adult tee to child's dress recon

The pattern I use is a trace from an existing dress. I've been using this nice A-line pattern for most of my tee recons because the shape is so nice.

To make a sleeve pattern I traced the shape of the sleeve onto paper

and then added some seam allowances and extra at the top for a bit of puff (but not too much with the knit material b/c they end up looking like little football players)

so, the doomed tee,

fold in half and put the front pattern over it. For this one the design was too big for the chest area so I did a little patching. I just folded the front pattern piece on the waist line and cut out the design plus a bit of seam allowance on the side.

Then took the name off the sleeve and cut out a the bottom plus a bit for seam allowance.
and, here they are:
The back was just follow the pattern cut:
Sleeves were cut from the most horrible maternity shirt ever. If you are using stripes, watch which way you cut so they don't end up looking odd.

I also cut out the bottom ruffle. Mine is 3 inches.

So, all pieced together with the ruffle on

to make the lettuce edges I used a rolled hem stitch on the serger while stretching the fabric. The same effect can be made with a zigzag stitch on a regular machine (stitch off edge with a wide but tight zigzag).

My bottom ruffle didn't ruffle very good - probably because I had cut along the not very stretchy way of the knit (check it out, one way stretches more than the other and you want to cut crosswise along the stretch)

I decided the dress was missing something at this point so I cut up another tee I'd saved for recons and added a second ruffle (also roll hemmed one edge). I also cut some bias tape from the red tee for the neckline.This is me attaching the second ruffle.

There's lots of ways to do this, but I just stitched if right along above the first (right sides together) and then added a second line of stitching to lift the ruffle high enough for nice layered effect.

The sleeves went on the usual way. (okay, I'm getting lazy, but I can answer questions here if anyone has them)

For the back, I find a couple of rows of shirring gathers the dress into a nice shape. To do this, I chalked a line across the back to mark where I wanted to gather and shirred 3 short lines there.

I also used 2 lines of shirring on the sleeves to gather them in

And, viola!

This is a free tutorial and I encourage you to use the information in any way you need to (check the disclaimer at the bottom of the page). If it works for you, toss a dollar or two in my paypal to show appreciation and to encourage me to offer up even more quality patterns and tutorials.

Thank you!
Questions about the Donation? FAQ here.


  1. great tutes! I love your stuff on Craftster, thank you for putting your tutes in a special place... :)

  2. Thanks anne r, I'm trying to get them all together so I can look at them and... oh, I don't know, make more tutes? I only want to tell people what to do :)

  3. im going to have to try and make one of these dresses for my 8 year old thank you for the clear instructions. by the way all that is missing is a fabric headband with that gawd awful maternity shirt good grief stripes and pregnancy never mix. :)

  4. This is brilliant. I especially liked your 'welcome' post. Couldn't have said it better myself. It's nice to know there are people who think like me out there. Keep it up!

  5. rhino - yer welcome. I would love if my kid would wear headbands. Maybe when she's older...

    cricket - nice or scary?

  6. Hey vegbee This is Giph... U rock man!! this is a sweet dress! my wife is impressed with yr skills too!

  7. hey giph!
    As long as your wife is impressed :)
    Thank you.

  8. WOW!! I love this!!!! Thank you so much for posting a tutorial for this. Someday I hope to have a little girl to make one of these for. I don't think my son would appreciate it very much . . . :)

  9. This is an awesome dress-thanks for the how-to's, I actually made one and it turned out great but I'm scared of sleeves, I've never put them on before...I always make sleeveless dresses. I'm a beginner sewer and I know it sounds silly but could you explain how you attach your sleeves- Thanks!

  10. roxy, the sleeves on this dress aren't too bad because they can be attached before you sew up the side seams.

    Lay the raw edge of the sleeve against the raw edge of the armhole, right sides together. Pin the two edges and the middle point (against the shoulder seam).

    Pin the edges together flat towards the middle on either side of the sleeve. About 1 1/4" from the middle pin, put a pin in to secure. You'll have a bunch of extra sleeve fabric which you want to evenly distribute (more or less). Take the extra bit, determine the middle of it, and pin it to the middle of the space on the bodice left for it. Keep pinning the middle of the extra fabric on the sleeve to the middle of the alloted space on the bodice until it is evenly distributed with no extra room to add more divisions. It will look like you've sprouted a porcupine in the middle top of your sleeve.

    Start at one end, sleeve side up, and sew in place. Stitch right over the puckers in the middle (though go slow and watch those pins!) And that will give you your puff top sleeve.

    Setting in a sleeve (sewing the sides seams of the bodice and the sleeve sides before attaching the sleeve) is a bit different and can be more complicated. I will leave that for you to discover as you go, but just flat attaching the sleeve works quite well for this particular project.

    I hope that helps. I can tell you that sleeves take a bit of practice, but its not daunting or terribly difficult. Put on some calming music (and, if you want to follow the wise advice of a fellow crafter, grab a glass of wine if need be) and deep breath your way through it. It's not too bad at all!

    You know, if you give me a few days I can get up a little photo tutorial on how to do these sleeves using the flat attachment method. I will do that, if you want to check back.

  11. Thanks soo much for all the info, I'm going to try flat attaching (with that glass of wine). Cheers.

  12. If you don't mind my asking, what kind of serger do you use? I'm thinking of investing in one since I've been making clothing and I would like to know that I am buying a quality machine. Any advice.

  13. Good luck Roxy!

    I use a Janome DX1110 and I would say I'm reasonably happy with it. I suggest whatever machine you buy, you do buy from a dealer who also services sewing machines and offers classes on their use (particularly helpful for a serger - take the class!) Buying from a large retailer that doesn't specialize may be a bit cheaper, but you are going to need service at some point and probably a few tips on use and knowing people how to do these things stops you from throwing your machine out the window.

    But that's just how I feel ;)

  14. HA! Danzig, I love it. Now you need a Misfits one. :) Great job!

  15. Thank you so much for these instructions! I can finally do something with all the shirts I love too much to toss... I found this about 4 hours ago and couldn't wait for my machine to be back from the shop, so now I'm nearly done hand stitching this thing! You are my hero.

  16. Thanks for the inspiration! I made this dress for my 3 year old daughter and it is a big hit. My boyfriend even gave me one of his 'sacred' bandshirts voluntary...
    You can see the result here:

  17. estherz,
    Women are always telling me that their SO's havent shown any interest in what is being sewn for their little girls, until they try this project out and then all of a sudden they have an opinion and will actively seek out tee shirts to recon for their daughters. Same thing happened to my dh.

    you've got some nice stuff in your link!

  18. I've been looking for a tutorial for this for the longest time. I'm so glad that I found it. I just have one question...can I use a stretch tshirt? Or does it have to be regular jersey knit??

  19. i'm sure any stretchy material would be fine :)

  20. This is adorable. Great tutorial. I'll be trying it!

  21. GREAT tutorial! I posted my version on my blog, and have linked you.. thanks SO much for the tutorial!!!


  22. Fantastic tutorial! Thank you, thank you.

  23. This is so great! I am going to make some for my granddaughter out of her Dad's old tees. He has so many and they will look so much better on her! Thanks for sharing and being so generous.

  24. your patterns freakin rock! tysvm :)

  25. this is great! i cant wait to make on from my husband old bright green tee from the factory job that lasted 8 days! lol...terribley boring...anyway, what is shirring on the sleeves and how does it work? thanks!!

  26. Anon,
    Shirring is sewing in a thread thin elastic. You can read more about it here:

  27. Awesome! I love it. She is so cute! She is looking so cuddly.
    Sydney Adult Fancy Dress Costume

  28. Just wanted to let you know that we've included this on today for our clothing refashion roundup... thanks for sharing this great idea!



  29. I've been linking your blog address to my list of inspirations at

    Like Roxy i'm afraid of sleeves, your tutorial makes me want to try. I am now gathering my old t-shirts and hoping i can make a pretty dress for my daughter. Wish me luck :d

  30. if only I'd known what to do with my collection of most hideous maternity shirts ever. They're all gone...just got myself a sewing machine and in wonder at all you crafties out there.