Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Make a Pillowcase Dress

Warm sunny days invite us to picnic at the park, and a breezy sundress is perfect for relaxing in the fresh spring air. My grandmother has developed her own techniques for making pillowcase dresses in under an hour. Her directions follow. And while you're here, don't forget to enter yesterday's drawing for a pillowcase dress!

1. Our version of the pillowcase dress uses cut fabric instead of actual pillowcases. Cut two rectangles of 45-inch-wide fabric for dress fabric and lining. Before you cut, measure the length you want from underarm to hem. Then add about 5 inches to this measurement to determine the length you need to cut. Sew a seam in each rectangle, right sides together, to create two tubes of fabric -- one for the dress and one for the lining. Press seams open.

2. If you would like to add a generous ruffle to the bottom of the dress, cut two 9" long strips of 45-inch wide fabric and stitch them right-sides together to create a ring. Press the seams open, then fold the fabric wrong sides together and press. Sew two rows of gathering stitches, and pull the bobbin thread to gather the ruffle. Pin the ruffle to the bottom of the dress fabric, as shown in photo 2 above. Sew the ruffle to the dress, right sides together, using a 1/2" seam allowance. Trim excess fabric from this seam, press the ruffle down, and remove gathering threads from the ruffle.

3. Pin the dress and lining tubes, right sides together, around the top. Make sure the seams match up, and center these for the back of the dress. Draw a pattern for the arm holes, and trace it onto each side of the dress with a blue fabric-marking pen. (My grandmother's guide is about 3 inches wide and 3.75 inches at the longest point.)

4. Mark about 1 inch down on each side of the guide, and sew around the arch from point to point. Leave the top open so you can create a casing for the ribbon straps.

5. After you sew the armhole stitching, trim excess fabric and clip the curves.

6. Using a narrow seam allowance, sew a straight seam across the top of the dress from one arm hole to the other to join the outer and lining fabrics. (Leave space between this seam and your arm holes so you will have room to run the ribbon through.) Do this for the front and back of the dress. Trim excess fabric, then turn the dress right side out and press.

7. To complete your casings, sew straight seams on front and back from arm hole to arm hole again, leaving enough room for your ribbon width. Cut two lengths of 1/2- to 1-inch ribbon, at least 26 inches long, for the straps. (I used 48-inch grosgrain ribbon lengths for the dress in my giveaway.) Pin the end of each ribbon, and thread them through the casings front and back. Center the ribbon in the casing, and mark the center of the dress. Gather each side of the casing to 3 inches from the center, and tack the casing shut. (This will make the gathered casings on front and back both 6 inches wide.) Top stitch around the arm holes.

8. Press the dress again, and fold the edge of the lining under. Stitch the lining to the dress, careful to cover the edge of the ruffle. Finish the dress with a monogram if desired, or add details with ribbon trim sewn around the bottom of the dress. Trim the ends of the ribbon, and finish them with a fray-check solution.

9. Take your little girl for a garden tea party in her breezy summer sundress!

Tomorrow, another of my grandmother's ideas for completing this summertime look!

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