A Refreshed Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

Remember that one time I told you all if I had a little girl, she’d wear pillowcase dresses?  I dug through my fabric scraps this weekend and I’m finally making good on my word.

Well, I did make her that one for my 30th birthday last year when she was itty bitty, but now she has two more!

I followed my original Pillowcase Dress Tutorial (found here), but made a couple changes. Mainly, I wised up and bought some bias tape for the arm holes.


Since the tutorial is a few years old and I made some small changes to it. I’m going to re-post it here, but, if you’d like to refer back to the original tutorial, or you want to see how to do this without bias tape, check out the first post.

Pillowcase dress tutorials are not hard to find online. There are hundreds, or… I don’t know… maybe thousands? I looked high and low for the easiest one I could find. I ended up mainly following one from AndersonsPlace.net.  A few months after finding it, a friend asked for a link to the tutorial, and when I went to send it to her I noticed the link was dead. It hasn’t come back up since, and AndersonsPlace appears to be blank.  Luckily, I printed out the tutorial long ago and it’s still readable.

I’ve just typed out the tutorial below based pretty closely on what I printed off from AndersonsPlace.net with a few changes of my own. If anyone from that website reads this, please contact me! I’m not trying to rip you off, and would LOVE to give credit. It was such an easy, helpful tutorial that I think it needs to be accessible again. The photos that I’m using are mine.

I always start with a yard of fabric and have never actually used a real pillowcase for one, but you can do it either way.

If you are using a pillowcase, cut it off, leaving the hemmed end, based on these measurements:

6 months -14 1/4″
12 months – 16 1/4″
18 months – 17 1/4″
2T 18 1/4″
3T 19 1/4″
4T 20 1/4″

If you are staring with a yard of fabric, cut it to the length specified above, and a width of 28″ for 6 months, up to 33″ for 4T (adding one inch in width for each size up). This, however, can really be based on your own judgement, depending on how wide you want/need the dress to be on the girl.

You will also need some bias tape in a color that coordinates with your fabric… you know, if you want to save a little time and sanity. (Got this stuff at Walmart. It’s not hard to find or expensive.)

Fold up half an inch along the bottom of the large piece of fabric (will be the bottom of the dress), press with iron, and fold again. Stitch along the top fold to hem.

Fold the fabric vertically (lengthwise), right sides together, pin and stitch 1/2 inch from un-joined edge to create a tube of fabric.

(Since this is a crazy long, picture heavy post, please click through from my home page here to read the rest. Thanks!)

Use pinking shears to trim excess fabric from the seam.

Lay the tube, seam side up, with the seam in the middle and press to one side with an iron.

Fold the tube in half vertically to cut the armholes. From the top (un-hemmed) edge, measure 1.5″ in and 3″ down for sizes up to 2T. For 3 and 4T measure 2″ in and 4″ down.

Using your marked measurements, cut a J shaped armhole through all 4 layers of fabric. Don’t stress about perfection.

I’ll note that if you plan to make more than one, it’s much easier to make them in batches and do the same thing to each dress at the same time, instead of starting from scratch after each dress is finished.

To finish the armholes, I just sewed bias tape to each, starting at one end, and then cutting the excess off when I got to the other. Did I say this is SO MUCH EASIER than the other method?

The bias tape comes already folded, so you just slip the edge of the fabric way up in that fold and then CAREFULLY sew around the arm holes. Really, take your time or it will be easy to miss the edge of the fabric, making you bust our your seam ripper so you can try again.

Not that that happened to me… 3 times.

Fold the top of the front and back 1/4″ and then again 5/8″ and press with an iron to form a casing with no raw edges. Stitch along the bottom fold, similar to what you did for the bottom hem.

Thread 1 yard of ribbon (or less for the smaller sizes) through each casing. I like to pin a safety pin to one side and use that to guide it through the casing, then trim the ends of the ribbon when I’m done. This time, though, I couldn’t find a safety pin, so I wrapped the ends with packing tape.

I made a couple small changes from the first tutorial to embellish the pillowcase dresses from here. For the pink & green plaid dress (side note: sewing plaid fabric is awesome because all the lines make it way easier to cut square), I added a row of pleated contrasting fabric along the bottom.

To do this, I cut 2 33″ long by 4.5 inch wide pieces of the polka dot fabric. Then I folded them in half, lengthwise, right sides together, stitched them .25 inches from the long raw edge…

Then I turned them right side out and pressed them with the iron.

Starting at the side of the dress under one armhole, I stitched it along the bottom of the dress, lining up the bottom edge of the polkadot strip with the edge of the dress. Then I hand pleated by folding the fabric over itself every few inches. I wasn’t too big on perfection. I made it across from under one arm hole to the next, then I had to add the 2nd 33″ strip. Finally, I finished it by stitching over the top edge.

Leaving me with this pretty detail:

For the black dress, I wanted the bow to tie in the back. So, instead of cutting my ribbon into 2 separate pieces, I left it one long, 2 yard piece.

Then I threaded it through the left of the front of the dress, out the right of the front of the dress. Then I continued to thread it through the right of the back of the dress and out the left of the back of the dress. (You could stop here if you want to a bow on one shoulder)

Next, I took the piece hanging out the right of the front of the dress, threaded it through the right of the back of the dress and out the left of the back of the dress. Leaving me with this:

From there I just slipped it over her head and arms, then cinched up the fabric in the back to tie the bow.

And again, for your viewing pleasure.