Posted by: jinniver | June 28, 2010

Pillowcases–not just for the bed anymore

Leave it to my sister-in-law Meghan to always find the cutest trends in children’s clothing.  Me, I’m…fashioned challenged.  In fact, right now I’m wearing jeans and a Brad Keselowski t-shirt–for which I’m unapologetic; it’s Sunday and he was racing today!…but it’s not exactly fashionable.  Fortunately, my children will not have to suffer for my lack as long as they’ve got Auntie Meghan!

Several months ago, Meghan sent me some links to a pillowcase dress, to ask if I could make some for her Stella (aka the World’s Cutest Niece).  I hadn’t heard of them before, but they looked really cute…and really easy.  Basically, you just cut the pillowcase down, cut out and finish some armholes, sew a casing along the top edge, and insert a ribbon in each casing.  The ribbon gathers the top and ties over the shoulders, and viola!  You have a dress.

What I didn’t have, though, were cute pillowcases.  What I did have was fabric.  Lots and lots of fabric.

So, I went through my fabric stash and pulled out everything I thought my sister-in-law and I might like…’cause, if I was making these for my niece, I could certainly make some for my daughter, right?  (Although I have to admit Lexie’s more tomboy than girly-girl like her cousin, so she’s not as much of a dress wearer.  But I could make tops!)  As Meghan and I have different tastes, I tried to be wide ranging in my fabric selections.

I have several rolls of fat quarters (pieces of fabric that are cut to 18″x22″; they provide the same amount of fabric as a quarter yard cut 9″x44″, but tend to be more flexible) that have a really cute vintage look from them.  They’re sold at my favorite quilting store, Zook’s Fabric Store, in Intercourse, Pennsylvania.  The come in sets of 8, so I could sew 4 together for the front and 4 for the back for a really cute patchwork look:

Pillowcase dress fabric choices (1)

I also brought together all of my vintage-look floral prints:

Pillowcase dress fabric choices (2)

The 5 gathered in the upper right corner (the yellow, blue, pink, and cream florals) have a special place in my heart–and in my sis-in-law’s as well, I suspected–because I’d used them to make my niece her first quilt:

Stella's quilt

I also have a fun collection of large print fabrics.  They’re hard to use in quilts because if you cut them up too small, you lose what makes them special.  But I figured they’d be perfect in a dress where I needed large pieces of fabric:

Pillowcase dress fabric choices (3)

Then I had a small group of larger, bright, more modern looking florals.  I will be making Lexie one from the sunflower print, just so you know:

Pillowcase dress fabric choices (4)

Just for an entirely different look, I have a collection of Asian-style prints that I thought would make really cute little summer dresses.  The deep red print in particular I thought would look beautiful on Stella, with her golden brown curls:

Pillowcase dress fabric choices (5)

And finally, there were my batiks.  I adore batiks for the same reason that I like hand-dyed yarn: the way the colors play off each other in the multi-colored versions, and the semi-solids have such depth to them.

Pillowcase dress fabric choices (6)

I sent the pictures to Meghan, and was unsurprised when she picked the floral prints from Stella’s quilt.  But some of the pieces I had left were not long enough by themselves to be dresses.  That’s when I had a brainwave.  I could pair these prints with some solid fabrics I’d gotten (also at Zook’s) and sew on bottom trim that would be the same width as the hem on a pillowcase.  Faux pillowcases!

I did also go shopping for actual pillowcases–after all, that would save me some sewing–but I couldn’t find many I really liked.  I did find 2 sets of pillowcases I thought were really cute, mostly because of the trimming.  The pillowcases were plain white and cream, but really high quality fabric and the eyelet lace trim on the bottom was really sweet.  So I figured they were worth the prices…and then was pleasantly surprised to find out the store was running a rather significant sale.  The pillowcases ended up being less than $10 apiece.  Score!

Then it was time to actually make the dresses.  I figured out what fabric combos I wanted for the floral and solid fabrics and got them sewed together so it looked I had trimmed down pillowcases.  Then I turned to 2 different online tutorials, at Prudent Baby and Jen Leheney.  I sort of combined them–I used the regular pillowcase shape at the second, but the substituted the full ribbon ties on the first instead of the elastic.  I didn’t want to insert elastic that would make the dress less flexible as Stella grows (and the same for why I didn’t want to cut the fabric down like in the first tutorial).

It took longer than it should have to finally get all of the dresses sewn–darn me and my “ooh, shiny!” tendencies–but I got 10 beautiful dresses made for my niece, 8 with floral prints and the 2 plain with the lace edging.  I’m not sure they could have turned out more adorable:

pillowcase dress pink swag (4)

pillowcase dress blue with cream

pillowcase dress yellow (2)

pillowcase dress cream (2)

pillowcase dress blue flowers with maroon (4)

pillowcase dress blue flowers with pink (1)

pillowcase dress pink with yellow flowers (1)

pillowcase dress maroon with cream (1)

And can we give it up for the world’s cutest–and most patient–model?  Considering that I changed her outfit 7 times over 2 photo sessions because my camera battery died and I had to charge it up for an hour and then drug her back outside in the heat and humidity, I was quite grateful that she was still smiling and following directions by dress 8!  So I made the last 2 dresses optional…and she politely declined.

pillowcase dress white

pillowcase dress pink with blue flowers

As several friends have pointed out, these dresses are perfect for the heat we’ve been seeing recently…so I need to get cracking on dresses for Lexie (other than her matching white and cream dresses, which are ready to go).



  1. Totally too cute! Lexie is an awesome model!

    I’d need to sew up a kingsize duvet, but they look so cool!


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