Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to Make the "Best Dress Ever" - A Tutorial

Welcome back!  

When I think about Dress A Girl Around the World I think about pillowcase dresses.   It is a great little dress  pattern…the length can be adjusted with the ties, and the width has plenty of ease.   This tutorial includes step by step instructions for making the standard pillowcase dress with ties on the shoulders.

This is a chart of the finished dress lengths.  Sometimes it is difficult to make a dress the correct number of inches so here is a range.  Do you know what size dress you would like to make? Take a look at the chart below.

Size/years old                    Finished Dress Length
Infant                                     14-16 inches
1-2 years                               17-19 inches
3-4 years                               20-22 inches
5-6 years                               23-25 inches
7-8 years                               26-28 inches
9-10                                         29-30 inches
11                                              31-33 inches
12-14                                       34-35 inches

There is one quick thing you need to do before we get started.  You need to draw a template for the arm opening.  Here is a photo of my templates in S, M, and L.  Get out a piece of paper or cardboard to draw your template on. I am going to give you the measurements for the width and length.  The curved line should go straight down for about 3 inches and then curve in a J shape.  No matter how your curve looks it will work out as long as you have the length width measured correctly.  

Template measurements: (width then length)
Small     1 1/2" x 4 1/2"   to fit infant to size 4   
Medium      2" x 5"           to fit child size 5 to 9
Large    2 1/4"  x 6"           to fit child 9 to 14

Let's get started!
For those of you that bought a pillowcase, choose the length of the dress that you wish to make and add one inch.  Take into consideration the width of your pillowcase particularly if it is large or king size.  Some king size pillowcase are pretty narrow and you don’t want to make a dress too narrow to run or play  in. 

If you are more of a visual person (like me) take a tape measure and measure the width of the pillowcase x 2 and put the tape around your own legs just below the knee.  What do you think? Is it too narrow?  If so make a smaller size and you can use the leftover fabric to make pockets.

Lay your pillowcase flat on a flat surface.  With a yard stick measure from the hem to the desired length + 1 inch.  Cut across the closed end.  Pillowcase people skip the following paragraph and pick up at the pink sentence below.  (scroll down)

For those of you that bought fabric, choose the length of dress that you wish to make and add two inches to the length the width will be whatever the width of the fabric is… we’re going to take advantage of those selvages. Go ahead and cut your dress the length you’ve chosen.  Put the selvages together and seam the length of the dress.  If you do not have selvages zig zag from top to bottom to make sure that this seam does not come apart.  Now let’s put in a hem.  On one end of the fabric tube turn up ½” all the way around the dress, pressing as you fold.  After you’ve completed this go around again folding up another ½”.  Stitch close to the edge of your hem with your machine.

We should ALL have a tube of fabric with a hem on one end.

Lay your tube out flat with the seam on the side rather than down the back.  It will be much less noticeable and both the front and back will appear seamless.  

Trace and cut your arm openings.  Your fabric should look like this.

It’s starting to look a little like a dress isn’t it? 

On the top front fold over ¼” and press.  Now fold over ¾” and press firmly.  Flip the dress over and do the same thing on the top of the back of the dress.  

Stitch close to the edge along the fold on the front and the back.  After you finish, press the casing one more time. 

Dress Size                 Elastic Length
6 mo to 5                           6”
6 to 9                                    7”
10 to 12                               8’

Select the size dress you are making.  You will need to cut two pieces of 3/8 or ½ inch elastic. (If you prefer you can leave the elastic in once piece for example if you are making a size 6 dress you will cut the elastic 14 inches and mark the center with a pin or marker. (I like to do this because it is easy for short pieces of elastic to get away).

Put a safety pin on the end of the elastic and push it through the casing.  When the center of your elastic reaches one end, pin or secure with a few stitches, clip the end of the elastic and continue across.  

While the safety pin is still attached fasten the end securely with a stitch or pin.  Do not stretch out to distribute the gathers…we’ll do that later.  Turn the dress over and repeat on the other side.

If you used pins to hold the elastic tack all four of the elastic ends using a zig zag stitch.  Make sure that you can see the ends of elastic so they will be well secured.

This is what your dress should look like…if it does give yourself a pat on the back.

Now  for the ties.  Find the length of ties that correspond to the size dress that you are making and cut two.  It will take one package to make one dress unless you are making an infant size dress.  If you buy 2 packages you will have enough tape to make 3 dresses.

Size                       Tie Length
Infant                    24
Small                     30
Medium                 36
Large                     38

If you look very closely at most bias tape while it is folded, one edge will appear to be a little wider.  You can see it pretty well on the tape edge on the left.  The wider side will go to the inside of the dress that way when you sew the tape about the arm opening you won’t have to worry about catching the edge of the tape that is out of sight.

Fold in and press the ends of the ties.

Fold you ties in half and mark with a pin.

With the right side of the fabric facing out pin the center of the bias tape to the center of the underarm.  Remember the widest edge of the bias tape needs to go on the inside of arm opening.  Make sure the dress fabric is all the way in to the fold.  Pin every inch or so to make sure that the fabric doesn’t slip out.

Lay your dress out with ties laid up like this.  You start sewing on the top of the left tie.  Sew the edges together with a straight stitch.  When you get to the dress fabric keep sewing removing the pins one at a time and then continue sewing up to the end of the tie.  You will be sewing a giant U.  Repeat on the other side.

*If it is easier you can sew around the U with a zig zag stitch.

Look on the inside of the arm opening and make sure that you caught all of the edges.

Turn your dress inside out and clip all the threads, check your seams and the hem. 

You are finished!  Flip your dress right side out, tie you ties and hang your dress up and admire your work.


Now it is time to embellish your dress and make it your own!


  1. Hi Karen!

    Wonderful explanation! And great to see the close-ups of the sewing and the completed dress. Thank you so much:)Darby

  2. Thank you very much for putting together this tutorial. I am planning to make some dresses once the kids go back to school. I will certainly be using this pattern.

  3. Karen, I love this! For a visual person, it allows me to see exactly what I should do! Thank you! Carol Dress a Girl Tucson

  4. If you click on this link you can fine the full sized templates and print out the armhole templates

  5. Love this tutorial! So helpful. I am the Dress a Girl UK Rep. Would you be happy for me to share the link on my blog? The link would go here

  6. What a wonderful idea, I shall be making a few of these for you in between painting, crafting and our latest knitting project ,I will also send the link on too any of my crafty friends to see if they are interested in joining in as well.

  7. I shall definitely be having a go... at least once LOL

  8. I love this idea - what an amazing project. I shall be dusting the sewing machine off tomorrow to have a go!

  9. Saw the article in local times newspaper, and have been inspired by your work. Will be getting th sewing machine out ASAP. In relation to people going out to thes countries, have you had any contact with
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  10. Your idea is really so great, and you are a amazing designer, like the designers at there

  11. This tutorial is the best ever,,,especially, the measurements for the different size dresses etc, So easy to follow,,,I have actually made paper patterns for each size, so I am ready each time and do not have to continually measure up. Thanks x x x

  12. Thank u so much I was looking for this I made 3 bigger oneness for my granddaughters but I was trying to fighter out the arm measurements for a 24 mos for my great naive .This will help out so much .

  13. Hi
    Thank you for this. I am now onto dress 18 for Dress Around The World, which is kindly organised by Sew Scrumptious in the UK. Up to dress 11 I used a simpler tutorial which involved no binding but ribbon as I was scared of the bias binding. But, having bout a bias binding maker this week I was determined to give it a go, and your tutorial makes it easy to understand ! I have adapted it so that most of the work is done with a serger which I find quicker for me. I already had a little sewing bee and taught two of my friends how to make the simpler dress, but I shall now be inviting them to tackle this one.Thanks for taking the fear out of bias binding.
    Pictures of the sewing bee and dresses I have made can be found at .

  14. Awesome tutioral about stiching...
    Too helpful and entertainer.... :)
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  15. good posting,,after going all the way through your posting,i got the over answer being a good listener for your ideas,ok,,,just finished my trip hunting my styles favors at。。

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Wonderful tutorial! My 12 year old will be sewing a "Best Dress Ever" this week for Dress a Girl Around the World. It's so cute and practical! We'll be using the pattern for ourselves as well! Very easy and low cost summer dresses! :-)

  18. At first I thought you will be using a pillowcase for this dress, well I've seen a tutorial before that uses old curtains and bed cover to make a dress.

    Dress making fabric

  19. Just FYI your sleeve pattern has 4 1/4" BUT you written direction has 4 1/2"

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  21. Hi i hav just finished a dress like this for my neice. I saw this page in the morning and finished the dress by noon . thanks for detailed instructions. :)

  22. I am truly grateful to you!!! I have been looking for an easy pattern to make these dresses, and I thank you, I want to teach my granddaughter how to make these too, Thanks again and god bless!!!

  23. Thank you so much for this! The instructions are very clear! I've been looking for a simple dress to make, because I'm tired of making skirts the whole time. Time to take the next step in sewing.
    And this is perfect to start with!

    Thank you!


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  25. I remember making these for my daughters. Now I want to make them for my granddaughter. Thanks for refreshing my memory with your clear instructions.

  26. FAB. I made this yesterday. Instructions are so clear, thank you and I really enjoyed making it. I am even going to try an adults version next. Jo Womsley, Stoke, England.

  27. wow. This post is so nice and helpful to me. I was searching to buy Baby clothes online for my daughter but I will try to make one for her by the help of this post. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  28. Your instructions were great! I added a ruffle at the bottom. I've linked to your page from mine if that is okay. You can see the spiderman dress I made my daughter for her birthday this past weekend.

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  32. This has been so informational!!!!! 👍👍👍👏👏👏👌👌👌 thanks so much for sharing!!!!!

  33. How would I add a ruffle to top of dress?

  34. Is there a way I can print out the instructions?

  35. Is there a way I can print out the instructions?

  36. That dress is really cute, you used a really nice dress fabric. Keep on posting.

  37. The designs which you have provided is very good. Who is looking for Clothing For Women.

  38. Great post. This is very informative and effective article.
    I think its very very helpful for us. Thanks for your nice post.
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  39. Just awesome what a talent. I really liked the blog you have posted here for us. Thanks for sharing this tutorial for baby dress.
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  43. Wow amazing!! Is it so easy to make baby dresses.. Seeing this post i am thinking i also can try this, you explained every step very well simply.. I have some collection of flower girls dresses sure you will like it

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  46. I am so amazed that you made that. I worked with chiffon once. To make a prom purse. I said a lot of bad words. You've got some patience!! I think the little scalloped neckline is my favorite. And the twirly skirt. And the sunflower headpiece.

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  54. Hi Karen
    This is the 'Best dress Ever' - I just love this tutorial.
    I have included it in the post in my site
    Please check it out. I have linked it back to your site.

  55. Articles and content in this section of the website are really amazing. Great ideas indeed! I will surely keep this in my mind!

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  58. thanks for this detailed post, I have searched all over for this info, most is sketchy. The floral embellishment is so cute, I am sure the little girl getting your dress was thrilled. Blessings to you for your support of the girls in need !!! E

  59. Thank you. I neeed a quick pattern for a dress for my granddaughter - whipped it up n around an hour - many thanks for your generosity


  60. Love the tutorial.....awesome, thank you. Marilou Blake

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