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Re-purposing: Shirt to Dress with Boat Neck/Pockets

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Remember how I have several projects going, and then I suddenly set them aside to try something new?  (Read the post here…)
Well, sure enough, that happened again. 
I was walking through Old Navy looking for new flip-flops for our little guy and on the way, glanced at the leggings and little dresses in the girl section.  I saw a cute and simple little knit striped dress and loved it.  I remembered that I had some similar knit in the recycle cupboard at home, snapped a picture with my cell phone, and decided to bump this project to the top.  
I have looked for the dress online to show you but it’s not available online I guess.
But it looks similar to the project today.  (Except for the neckline.)
And goodness, how fun are little stripes on a comfy knit dress.
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Complete with large side pockets…..and little buttons to keep them closed.
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And another button near each shoulder, to lock the overlapping boat neck in place.
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Hmmmm……does she like her new dress?
Of course.
Especially the new buttons.  
(She thinks buttons are little treasures/jewels for some reason.) 
 Do you have some stripes at home that you’re ready to transform?  
Or even a solid?

A print?

(And let me tell you, it easier to use the existing neckline and hem of a women’s shirt to make this dress, rather than starting from scratch……so find one you can use.  But you can create this dress from scratch too if you’d like.)
I started with an older knit shirt of mine, that was originally a boat neck shirt.  I decided to carry that over to the little dress and make it a boat neck dress.  
To begin, I used the same technique as some of the other re-purposing dress ideas here and here, and used another shirt to measure how wide to make the dress shape, and how big to make the arm holes.  I made sure to leave extra fabric up near the top and keep it a bit wider and extend the fabric near the shoulders up into points, to construct the boat neck in the next few steps.
Then I folded over each point, overlapping the two points, and lined up the raw edges of the arm hole.  And then pinned it in place.
Then I did the same to the other shoulder.
Then I opened it up and sewed along the edge of the overlap, 1/4 inch from the edge.  I used a basting stitch to keep these pieces in place for now.  (A basting stitch is using a really long stitch length.)
Then I folded the dress back together but with right sides together.  And then I pinned each side together.
Then I cut my sleeve shapes (remember to use the links above for more help cutting your sleeves) and made sure that the arm hole opening of the shirt was the same length as the arm hole section of the sleeve.  This will allow you to fit them together properly.
Here is the sleeve shape opened up.
Then I folded each sleeve in half and sewed them together with right sides together…..only along the inner edge.  And actually made a second seam, to make it nice and secure.
Then I sewed the sides of the dress closed, leaving the arm holes open.  And it’s not pictured here but I sewed another seam right next to it, to once again, secure the seams.
Next, with everything still inside out, I pinned the sleeve to the dress, matching up the side seam of the dress and the bottom seam of the sleeve.  I pinned all the way around the sleeve, attaching it to the dress.

Then I poked the sleeve down inside of the dress so that I could lay it flat as I was sewing.  Then I slid the raw edges under the sewing machine needle and sewed all the way around the opening of the arm hole.

I made another stitch right next to it, securing the sleeve in place.
 And my dress ended up being a little longer than I wanted it, So I folded the dress under just a bit, and then created 2 new seams (to give it that manufactured look) about 3/4 of an inch from the bottom.
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Then I cut pockets out of the remaining scrap material (from the original shirt sleeves).  I cut 2 squares that were 7 x 9 inches.  (This dress will fit my 4T wearing daughter……adjust your pocket size as necessary.)  Then I folded under each side a 1/4 inch, sewed them in place, then tucked under the bottom edge 1/2 inch and sewed it in place.  For the top, I folded it over about 2 inches and then sewed about 1 1/2 inches down, then about 1 1/4 inches down… it a nice fold and seaming along the top of the pocket.
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Here’s a look from the front of the pockets.
Then I matched up the center of the pockets along the side seams of the dress and pinned them in place.
Then I sewed each side pocket in place…..sewing on top of the original seams.
Knit sewing tips for this dress:
This was a flimsy knit, that was more annoying to work with.  I just used my straight stitch for everything and just adjusted the stitch length to help move the fabric under the needle more quickly.  Also, I didn’t back stitch unless it was a final seam and I needed to (you know how back-stitching tends to jam the fabric under the needle)…….and only then did I back stitch at the end of a seam and not the beginning of a seam.  (And then I’d flip the fabric around and back stitch the other end coming from the other direction.)   But when the fabric was bunching up under the needle, I always lengthened my stitch length a bit more or lifted up the foot and moved the fabric along just a bit.  It seemed to help a lot with this finicky stuff.  Stiffer knits are a bit easier to work with so keep that in mind while selecting one to sew with.
 And to finish off the dress, I added 2 buttons to each pocket.  (Or use one big button…..that’s what the dress at the store had.  I just didn’t have any in my stash.)
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Then I adjusted each overlap of the boat neck and attached a button at each side, to keep the neck line in place.
 And that’s it.
A very basic dress………ready to dress up with tights and a sweet bow or dress down with some leggings and flats.
Thanks Old Navy, for a great dress idea for fall.

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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