upcycledshirtdresstutorial thumb

I am loving upcycling old t-shirts. Yesterday I showed you how I made an upcycled scarf with Kayla. T-shirt material is so forgiving and it usually doesn’t need extra prep for the edges not to fray.  I must say once you get the hang of it you can’t stop making them.  Click the below slideshow to see all the dresses I made.

I was inspired by Cheri from I am Momma Hear Me Roar to try my sewing skills at using t-shirts to make a layered dress for Kayla. There are a zillion ways to embellish these dresses which is why this is so fun and makes each dress completely unique.  Fabric stamping, dying  and adding rhinestones, ribbons or ruffles to the sleeves ups the cuteness factor.  It is even a way the kiddos can help.

Here are a few ways I embellished the dresses.  I used one of the Martha Stewart screen prints to add flowers to the front of a white piece of t-shirt.



To embellish the sleeves on one of the dresses I bought some pre-made polka dot ruffles from Hobby Lobby and used some Fabric Fushion glue to adhere them around the sleeves.



I also added rhinestones to some of the flowers as well since my daughter is the queen of bling.



When trying to figure out what size to cut your strips I always cut them bigger than they need to be and then sew them together with the seams facing out.

I used 3 t-shirt layers plus the top shirt as the bodice.  Each layer was 5” in width.  The size I made is a 4T/5T.  You can always use another dress to figure out the length and then divide that by the number of layers you use taking into account the 1/4” seams.


After you cut out your t-shirts they are still connected at the sides.  You will need to cut the sides of the shirts so that you have 3 layers for the front and 3 layers for the back and then pin in place and sew.






Then I make my cuts to fit the bodice.  I found that angling it gave the dress a nice a-line.  So I would cut the top 1/2” bigger than the width of the bottom of the bodice.  My bodice was 12” so I cut the top to 12.5” and then angled it and cut the bottom 14”.  Keep in mind this is for a 4t/5t sized dress.  You can see the angle below.

Also like Cheri, I sewed the sides right sides together even though the rest of the seams were wrong sides together.


Also one of the tricky parts is sewing the new dress to the bodice.  At first, I was making it WAY more complicated than it needed to be.  Simply pin it with both of the pieces facing the correct way – so you are pinning wrong sides together.  Start at the side seams and then stretch and pin.


You have to be a bit careful on your sewing machine to make sure the pieces are flat against each other and then work your way around the dress sewing as you go.


And there you have it.  The hardest part is just accounting for the natural roll of the t-shirts.  You want to make sure you catch the seams when you are sewing, that is why I highly recommend pinning.




This top was a 5T which is slightly too big for her.  But there is plenty of room to grow which means more time to enjoy the dress.


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  1. Suuuuper CUTE! And I bet Kayla is LOVING being your little model. She’s adorable!

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