Home » DIY Tutorials » DIY Sewing » Sewing: Clothing » Kids Clothing » Make a Color-Block Dress with pockets (…from old Tshirts)

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




. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Featured Sponsor:

Ashley Johnston
  • Save

Ashley Johnston

Owner 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 my 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!
Make a color-block dress with pockets (…from old tshirts)
  • Save


  1. Creative Khadija says:

    Simply cute and lovely :)

  2. SUMMER says:

    When making the dress from the long sleeve shirt- I notice the dress sleeves are short – so was wondering did u just cut it to the length you wanted and that was it or does your sleeves have a hem on them ???

  3. annet says:

    Thank you so much for the tutorial, I really liked it and I wish I had a sawing machine, it could do me good to help the poor kids here in Uganda who go with out clothing because the parents can not afford, but out there they are many old T shirts that can be useful.

    Thank you

  4. Eska says:

    The color combos look great together and the dresses look professional when you use that existing hemline. Now I need to find my sewing machine.

  5. Jill says:

    These are so cute! I don’t currently have a sewing machine, but I need one desperately, would love to make one of these little dresses!

  6. Carolyn says:

    Great idea Ashley with summer coming here will be making a couple for my grandkids great to take to the beach
    Ta Carolyn (Australia)

  7. Bridget says:

    Hi Ashley,

    I’m in awe! These dresses look amazing – I’d love to try them next. But right now I’m struggling with your stretchy tube skirt. I would be so grateful if you could cast your mind back and explain exactly how you manage to stretch the top bit with the elastic so it fits the bottom skirt bit. I tried, but was left with about an inch of skirt bit and had to rip it all up again. I’d be so grateful if you could tell me.

    I’d also just like to say I’m in awe. I don’t know how you do it – this blog has taught me so much and you do all this alongside looking after a lovely family and goodness knows what else. Congratulations on the book, too!

    Thanks so much in advance for your help,

    1. Justine says:

      Hi Bridget, I haven’t seen the tutorial, but in case you still need an answer, I’ve done similar things in the past. I lay out the two pieces, then I figure out the halfway mark on each item and pin in there, then I do the quarter mark as well (I just do this roughly by folding the thing), the bigger item (skirt) won’t fit flat in the top bit, but it shows you where it should match up. Then I start sewing, gently stretching the top bit to make it long enough to get to the end of each quarter section (where the next pin is), hope that helps!!!

  8. cucicucicoo says:

    I love colorblocking and I love making dresses and skirts from t-shirts, especially when you can reuse the hems! I also really like your tip on turning curved pockets. I’d done it differently in the past, but your way is definitely different. Great tutorial, Ashley! :) Lisa

  9. Elisheba says:

    Hi Ashley, thank you so much for posting these old shirts to cute ideas. My grandma gave me her sewing machine and I used it for a straight stitch project and it worked so much better than mine so I gave mine away. Unbeknownst to me, the zig zag doesn’t work. Ahhhh! Would the double needle idea work for this? I’m sort of a novice (though I tackled three of the cloth dolls from your blog and felt quite accomplished ;) so have no idea on this one but I want to work with knit.

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh how fun to have your grandma’s old machine! :) However, if your machine doesn’t do a zig-zag, it probably won’t work with the double needle. However, if the machine used to be able to do the zig-zag and it’s just not working, maybe the double needle will still work. The double needle needs to have the same amount of width as the zig-zag but it also needs the capability to grab the threads from underneath, from a needle that is coming down off center. Does that make sense? Anyway, hopefully that helps!


    2. Elisheba says:

      Thanks for the quick reply! It does have the option of zig zag so I will try it. Thanks so much!

  10. Amy says:

    This is such a cute idea! I love how simple it is too. You are so creative.

    1. Ashley says:

      I’m glad you like it. Thanks Amy!

  11. Diane says:

    Love this! I love to upcycle old t-shirts too, and actually have a stash of them saved for projects as well. =) Just an FYI though, your math on the bottom strip is in error. I think you meant to write (7 + 1/2 =7 1/2). Love your blog! Thanks for sharing all of your creativity with us. =)

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh gosh…’s amazing I passed 5th grade! Haha……I fixed it, thanks! :)


  12. Kimberly T. says:

    Oh my gosh! Those are the cutest dresses!! I’m so excited to make some for my girls for Christmas, they will love them.

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh good, I hope they like them! :)

  13. Anonymous says:

    This so cute- i love the vibrant colours and your girls are so sweet. Elli looks quite tall too- but I suppose that’s to be expected haha.
    Anyway thanks for sharing- I absolutely love the outcome.
    Pretty and inexpensive.

    1. Ashley says:

      She IS tall! However, she doesn’t have much chance of being short with 2 super tall parents! :)

      I’m glad you like how they turned out! And thanks!

  14. Lynette says:

    I can’t get over how cute these turned out! I absolutely love the one with the pockets. So darling. I was thinking how you could do this with a little who is still (or going to be once she gets here!) in onesies…I could just use the onesie as the first layer, sew the skirt part to the onesie, and we’d have a dress and still fabric to cover her middle, and her diaper for that matter. Or I guess I could just make a skirt, or wait til she’s big. What a fun idea! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ashley says:

      Awwww, thanks Lynette! Chloe loves those little pockets too!

      And yes, the same idea would work with a onesie too. Just be sure to attach it to the onesie with a zig-zag so that it will still stretch. (Or use a double needle, because that allows for some stretch too!

      Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Hi, I'm Ashley

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

Back to Top
Share via
Copy link