Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

Vintage embroidered linens have a certain charm to them. Maybe it’s because they remind us of a simpler time. Back before the days of cell phones and internet and reality TV shows….

Back then, embroidery was a favorite past time for many women. They embroidered everything from tea towels, table runners, home decor and bed linens. Sadly, these items end up getting stored away or forgotten, or even worse, thrown in the garbage! 😊

These are works of art and deserve to be seen and admired. It is my mission to give them a new life and inspire others to do the same.

A vintage pillowcase is just the right size for a toddler sized dress. So without further ado, I’ll show you how to re-purpose a vintage pillowcase into a sweet little dress for a lucky little girl.

**Seam allowance for this dress is 1/2in (unless otherwise noted)**

Here’s what you’ll need: 😊

  • 1 Pillowcase (washed and ironed)
  • 1/4 inch Elastic 
  • Ribbon (4 pieces, 1 1/2 feet each)
  • Sewing Machine
  • Scissors
  • Measuring Tool
  • Washable Marker

The first thing you’ll do is cut your pillowcase into 3 sections. You’ll want to cut 1 1/2 inched above the embroidery for this dress. The shorter the embroidery design, the better. For the middle section, I recommend that you measure the receiving child from her armpit to her knee and add 1 inch for seam allowance. Trim the bottom section into a 2 inch strip, to be used later.

***Note: Not every pillowcase is exactly the same size, especially if you’re using a vintage one. You may end up with some extra material, or you might not have enough. If you don’t quite have enough material (or if you’re making this for an older/taller girl), consider making a top instead of a dress. Just cut your middle section to the measurement of the armpit to the hip (instead of the knee) + 1 inch. 😊

Next, insert the middle section inside the top, right sides facing, and pin. Mark 4 equal length sections to place your ribbons. The easiest way to do this is to fold your pillowcase in half and mark with a pin. Then fold each edge toward the middle and mark those sections (front and back of pillowcase) with a pin. Unfold, insert your ribbons  and pin them in place.

Sew all the way around. For good measure, I like to sew the ribbon a second time for added strength. Trim the seam allowance down to 1/4 inch.

Turn right side out and iron the seam. Now you’ll sew the casing for the elastic. Sew all the way around, 1/2 inch in. Be sure to leave about a 1 to 2 inch section open in the back to insert the elastic later. 😊

Now we will make the casing for the second elastic. We will use that 2 inch section we saved earlier. Fold in half, lengthwise. Then fold one of the edges in toward the middle and press. You should end up with something like this:

Now you need to mark the placement for the casing. Turn the dress inside out so you are working with the wrong side of your material. Use a measuring tool and washable marker to draw an even line all the way around. This will be your guideline. To determine how far down it should go, measure the child from the armpit to the waist (just below the ribs) and subtract 1 inch. For example, my daughter measured 5 inches so I am measuring 4 inches down. 😊

Insert the dress inside the casing and pin casing in place using your guideline as reference. Casing should be folded side up. See picture, below.

Sew down the middle, all the way around. 😊

Trim off the extra material, as close to seam as possible. Fold casing down and pin in place. Sew around, about 1/8 inch from the edge. Just as before, leave a 1-2 inch section open in the back.

Cut 2 pieces of elastic. To determine length, measure child’s chest and subtract 2 inches. My daughter measured 21.5 inches, so I cut her elastic at 19.5 inches. Using a safety pin or bodkin, insert elastic inside the casings (careful not to twist). Sew ends together with a zig zag stitch. Adjust the material so your gathers are even and sew casing shut. Repeat this process for the top of the dress.

After you’ve done this with both pieces of elastic, your dress should look something like this:

To hem the bottom, you have some options. For a basic hem, just fold the bottom 1/4 inch (wrong side facing) then fold again another 1/2 inch and sew around. This would also be a great opportunity to add some embellishment. Try using lace, pom poms, rick rack or anything else you can think of. Anna’s dress got a sweet vintage eyelet embellishment to compliment her vintage embroidered pillowcase. 😊

And you’re done! Congratulations on creating something new from something old. Take lots of pictures and show off what you’ve made

If you are posting your masterpiece on social media, be sure to use the tag #annasheirloomboutique so I can see your work

Cooler weather? No worries. This dress looks so sweet with a cardigan 😊

If you’re looking for more inspiration to use vintage linens, check out this post: 7 Ways To Use Vintage Embroidered Linens

BTW: If you run into problems while making this dress, feel free to ask questions in the comments below. I’m here to help

Cheers! 😊

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