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Make a Color-Block Dress with pockets (…from old Tshirts)

You guys know I like to turn old Tshirts into new clothing for my kids.  It’s kind of this weird fascination that I have of turning “trash into treasure”.  (More of my re-purposing projects here.  I kind of love it!)  So sometimes, when walking through our local thrift store, I pick up old Tshirts, skirts, or whatever…..with the thought that “I’m going to need this color/fabric for SOMETHING!”  Yes, it’s weird.  It’s good that I’m supporting our local thrift store one 50 cent Tshirt at a time………but it’s a bit of a problem that I have a pile of old Tshirts that are still sitting in a pile, untouched. Because, you know, I may want to turn the fabric from that piece of clothing into “something”, right?! :)


So, the other day, I started digging through this mentioned pile of clothes, with a resolve to use some of the Tshirts from the pile.  That’s when I decided to do a little color blocking for the girls and turn them into dresses.


So, I grabbed an existing Tshirt (that actually fit the girls) for the top of the dress……and then 2 other Tshirts for the bottom portion of the dress.



 I used shirts that we already owned for the top of the dress, because the girls did what they do best, and grew right out of them (length wise)!   So each dress only cost me about $1 each…..because I bought the other shirts for the lower half of the dresses, at the thrift store.  But if I would have had the right colors on hand, I could have dug through my own pile of Tshirts.




Now, I have a dress for Chloe and one for Elli.  One with pockets and one without. And ooooh that color blocking……I just love how it pops!




That little Chloe loves her pockets!  I used the fabric from the bottom half of the shirt that I cut off……and added little buttons.  Pretty easy addition to the dress.



And because I was cutting up old Tshirts, I used the existing hem of one of the Tshirt’s as the hem for the dress……so this project doesn’t really involve much sewing at all.  Perfect, right?




And wouldn’t you know, neither of my girls are Tom-Boys.  They both love frills and ribbons and skirts and dresses!  So when I finished whipping these dresses up for them, they were both thrilled!  Those 50 cent shirts turned out to be worth every single penny!





Because these dresses are made from knit Tshirts, they are stretchy and comfy and perfect for play.  And once it turns cold, I’ll just throw a pair of leggings on underneath and these can be worn during the fall/winter months.   Perfect all around. :)




Want to make some Color Block Dresses too?


Okay, let’s get started.


Find a shirt that fits your subject on the top and then 2 other LARGER Tshirts that are different in color.



Measure your subject from the top of her shoulders, down to the length you want to make the dress.  Divide that number by 3.  This will be your golden number that you will use for the rest of the tutorial.  (For example, I measured Chloe from her shoulders down…..and my desired dress length was 21 inches.  21 divided by 3 is 7.  So 7 is the number I used for the remainder of the tutorial.)


Use that number and measure the Tshirt that fits your subject, from the shoulder down to that number, PLUS 1/2 INCH. (For Chloe’s shirt, the measurement within the bracket below is 7 1/2 inches.)



Then measure the width of the shirt opening at the bottom and make sure the the fabric strips you cut in the next steps are wider than this measurement.



Now, grab your next color Tshirt and flatten it out evenly.  (This will be the middle color of the dress.)  Then cut through both layers of the Tshirt and cut 2 strips that are wider than your shirt opening (from above) and that is as tall as your golden number from up above, PLUS 1 INCH.  (Mine is 8 inches because 7+1 = 8.)



Then, grab your 3rd Tshirt, which will be the bottom color for the dress.  You’ll be using the hem of the Tshirt as the hem of your dress.  So even up the bottom edges of the shirt and cut 2 strips that are wider than the top Tshirt but are as tall as your golden number from up above, PLUS 1/2 INCH.  (Mine is 7 1/2 inches because 7+1/2 = 7 1/2.)



Place the 2 strips together with “right” sides together and sew them together using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  (Be sure you’re not sewing along the edge of the 3rd color that has the hem for the bottom of the dress.)  Use a zig-zag stitch so that your seam will still have some stretch to it.  Iron/steam flat.



Open up the fabric and iron/steam flat.  Repeat with the other 2 strips of fabric.



Place your pieces of fabric down in front of you (with wrong sides facing each other) and with the bottom edges lined up exactly.  Place the top Tshirt at the top to use as a guide and cut an A-line shape out of the sewn together strips.  Be sure that you add an extra 1/2 inch to both sides for a seam allowance.



If you want to add pockets, here’s how.


Use the bottom section of the Tshirt that you cut off from the top section of the dress.  Use the hem of the shirt as the top edge of your pockets.  Cut a pocket shape out from paper, hold it up to the dress to be sure it’s the size/shape you want…..and then cut out 2 pockets from the excess fabric.  Be sure and add 1/2 inch around the sides and bottom of the pocket for a seam allowance.



Now, folding under the edges of a rounded pocket can be tricky, especially with knit fabric.  So, my trick is to sew a piece of fabric that’s the same shape around the edges, to the bottom half of the pocket.  (Be sure you’re sewing it to the “right” side of the pocket.)



Then trim off the excess seam allowance from the extra fabric.  (This is to help eliminate bulk.)



Then turn it right side out and the fold under the edges of the pocket 1/2 inch as well.  Iron flat.



My fabric is a little see through and I didn’t want to see the line halfway up the pocket after attaching it to the dress, so I trimmed away the center section of that fabric.



If you turn it over, you have a nicely shaped rounded pocket, ready to be attached to the dress.  Repeat with the other pocket.



Then place them on your front dress piece and sew them in place around the sides and bottom.



Now, place your two bottom dress pieces together, with right sides together, and sew the sides together using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Be sure to use a zig-zag stitch so that your fabric can still stretch.



Next, turn the Tshirt for the top of the dress inside out and slide it over the bottom section of the dress, match up the openings and making sure the side seams for each are lined up.  Just be sure that “right” sides are facing each other.



Pin the edges together, ready for sewing.



Sew all along that edge, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  BE SURE to use a zig-zag stitch to allow for stretch.  Open up the dress and iron/steam flat this seam and all other seams of the dress.


Add buttons to the pockets if desired.


And that’s it!  Your dress is complete! :)








If you have a few other Tshirts to recycle, check out these other projects that transform old Tshirts into something fantastic!


A quick Toddler Play Dress (from old Tshirts)


 The 10-minute Skirt (from old Tshirts)


Ombre Fringe Skirt (from old Tshirts)


Turn a Tshirt into a Circle Dress




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Featured Sponsor:

Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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