you to pull the dental floss through the zigzag stitching to gather the fabric. It works really well, no risk of broken thread, and I find it gathers more evenly.


Because the dress is already hemmed, pin the right side of the ruffle to the wrong side of the bottom edge of the dress (so you are pinning the ruffle inside the dress as it will look when it's finished). Match side seams and centers of front and back and pull dental floss to gather evening around. Pin carefully. Top stitch along the top stitching on the right side of the hemmed edge of the dress and the ruffle is attached.

If you haven't already, thread the tie through the casing at the top of the dress. It's finished!

The Patriotic Pillowcase dress with, and without, contrasting ruffle:


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