TUTORIAL: Empire Waist Pillowcase Dress

I’m super excited about today’s tutorial. I haven’t done any sewing projects in awhile and this one turned out super cute and really was simple to make. This would be a great project for a beginner. It’s an updated version of the pillowcase dress.

Empire Waist Pillowcase Dress

We snapped these pictures in Colorado. I thought the mountains would be the perfect background for this adorable retro camper fabric.

Empire Waist Pillowcase Dress

Fabricworm has always been one of my go to places when I’m searching for new fabric. They were kind enough to send me some of this quality organic Birch fabric, Just for Fun.  At first glance, I thought I would have to come up with a boy project, but then I decided it would be so cute an unexpected to make a little girls’ dress out of this camper print.

For this project you will need:

1 yard of fabric OR a pillowcase
Double fold bias tape (or make your own)
1/4″ elastic

I made my dress for my very petite 3 year old. So, it’s probably closer to a 2T size. In fact, I used a 2T dress that she had to figure out how long to make the dress.

With your fabric folded in half, you are just going to measure how long to make it. I made mine 18 inches long and cut, so that now I had a long rectangle (the width of this fabric is 44″).

If you are using a pillowcase, you can disregard these steps and just mark the armholes.
1. After cutting your length, you are just going to fold in half, right sides together and sew.
2. With the seam now in the CENTER, you are going to cut out two armholes out of each side.  I used a washable fabric pen and measured 1 inch in and 3 inches down and then just connected with a curved line. (see photo).  You may want to make this part larger for a larger sized dress. The best option is to look at a dress you already have that is the size you want this one to be and go from there.

3. Press your seam open. I used pinking shears to finish the edge.
4. cut out the armholes.

5. Using the bias tape (I made my own out of the coordinating bicycle fabric), pin the tape around the wrong side of the armhole and stitch using a 1/4 in seam.
6. Fold the tape over to the right side of the armhole and pin.
7. Top stitch down, close to the edge. See how the armhole is now nicely finished?

 8. Now you are going to make the casing for the elastic in the neck.  Pin the bias tape to the wrong side of the top of the dress and stitch down, 1/4″ from the top.
8. Fold over to the right side of the fabric and top stitch down, very close to the edge.
9. Thread the elastic through the casing. I believe mine was about 5″ long. Again, you will want to measure your child or measure the neck of a different dress to see about how long the make the elastic. Do this to the front AND the back of the dress.

11. Using the same technique as the armhole and neck casing, pin the bias tape to the wrong side of the BOTTOM of the dress to create the hem.
12. Overlap and fold under the ends where they meet. Stitch down 1/4″ from the edge. NOT PICTURED: fold over bias tape to the right side of the fabric and top stitch down.  Now you have a finished hem in a coordinating fabric!

13. To make the casing for the empire waist, you will want to measure your child or use a different dress and pin bias tape down where you want the empire waist. I think mine was about 6″ from the top.
14. Top stitch the top and bottom of the bias tape.  When the dress is done, the last thing you will do is thread elastic through this casing to gather the waist. Measure your child to see how long to make this elastic.

15. Now for the sleeves. Cut a strip of paper 9″X2 3/4″. Fold paper in half and make a mark on cut end 2″,  from the side. Mark a curve from 2″ mark to middle fold to create sleeve ruffle.
16. Unfold and this is how it should look.
17. Cut out pattern and then cut 2 sleeve ruffles from desired fabric.

18. Hem curved edge 2 with 1/4″ hem. Hem short ends in the same manner.
19. Press under 1/4″ along straight edge, fold again to create 1/2″ tube for inserting elastic. Stitch long folded edges, leaving an opening on both ends for elastic.  Mark 1/4″ elastic at 5″ and then insert into sleeve casing and draw up to 5″ mark Sew across both ends.

Empire Waist Pillowcase Dress

Attach sleeve on the front and backside of the dress.  If the visible top stitching bothers you, you can stick a cute bow on each side.  I think it adds a sweet feminine touch.  Once this is complete, insert the elastic in the waist casing and hand sew opening closed. Then you are done!

Empire Waist Pillowcase Dress

I hope all of those pictures and instructions made sense. The important thing is to measure your child or use a dress that is the size you want this one to be as a general guide for the elastic and other measurements.

Empire Waist PIllowcase Dress

I think Jane approves!

Empire Waist Pillowcase Dress

Linking up with these parties!

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