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Pillow Case Style Dress Instructions ~ How To Sew A Pillowcase Dress from Fabric to Include in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox

Pillow case style dress pattern and illustrated tutorial.

Like I shared in the earlier post, Basic Pillowcase Style Dress Instructions ~ And My Passion for Sewing Them, I have had a ball sewing hundreds of these simple pillowcase dresses for both Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts and Dress A Girl Around the World.  When searching for illustrated how-to instructions to share
with a friend I didn't find any just like I make, so I thought I'd share it here.

You can find the written instructions with the fabric requirements and cutting measurements that I did earlier in PDF form in the link at the bottom of this post.

Illustrations follow instructions.

Step one:  gather supplies.
  • 100% cotton Fabric
  • 1/2" wide elastic
  • Wide, double fold bias tape.
  • Thread

Pillowcase style dress tutorial supplies

Step two:  prepare supplies according to PDF measurements.
  • Cut fabric
  • Cut bias tape
  • Cut elastic

Pillowcase style dress tutorial supplies

Step three: sew seam to make a tube.
  • With right sides together stitch across the raw edges of the fabric with a 1/2" seam--lengthwise of the dress, from top to bottom. 
  • For added stability and to keep it from fraying finish the edges of this seam.
  • Press seam open or to the side depending on how it is finished.
  • This will become the center back of the dress.

Pillowcase style dress tutorial sewing seam

serging Pillowcase style dress tutorial
TIP:  Finish raw edges of this seam with one of the following:
serge, french seam, zig zag, etc.

Pillowcase style dress tutorial pressing seam flat
TIP:  Press seam flat before pressing open or to the side.
This sets the stitches and makes final pressing easier and smoother.

Step four:  Prepare armholes.
  • Fold dress tube with seam down center back.
  • Using template from the PDF pattern draw the shape onto the fabric on top left and right sides of front.  Or pin the pattern piece onto the fabric for guidance.  [As you can see I made a cardboard template with a different size cut out of each corner since I make so many of all sizes.]
  • Cut out armholes.

Pillowcase style dress tutorial cutting armhole with template

Pillowcase style dress tutorial armhole

Step five:  prepare elastic casing along top edge.
  • Press down 1/4" along top of front & back between armholes (towards wrong side).
  • Press or pin down 3/4" more.  [I like to press instead of pin.]

Pillowcase style dress tutorial casing

Step six:  finish casings & insert elastic.
  • Stitch about 1/8" from bottom edge of folded over piece to form casing.
  • Be sure to back stitch at beginning and end for a few stitches.
  • Insert elastic thru casing.
  • Match end of elastic to end of casing.  Pin about 1 1/2" in from edge to keep the casing flat.  Pull up tight, pulling end of elastic thru other end of casing about 2" and slowly let back into casing matching ends--this will make a flat end, pin as on other side to keep flat end.
  • Stitch about 1/4" from edge of both ends--back stitch twice for added strength.
  • Leave pins in place until after bias tape is applied.

Pillowcase style dress tutorial sewing elastic casing

Pillowcase style dress tutorial elastic insertion
There are several tools available for threading elastic.
If none are available to you, a large safety pin works great.

Pillowcase style dress tutorial stitching ends of elastic in casing

Pillowcase style dress tutorial stitching elastic in casing

Pillowcase style dress tutorial

Step seven:  hem dress.
  • Press under 1/4" along bottom edge of dress towards inside.
  • Press or pin under 2" more to form hem.
  • Stitch about 1/8" from folded edge.  Be sure to overlap stitching and back stitch a couple of stitches--beginning at the center back seam works well.
  • Turn right side out and press hem well.

Step eight:  apply bias tape straps.

  • Leave the thread on the machine that matches the fabric (if different than what you will use for the straps) in case any of your stitching does not get covered by the straps.
  • Unfold and pin the bias tape to the wrong side of the dress along the armholes matching the center of the armhole with the center of the strap.  NOTE:  Commercial bias tape is folded so that one side hangs over the other side slightly.  You want to put the short side to the back side of the dress--this way when you fold it over and top stitch on the front your stitching will be covered.
  • Stitch in the ditch (where bias tape was folded) being sure to back stitch at both ends for added strength.
  • Fold the raw ends of the bias tape to the inside (about 1/4") and fold bias tape over where you just sewed, bringing it around to the front of the dress and pin in place.
  • Stitch from one end of the bias tape to the other being sure to catch the back side in the stitching.  Back stitch at both ends and where it attaches to the dress.  See images below and tip.

Pillowcase style dress tutorial pinning bias tape

TIP:  begin stitching about 1/2" from end of strap:
back stitch to end, pull threads taunt to gently
pull bias tape as you begin to sew forward  (helps
to keep it from jamming up).

Attaching bias tape to pillow case style dress.

Step nine: finishing touches.

  • Remove pins that are holding elastic.
  • Pull elastic taught holding onto ends to evenly distribute.
  • Tie straps into bows.
Pillowcase style dress tutorial.

I hope you enjoy making these dresses as much as I do.  I would love to hear if you make one and for whom you make it or to where you donate it.

You can find these variations at the link below.

Pillow Case Style Dress Pattern
Click Image for PDF instructions with fabric and measurement requirements.

These instructions are for your personal use, which includes sharing them with friends or groups who are interested in blessing little girls with a simple dress.

Disclaimer:  I tried my best to get it all right, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is an error or there is a part that is unclear.  Let me know if you find something that needs corrected.

I share ideas for various types of trim at the hem of the dresses in this post:  Adding Trim to the Bottom of a Pillow Case Dress.
One example I share.

Ongoing link party at Threading My Way for dresses -- some are tutorials, some just images for inspiration.

I have shared several of the dresses I have made for Operation Christmas Child.  You can find them in these posts:  Dresses Made By Cheryl.

You can find many more Sewing Tutorials suitable for shoeboxes here on Simply Shoeboxes.


Anonymous said...

I've never tried these! I may practice for next year's boxes I have a LOT of novelty fabrics from making I Spy quilts.I've only attempted clothing a couple of times and wasn't successful :-(
somehow I get confused when it comes to bias tape and finishing seams and that kind of 'simple' stuff...
thanks for the links and the tutorial

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

If you can do it, Susanna, it is so rewarding and fun. Wish I was nearby and could teach you hands on. These are really easy to make...but....also so addicting :-).

Pam @Threading My Way said...

Such a detailed and comprehensive tutorial and perfect for someone who likes lots of photos with the instructions. Gorgeous fabric in that dress.

Anonymous said...

well I found your blog again ! didn't get to these this year but watched youtube tutorials - think I'll just have to set aside a weekend this next year (or over Christmas ths year) and just start and learn from trial and error. this year wss bad with too much overtime the first half of the year then tired and time-crunched. I did 4 boxes this year (10 last year) but I didnt' want to get spread too thin and stress out packing them. I had a couple of construction site play mats so did a quick sew and flip with light quilting on them and bought some construction vehicles at walmart for 2 5-9 boy boxes then did 2 girl boxes with dolls and storebought clothing for them. could have made clothing if I'd practiced and knew how! earlier this year I was practicing knitting wash cloths but got behind in production - probably will start back and do some and just store them in a container until next year's packing.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Hi, Susanna! Some years are like that aren't they? I hope this year is easier on you. Sounds like your 4 boxes were delightful! Don't worry about the number, just put your heart into each one and enjoy doing them. I hope you get a chance to try the dresses -- they are fun to make. Great idea about starting back on the wash cloths and just saving them. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

Ashley said...

The sizes for the dresses in the PDF, are they US sizes?

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Yes, Ashley, that is correct..US sizes.

sonoallen9@gmail.com said...

I started with the interest of making these, dresses for occ and so far I have 50 in 2 days, not as, great as the ones I see here but they are, still pretty

Sarah said...

sonoallen9~That's great! Thanks for sharing!

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