I bought this vintage plaid, lightweight cotton shirt at Goodwill a few months ago. It was very form-fitting, and I loved it. Until the first time I wore it. That’s when I realized the buttons were satanically-possessed and opened all by themselves. I’m breastfeeding and all, but I don’t need quite so much access to the girls while in public.
The shirt was headed for the trash heap. I loved the fabric so much I decided to see if I could make a dress for Emmie out of it instead, however. The fabric has such a New England, preppy vibe to it. I thought it would be the perfect foil for some smocking. Here’s how I did it…
Cutting the pieces:
1. Start with an old button-down shirt. You could use any size shirt for this project. I happen to have a pretty petite baby, so my petite shirt worked perfectly.
2. Turn the shirt over to access the most fabric. If you have a dress that fits your baby handy, you could lay it on the fabric to make sure you have enough for the length for which you are aiming.
3. Cut away the sleeves and collar.
4. Fold the remaining piece in half
5. Cut away the sections under the armholes to create a large square.
6. Once you have your square, cut it in half length-wise to make two rectangles. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of that step!)
7. Stack the remaining front sections of the shirt on top of each other to create the two bloomer pieces. If you happen to have a pair of bloomers that fit your baby, you can use these as a pattern. If not, a diaper (folded as you would have it on your baby) could also work. This doesn’t have to be perfect – just roughly the shape of underwear.
8. Cut away the button and buttonholes to create two square pieces of fabric. Make sure to leave plenty of seam allowance all around, especially at the top for the elastic casing.
9. Cut away one leg hole section.
10. Then fold the pieces over and cut the other leg hole section so the two will be symmetrical.
11. For the dress straps, I cut the ends from both sleeves. I am all about using a pre-made hem whenever possible. After cutting one to the size I wanted, I stacked it on top of the other sleeve to make sure the pieces were the same size.
12. Cut both pieces at the seam line to form two long rectangles.
Here are all of my supplies. I have two of each pattern piece: two large rectangles for the dress, two bloomer pieces, and two long rectangles for the straps.
You know I got a whole bunch of vintage-y elastic at the thrift store for .99! Yeah, I did. Still just as stretchy, I assure you.
My red thread and bobbin. And the very, very important elastic thread. This stuff is amazing. Just wait.
Now, for sewing the dress…
1. Sew the squares together to form one long rectangle. Press your seam.
2. Press both long edges of your dress and straps under 1/8 inch and then again to hide the raw edges.
3. Stitch pressed edges.
4. Now to smock the top with shirring. This is the most satisfying thing to do with a sewing machine. It looks impressive, but it is so easy. To shir, you only need to take an extra, empty bobbin and loosely (by hand) wind your elastic thread around it. Pop that sucker back in your bobbin case and go! A few tips: make sure you are sewing the right side of your fabric on top, do not backtack as you normally would when starting or finishing a line of stitching, pull your fabric slightly taut as you sew. If you need a better tutorial on shirring, here it is. If you have never done it, welcome to flavor country! You will love it!
Ok, I digress. I made six shirred rows, using my presser foot as a guide between each row. You can make more or fewer rows depending on how wide you would like the chest/back area of the dress to be. I held it up to my baby to gauge how many I would need. This is kind of an intuitive step.
5. To make the shirring shrink up for that lovely smocked effect, sprinkle a little water on it and hit it with a steamy iron. Seems weird, but it works.
6. Now that your shirring is complete, stitch the other side of the dress together. Don’t forget to switch back to the normal thread bobbin.
7. You’ll now have something that resembles a sleeveless dress.
8. Using the elastic thread bobbin again, run one line of shirring on both sides of each strap piece.
To attach the straps, try the dress on your little model to figure out the best placement. Pin the straps in place carefully, then stitch them down. Mine ended up being placed about two inches from the side seams. It took some trial and error. Every baby is different, so it’s hard to say what will work best for you. Basting stitches are your friend on this one.
Now for the bloomers!
1. Press raw edges of leg holes on both pieces under 1/8 inch and again 1/8 inch.
3. This is the finished stitching on one piece.
4. Stitch the bloomer pieces together on one side edge, and one side edge only.
5. Create the elastic casing by pressing the top edge under 1/8 inch and then 1/2 – 3/4 inch.
7. Feed elastic through casing using a safety pin at one end to guide it through.
8. Pull elastic to desired length and tack down.
9. Stitch bloomers together at the remaining side and the crotch. Using your elastic thread bobbin again, stitch leg holes close to hem to shir.
10. Done! Adorable, right?
Here’s the finished product!
This might seem complicated, but it only took a few hours. That was even with my figuring out how to do it. I think I could turn out a few of these in a single afternoon. Happy sewing!!
A few pictures of my beautiful model in her new outfit: