Tutorial ~ Fat Quarter Pillow Case Dress

by Destri on April 9, 2011


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I’m a sucker for fat quarter bundles.  They are just fun packaged up in coordinating fabric goodness.  You can make oodles and oodles of stuff with them, and I thought I would add a pillowcase dress to the mix.  Who doesn’t love a pillowcase dress, right?  They are quick and easy, and so so cute.  I took my little girl out to lunch in her dress and had three people ask me where I bought it…that’s the best! “Aw shucks (blushes), I made it, and for the right price….”

Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

I have made up a Sizing/Cutting guide to make the dress in sizes 3 months on up to a children’s size 6.  On the chart I included suggestions for older girls too. You can of course make this with fabric scraps, and it is a very budget friendly pattern for fabric cut off the bolt.  You only need five 1/4 yard fabric cuts off the bolt.

Front Tie Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

I have created a collection of these dresses with different options including a front tie or back tie version, a elastic no-tie option suitable for infant dresses, and a lined version with bottom trim.  You will use this tutorial as a supplement to all those patterns.

You can use the print button at the bottom of this post to remove any images and text for saving on ink when printing.

Easy Fat Quarter (Paneled) Pillowcase Dress

For fabric cuts use the Sizing Guide I have provided.  If you are new to sewing I have a Sewing Tips Directory that might be useful.  It’s always a good idea to read through the directions before sewing, especially if you are using another version for this pillowcase dress and this as the supplement.

Supplies:

  • all your sewing stuff
  • ribbon or double fold bias tape

Assembling The Basic Paneled Pillowcase Dress

You will use a 3/8 inch seam allowance throughout unless noted.  Don’t forget to back stitch, and warm up your iron.

To start, you will sew 4 panels together.  Place two with the right sides together and then sew up the long side with a straight stitch and then add the other two in the same manner.

Finish each of the seams with a serger or zigzag stitch like I did (tutorial for finishing seams with a zigzag).  Press all the seams to one side.

Now with the right side of the panels facing up, sew down each seam right along the edge, securing the seam allowance and top-stitching the top. Here is a tutorial for getting a great looking topstitch.

I like to use a little longer stitch length when top-stitching, and then press with steam after to set the stitch. It will give you a nice finish.

Now take the bottom panel and press in half with the wrong sides together.  Cut it to match the length of your body panel.

Lay the sewn panels face up on a working surface.  Place the bottom panel on the bottom of the pieced body.  You will want the raw edges together and pin in place.  Pay attention to the panels, and make sure that you have the bottom panel so that when all sewn up they are in the order you want.

Now sew with a straight stitch,  and serge or zigzag the seam.

Press the seam up and top-stitch right above the seam on the right side, this will lock that seam up. Repeat all the above to make a second panel.

Now for the armholes.  You will lay the two panels together and cut off the corners as follows:

  • 3-12 months measure in 3 inches on the top, and down the side 3½ inches
  • 18 month-2T measure in 3½ inches on the top, and down the side 4 inches
  • 3T-4T measure in 3½ inches on the top, and down the side 4½ inches
  • 4T-6T measure in 3½ inches on the top, and down the side 5 inches

Repeat on the other side.

Now iron each cut corner over 1/4 inch and then a 1/2 inch.  It is on the bias so you can curve it a little.  Repeat on the other three corners.

Sew each armhole with the right side facing up.  This will give you a nice facing stitch.  Just sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance (edge of fabric lined up with the presser foot), with a straight stitch.  Repeat on the remaining three armholes.

They should all look like this when you are done.

Pin panels together with the right sides together, making sure the arm holes are lined up nicely.

Starting at the top, you will sew down the side.  At the beginning you will have a larger seam allowance as you can see in the picture.  You just want to make sure that the stitch is on the folded part of the armhole, then you will gradually let the stitch out to the side making a ½ inch seam allowance. This will give the dress a slight A-line as well.  Make sure to back stitch.  Serge or zigzag to finish it off the seam.

*Edit -  After I sewed the side seams, I trimmed the seam just under the arm to make it a uniform 1/2 inch seam allowance, and then zigzag stitch to finish off.

This picture shows you where my seam started and how it comes on the inside of the raw edge on the fold.  I am making this sound a lot more complicated than it is, it will make sense when you are sewing it up!

Press the seam, and this is how it should look for you in the end.  Easy Peasy.

Almost done!  Turn the dress wrong side out, fold and press the top on each panel over 1/4 inch and then again a half inch.  Sew up each top making the casing.  Decide how long you will want the bias tape for the tie, and then sew up the side to make one long ribbon.  With a safety pin attached to one end, thread through the casings on the dress.

All done!  So cute, and a fun use for the fat quarters sitting in your stash.

Here is the back side.  It looks adorable with a little shirt under it too.

I hope you have a chance to make this one, it’s really a fun little dress.  As always, if you make one let me know!

**this post has been edited to reflect the sizing guide that was added to supplement it.

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{ 335 comments… read them below or add one }

Karin April 9, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Very cute. I love the colour combination. She looks ready for summer, nice!

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Destri April 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I can’t take credit for the color combo, I am actually quite horrible at that! That’s why I buy the bundles! Thanks so much!

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Ihilani April 10, 2011 at 12:13 am

oh my goodness i am in love! That is the cutest little dress! (and totally looks store bought! :)

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Destri April 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Thanks dear!

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Jessica at Me Sew Crazy April 10, 2011 at 4:37 am

Wow – it has been a long time since i have looked at a pillowcase dress and thought it beautiful, you have of course gone ahead and done it! Great job!

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Destri April 14, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Coming from you that is quite the compliment :).

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Suzanne April 10, 2011 at 9:33 am

I sew pillowcase dresses for the Dress A Girl Around the World project and have often wondered about using flat quarters… thank you so much for this wonderful idea!!! I love the look of this dress.. it is adorable!!!

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Destri April 14, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Thanks, let me know if you make any!

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Heather April 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm

This is an excellent tutorial! I can’t wait to put it to use. Thank you!

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Destri April 14, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Send pictures!

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kate April 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I want a girl… !:O)

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Jileen April 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Me too! :)

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Wendi April 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm

This is just darling.. Wendi

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Destri April 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Thank you!

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Bonnie April 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm

This is absolutely adorable! I have a 2 and a 3 year old and I can see myself making a lot of these dresses this summer! Thanks for the great tutorial – and thanks for the easy tips on customizing the size!

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Destri April 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Your welcome Bonnie! Send me pics if you do, and let me know if you come across any questions.

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Jenna April 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Just stumbled upon your blog. I haven’t sewed since I was a kid and in 4-H, but now I have a daugher who is a year old…..I neeeeed to pick sewing back up again…LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this~!!

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Destri April 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm

There is nothing like a little girl to get you back into sewing! Thank you!

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Suzanne April 10, 2011 at 9:26 pm

So dang cute Destri…oh the dress is too!

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Aubrey April 11, 2011 at 5:04 am

Adorable Destri! I love it, and Eleni looks so cute!

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Nettie Crain April 11, 2011 at 7:41 am

I just printed off your tutorial on the adorable pillowcase dress. I can’t wait to get a few sewn for Spring for my cutie pie granddaughter, Chloe Jane.
Thanks so much for sharing your creativity with us!
Nettie

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Destri April 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I forgot to add that I trimmed the seams on the side just under the arm to make it a uniform 1/2 inch inseam, and then did the zigzag stitch!
Please send some pics when you are finished!

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Sandy April 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm

This is sooo cute, I’m just getting ready to take the plunge and make some pillowcase dresses and this one is so precious and I have several fat quarters. Thanks for the AWESOME step by step instructions.

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Monika April 18, 2011 at 10:12 am

THANKYOU!!! THANK YOU!!!! THANKYOU!!!!!! I have a 2 year old and wanted to make her dresses for this summer but did not want to have to deal with a pattern so this is perfect and easy!! Hope you have other great ideas for us busy moms who love to sew but find it hard to fit it in….

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Lindsey April 20, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Where do you purchase fat quarter bundles at???

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Destri April 20, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Hi Lindsey,
If you get them online they normally come in bigger bundles, but I like to pick up the bundles that Hancock Fabrics, Hobby Lobby or Joanns Fabric carries, they normally have 5 to a bundle. I bought the bundle using the fabrics shown from Joanns. You can also go to any quilt shop and they often have fat quarters already cut and sitting above the fabric bolts. I hope this helps!

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Delphine April 26, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Thank you so much for the tutorial! The dress is so cute!
I’ve just started sewing and your tutorial was so great that I’m really happy with the dress I made!!

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Destri May 12, 2011 at 7:11 am

You’re welcome, do you mind sending me a picture? I love them!

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christy April 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm

i am looking to make a dress for a friend of mine who is having a baby girl in august. i sew by hand and im just starting out but will be getting a machine in the next few weeks. I was wondering if you could show how to make a cute baby dress in like a 0-3 month size. Or maybe point me in the direction of a website that could show me how.

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Destri April 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Hi Christy,
I have been working on a little dress, but when it comes to newborn I love Rae’s Itty Bitty Dress pattern.
http://www.made-by-rae.com/2008/04/free-itty-bitty-baby-dress-pattern.html
It is free, and there are so many variations with it. So so cute, and very easy! Just download and print the pattern, and keep in mind that it is for little ones, so you will want to get it to her before the baby comes :) Hope this helps, and have fun with your new machine!

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Kristina Abernathy April 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I usually don’t like pillowcase dresses, but this one is wonderful! So cute and well made. I’m definitely going to try one for my daughter. Thanks for the instructions and attention to detail!

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Anne May 9, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I hope I am not double posting this. My brain is a little mushy today! Please forgive me if this is a duplicate. I wanted to let you know that I am adding a link to your tutorial on my blog for this dress. I am making it for my daughter and wanted to share your awesome blog. Thanks! Check it out at http://www.sewmanybabies.blogspot.com.

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Debbie June 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Cute! Come and join our link party: http://fabricbowsandmore.blogspot.com/

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Kristy - Hopeful Threads June 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Sharing this great tutorial over at Hopeful Threads! We made pillowcase dresses for Dress A Girl Around the World and I think others will appreciate your version! Thanks for sharing! :)

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Erin June 23, 2011 at 1:21 am

<3 this! Thanks for the tute :) I will be trying this very soon for my daughter. What a fun way to use up remnants too :D

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sara June 23, 2011 at 7:43 am

thanks!!! i’ m excited to make it! and thank you for giving measurements for other sizes as well

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cova June 29, 2011 at 6:43 am

So I am in the process of making this dress for my little, and I have a question.
when you go to add the bottom of the dress do you completely overlap the pieced portion and the bottom fabric or do you add the bottom fabric in the same way you pieced the other fabrics and there is just a slight over lap. hope that made since. Thanks for the tut.
:)

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Destri June 29, 2011 at 7:42 am

Hi Cova,
Yes, you add it in the same manner that you do the pieced top. After you have the pieced top, lay it face up like shown in the tutorial, and then layer the bottom over it lining the raw edges up. Then sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, then fold down and press the seam up, then top stitch. I so hope that makes sense, cause I want to see the finished product! Let me know!

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cova June 29, 2011 at 9:21 am

Thanks so much for your help. I just finished the dress but it is a quarter after one in the am here in Japan, so I will have to post actions in the am (later am). but here is a pic of the dress (crappy lighting sorry). I had to alter it a bit Abby is only 9 months and is wearing a 6-9 month right now, and I only grabbed 4 pieces of fabric :/ but I think it is alright for my 3rd sewing project.
not sure what pb link to use sorry.
[IMG]http://i293.photobucket.com/albums/mm69/covavanessa/a55db347.jpg[/IMG]

http://s293.photobucket.com/albums/mm69/covavanessa/?action=view&current=a55db347.jpg

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Destri June 30, 2011 at 4:46 am

Cova, I love it! I love that you made it down to 9 months too. Do you mind if I share it?

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Cova June 30, 2011 at 6:34 am

thanks so much, no that is not a problem I grabbed an action shot this morning, here it is
http://s293.photobucket.com/albums/mm69/covavanessa/?action=view&current=e2d41860.jpg

N. Perez July 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Best pillow case dress tutorial I came across when looking to make dresses for my princesses…
Thank you for putting this together!

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N. Perez July 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I’m working on this already! Did you make your bias tape from the same fabric? Is it included in the given measurements? How long did you make each long ribbon?
Thanks and will share when I finish it :)

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Destri July 21, 2011 at 5:26 am

So sorry, I am just found your question! I used ready-made bias tape, and I believe it was around a yard I used. but it was long, I liked it draping. So really, just cut it to the length you like! It was just one ribbon that I threaded through the casing. If you have anymore questions let me know! Can’t wait to see pictures :)

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ginny July 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Couldn’t figure t how to print, had to hand write

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Destri July 25, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Most browsers have a print this page option, did you try that? So sorry, I bet you have writer’s cramp! I like to view the pages before I print, so as to make sure I am not having to print all of the comments.

Let me know if this works for you

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Laura July 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Great job! I love the mixed fabrics. Please stop by http://www.laughloveandcraft.com and link up to my Share the Wealth Wednesday Link Party! I’m your newest follower!

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Emily July 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Looks beautiful. I’m a total sucker for fat quarters!
Emily
domesticdeadline.blogspot.com

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Mandie July 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Thanks so much for the awesome tutorial! I just made this for my daughter and I love it. Thanks again!!!!

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Destri July 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm

You’re welcome! Thanks so much for letting me know :) I would love if you would send me a pic or two…it would kind of make my night! If you get a chance just send them to destri at themotherhuddle.com
Also, I welcome any feedback! How was the fit for the size? Any place you had a hiccup? Thanks so much again!

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Destri July 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Oh! Is it the one on your facebook? It is adorable!! Can I use the picture?

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Tara Wood July 29, 2011 at 9:19 am

I had been trying to figure out how to “dress up” the basic pillowcase dress pattern. It never occurred to me to use fat quarters!!! Thanks so much! Not that much more work and a little ribbon and it turned out perfect! My daughter just loves this “Minnie” dress.
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2267008435611&set=a.1123757935063.20169.1260567827&type=1&theater

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Kim July 31, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Love the dress ! I am making my second one . They work up very fast . I am making a 5t right now and my fat quarters were 21″ long so I cut the 5t to 19 “

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Michelle August 15, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Any ideas on measurements for an almost 1 year old?

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Kimberly August 17, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I love it…I am a beginner sewer, and your instructions are very easy to understand. I can’t wait to make one! Thanks!

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Cathy D. August 23, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Love this! I stopped at Walmart today and decided to look for a fat quarter to make this dress – I found a “stax” which is a bundle with 5 pieces, each 18×21″ so I think I can still make this work. I’ve made a pillowcase dress before but never really followed any pattern or instructions other than suggested length and width. If I can get this one to turn out well, I foresee many more “fat quarters” in my future! :)

Anyway, I’m still new to sewing and noticed in your written instructions, you say “You will lay the two panels together and measure in 3½ inches on the top, and down 4½ inches on the side.” But, to me, it looks like you cut it 2″ across the top and 3″ on the side. Am I just not seeing this correctly? Just want to be sure before I start cutting up the fabric! :) (I’ll be making a 2T-3T btw)

Thanks!

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Destri August 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Hi Cathy!
Thanks so much :). I actually used a bundle (stax) for the dress, so you should be set. And for the cuts, I didn’t get them big enough on the first cut which was pictured, tried it on my little one to make sure, and decided to take it in a little more. I made another one at those measurements and it came out great. I can’t wait to see! Let me know if you have anymore questions.
~Destri

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Cathy D. August 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Ok, I did it! I don’t know how else to link it to you but I did post it on my Facebook page so I think this link may work for you to see it :) Thanks again for such a great tutorial! I’m planning to do more soon! :)

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1101439697762.15833.1279775269#!/photo.php?fbid=1961030506995&set=a.1101439697762.15833.1279775269&type=1&theater

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Destri September 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Cathy, I am just seeing this! I love it, and I think it is perfect for fall with a little shirt and leggings :) Would you mind if I add it to our flickr pool?

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Brenda October 8, 2011 at 6:58 am

I too had to take a peak. I love it, Cathy. It is so cute!!! So much inspiration flowing from this page.

Tina August 24, 2011 at 9:09 am

LOVE the idea on the armholes! Will make future pillowcase dresses SO much easier! I’ve been wondering how to use the fat bundles and your idea is brillant!

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kim August 24, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Awesome! Made it during naptime – so cute! Thanks.

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Destri September 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Pictures!

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Courtney August 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm

What kind of ribbon do you use for this dress? Do you remove it to wash the garment?

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Destri August 30, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Hi Courtney, I used bias tape and just sewed up the side. To wash it, I put it in one of those garment bags that are mesh with a zipper for the washer. You could also just put the dress in a pillowcase and tie a knot in the top. I do that with a lot of clothes and it works out great!

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Tiffany August 31, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I love love love this dress, could you tell me, please, where you got these fat quarters? The prints are breath taking!

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Destri August 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Thanks so much Tiffany! I bought the fabric in a bundle at Joann’s fabric last year. It was actually a pretty “cheap” fabric that didn’t have a good drape to it, so I knew it would be perfect in panels. It actually gets prettier with every wash, funny enough. Sorry I don’t know the name, I usually try to hang onto that, but I need to get better about posting it!

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Bellani September 1, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I love this dress!!! So, CUTE!

I have an Eleni too..she is 16 years old now, and how I miss making cute little dresses for her. They grow up so quickly.
I also have a 6 year old and she loves dresses, I have some time to sew again, now that I am not working outside the home!
Can not wait to try out some of your GREAT ideas.
Thanks!

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Karen September 2, 2011 at 6:17 am

This would also be a perfect project for using up leftover strips of fabric, with even narrower widths of strips. I’ve been making pillow case dresses for a project for my church and have used sheet sets, too, and always have leftover pieces that would work for this dress and no fabric is wasted! I even put the threads from fabric ravelings out on the bushes in the spring for the birds to use for nest makings. Cut off selvage edges make cute hair ties and can be made using several different colors of strips to tie a bow around a pony tail. (As you can tell, I hate waste!) Also, after running the bias tape, or ribbon through the casing, top stitch up and down, 2-3 times, through all the layers at the center of the casing, and that will keep the ribbon from pulling out of the casing in the wash.

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Karen September 2, 2011 at 6:22 am

Two 34″ – 36″ strips (approximately) of bias tape or ribbon can be used for ties and then tied in bows on each shoulder. Lock the ties in place in the center of the casing by stitching up and down 2-3 times so they don’t pull out.

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Amanda Larsen September 26, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Hi. I LOVE this dress. I just made one but it turned out SOO wide and big on the top part…it would definitely look funny on a 4 year old and would just hang and look like they are swallowed in it. Have any advice on what I did wrong? I followed everything in the tutorial!

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Destri January 30, 2012 at 7:03 am

Amanda, I thought I had replied to this through email, but haven’t heard back. Let me know if you still need help!

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Monet September 29, 2011 at 7:26 am

This is absolutely adorable, and how nice to have a photo of her in it! Hope you are also a bit of a scrapbooker. Its a sweet memory :-) I am a beginning sewer, your super clear instructions are wonderful. Hopefully I will get up the nerve to try this during the winter so that I have a good product for each of my two girls by spring!

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Teresa Pierce October 1, 2011 at 9:37 pm

love it just made my own for my baby girl but did it a little different

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Brenda October 8, 2011 at 6:55 am

Love this!! I have often wondered if I could make these using fat quarters. Of course I have never made one. I have a granddaughter due in January 2012 and I am sew ready to start sewing these for her. I have already started buying the fabric. Thanks for the great tutorial.

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sarah October 13, 2011 at 7:39 am

I am trying to customize this dress for size 6months and was wondering how much I should take off. Also, should I decrease the panel width so the dress is not too roomy?

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Destri October 13, 2011 at 11:17 am

Hey Sarah,

Do you have a 6 month dress handy? You could use that as a guide for length. And yes, I would decrease the panel width as well, I would say by an inch each, but if you have a dress to use as a guide that would be best! It’s been too long since I have had a 6 month old! Let me know if you need more help :)

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Carine October 16, 2011 at 4:56 am

Thanks so much! I had a bright bundle and needed to do something with it and this was the perfect answer! We are headed to a birthday party today and I was able to whip this up in about 40 minutes for my daughter to wear to it! It turned out beautiful!

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Destri October 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm

You’re so welcome! Thanks so much for letting me know Carine, always makes my day :)

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Elegantpaws October 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm

So so cute. I love all your fabric choices for projects, they’re lovely and timeless. Thank you for the tutorial, It would be great for the Australian summer which is coming up soon!

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Destri January 30, 2012 at 7:08 am

Thanks so much! I hope you are having a great summer, and away from the floods!

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Becky October 29, 2011 at 12:36 am

I too have just started sewing. I found this pattern through a pin on Pinterest. I thought the idea was adorable so I printed it off and took the pattern to my sewing teacher so she could help me. She didn’t have to help me very much…it was really easy! However, I do have to share that my sewing teacher is a certified Quilt Appraiser for the state of Arizona and has been sewing for over 20 years and she said your pattern was very well written and the pictures were great!

Anyway, I just finished the dress tonight….I chose a bundle of Halloween fabric and now I want to make more of them…they are so easy! I would post a picture here but I don’t think I can so if you want to see the finished product just shoot me an e-mail and I will send you a picture.

Thank you for such a great pattern! I already bought some fat quarter bundles to make a couple more for friends with little girls!

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