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Re-Purposing: Tshirt into a Dress with Braided Collar


Many times, I like to re-purpose from old clothes in my “donate to the thrift store” pile.  But sometimes, I walk through the store and see an article of clothing on clearance…….and decide that the fabric used would be perfect to re-purpose.  Especially when the piece of clothing is cheaper than buying un-cut fabric.  (And sometimes I wish clothing stores would provide the fabric prints they have, by the yard.  Especially all those great knit fabrics that fabric stores seem to be lacking.)


So, when I saw some little knit shirts at Wal-Mart (on my way to buy cough drops…..anyone else plagued with a cold this summer?)………I knew I wanted to use it to make a little dress.

(And plus, using the bottom hem of the shirt as the hem for the dress, cuts out a step.)


Comfy and light and summery.  Perfect for my littlest one.

Little Felt Flower in her hair,  tutorial here.



No need for buttons/snaps/closures…………because the braided collar stretches nicely, right over her head.



You may recognize this 5 strand braid from here.  Yep, it’s made just like the headband.



And really, jersey knits seem to be the most cozy thing to put on her soft skin.



Oh, did you recognize those ruffly bloomers?  Yep, those are the same ones from this tutorial.




And don’t forget to throw in your tag, making it official.  And one-of-a-kind.  (More on my labels here.)



Nothing beats making a new little dress for a few dollars.  Completely satisfying.



Go on and give it a try. Especially if you have a few items you’re getting rid of anyway.



Want to make your own little dress with a braided collar?


First of all, you’ll need to find a knit Tshirt (mine is jersey knit… it a bit more stretch) that you want to cut up.


However, you can always start from scratch and use some great knit fabric from your fabric stash.   But if you use an old Tshirt, you can use the bottom hem of the shirt as the bottom hem of your dress.  Nice and easy.


***These Tshirts I have been using are the softer, stretchier Tshirts that are usually made for women. You know, the knits shirts that are usually more fitted and snug. A regular old Tshirt (like you would get if you were playing on the city league softball team or something) are a bit stiffer and will still work.  But they aren’t as stretchy and semi-flowy and cozy.  So I really like using these stretchy jersey knits shirts best for re-purposing.   Jersey knit stretches more and is a bit softer.  And when you cut a strip of it (along the stretch of the fabric) and then pull it at each end, it will stretch out a bit and curl along each long edge.  A regular old Tshirt won’t stretch and curl the same way.  Now, go run your hands along the shirts in your closets and drawers and you’ll see what I mean.


Place a dress that already fits your little girl (or granddaughter/niece/friend) on top of the Tshirt and line up the bottom of the dress with the bottom of the shirt.  Make sure you make both layers even, as you will be cutting through both pieces of fabric at once. Now, cut a slight A-line shape for the sides and then rounded holes for the arms.  (Use the dress as a guide.)  Don’t cut the dress straight off at the top…….give it a slight curve so that it will curve with the rounded braided collar.  Make sure that you add some extra width to the dress for seam allowances and also because the dress will be gathered in at the top.

After this picture, I made the dress slightly less of an A-line at the sides, because it made the sides too pointy at the bottom.  My final A-line was just very slight.  You could cut yours with straight lines at the sides and that would work too……..but I liked just a bit of an A-line better.  It gave the dress a bit more shape.


Now, you have a front piece and a back piece to your dress.

Next, place the front piece and back piece together with right sides together and sew along both sides of the dress…….using a zig-zag stitch, a serger, or other knit friendly stitches (like the one here).



Now, cut two 1.5 inch wide strips from your Tshirt scraps……..make them as long as the arm hole opening.  Fold the strips in half lengthwise, then open them up and fold each outer edge in towards that center fold.  Iron flat.  (Just like bias tape)



Now, use these strips and sandwich them around the arm hole openings…..finishing off the raw edges.  Just I did to finish off a quilt (like I did here) or an apron (like I did here).  Sew slowly as you sew around the curve……….lifting your needle and re-adjusting your needle presser foot as needed.  (And be sure you are catching the folded fabric on the bottom side too.



Now, make a basting stitch a 1/4 inch from the top curved edge of the front and back of the dress.  Gather in the fabric until it’s about as wide as your little girl is across her chest, in between her arm pits.  (Need help with gathering?  Click here.)



Now, make 2 more strips of folded fabric, just like you did above…….but cut these strips 2 inches wide.  And make them slightly wider than your gathered front and back.  Sandwich your strips along the top, just like you did with the arm holes…….making sure to hide your basting stitch and gathers.  Pin in place, leaving about an inch at each end to hang off.




Sew each strip into place, making sure to catch all of your layers and folds in your seam.  Then tuck under each end towards the inside and stitch in place.




Now, make a 5 strand braid (or a 3 strand words too), making sure to cut the fabric with the stretch of the fabric, so that the finished braid will stretch and will fit over the child’s head.  Full tutorial on the 5 strand knit braid, found here.  Turn the braid into a circle, finishing it off like the headband tutorial noted.


**Don’t braid super tight, or it won’t allow for enough stretch.


To be sure that your braided circle is large enough, try fitting it over the child’s head.  See if the braid falls onto the chest where you think the neck-line should go……and isn’t too big either.



Now, fold the braided circle in half and attach the center of the front half of the circle to the top edge of the front of the dress, right on top of the strips of fabric that you sewed in place.  Do this step by hand, using a needle and thread.  Curve the braid along the top edge of the dress and it will stay in place and continue to curve nicely.  (Unless you braided too tight, then it will have a hard time curving.)  Now attach the back half of the circle to the outside of the back of the dress, right along the neck line.  (Need help with hand-stitching?  Click here.)



Be sure that there is extra braid at each side, to fit nicely over the shoulders.


Another note, be sure that the back of the circle is lined up with the back of the dress.



And that’s it.


Your little dress is complete.  And ready to be worn.




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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