Sunday, June 10, 2012


I never thought about making a dress by using a purchased t-shirt and simply adding a gathered skirt to it until I saw it on Pinterest.  To this day, I have made four for my two older granddaughters and two for my youngest.   Friends kept asking me how I made them so when I made these last three, the patriotic ones, I decided to take pictures as I went along so I could have a tutorial to show them.  One friend whose granddaughter is less than a year old decided to use a onesie for the shirt.  She sent me pictures and they were so cute.  I was so pleased that I had helped her do something she was proud of for her granddaughter. 

After making seven dresses using a single piece of material for each skirt, I decided I was ready to get "creative".  Because you divide the tail of the t-shirt into fourths for ease of gathering the material to make the gathers, I decided I would chose four different prints for this skirt.  Here are the instructions for making my Patriotic T-Shirt Dress. 

After prewashing the shirt and the material you have selected for the skirt, you are ready to begin.
There are two things you need to know before you start cutting--how long you want the t-shirt to be above the skirt and then the length of the skirt.  Add a half inch to the t-shirt measurement and one and one-eighths inches to the skirt measurement.  This latter measurement will determine how much material you will need for the skirt.  Buy a couple of inches more than the length of the skirt...this allows for any shrinkage you might have when you prewash the material.

( For this one the t-shirt needed to be 15 inches from the back center of the neck.  With the half inch needed for the seam, I cut the t-shirt off at 15.5 inches.)

The next thing to do is to mark the tail of the shirt into four equal parts.

(This shirt was 13 inches across, so I snipped the center mark at 6.5 inches through both the front and the back at the same time.)

(Then I snipped at  3.25 inches from each side to mark the quarter marks.)

If the shirt isn't an easy number to divide into fourths, just fold the shirt matching the side seams, to snip the fold (center).  Then match the center mark with the side seam, and snip the fold which will be the quarter mark. (sorry no pictures)

You are now ready to make the skirt.  Since I had chosen four different prints, I needed to figure out the measurements for cutting them.  (I make the pattern twice the finished size for gathering.) Since
each quarter of the shirt is 3.25 inches, twice that would be 6.5 inches.  BUT don't forget to add for the seam. For these dresses I decided I would sew the skirt pieces together with a quarter inch seam and a half inch seam at the "waist".  So that would make the pattern 7 inches wide. The finished skirt length is 11.5 inches--that includes the half inch seam at the "waist" and then the 5/8ths for the skirt.  From tissue paper I cut the pattern--a rectangle measuring 7 inches X 11.5 inches.)

By folding the material,  cut two pieces by the pattern from each of the four prints.

After deciding the arrangement you want for the prints, you are now ready to sew the 8 pieces together using 1/4 inch seam.

Once you have all 8 pieces sewed together, press the seams to one side.  (I chose to top stitch the seams on the side that I pressed the seam to.  This keeps the seams flat.)

Make the last quarter inch seam to joins the 8 pieces together and then press that seam as you did the others and top stitch it down if you top stitched the others.

It is easier to make the shirt-tail hem now before you sew the skirt onto the shirt.

To make the hem, fold over about 5/8 inch.  If you are new to shirt-tail hems, I suggest you press this 5/8 inch first.  Then it will be easy to do the next step.


and then tuck under about 1/4 inch.

 This will give you about 3/8 inch hem.  The more experienced you become, you can do this by just "eyeing" it and not have to press it the 5/8 inch.

Sew with a quarter inch.

Finished hem.

You are half way through with the skirt.  You are now ready to make the gathers at the waist and then sew the skirt to the shirt.  Gathers scare some people, but they are not that difficult---if you work in sections.  To begin, you want to pull the threads on the machine from the needle and bobbin to about 5 or 6 inches.  Set the stitch length to the longest length on your machine.  Starting at one "side" of the skirt, sew a line of stitches 1/2 inch from the edge to the other "side".  Don't cut the threads until you have pulled them out about the 5 or 6 inches like when you started.  Repeat for the back.

You are now ready to pin the skirt to the t-shirt. (I sew the two together with the skirt on top.  That way I can see the gathers.) This means that you will turn the shirt right side out and pin the right side of the skirt to the right side of the top.  You will be working with the shirt inside the skirt. First match the "side" seam of the skirt with the side seam of the shirt and pin.  Taking the long top thread on the skirt, gently pull the thread and just make some gathers on the skirt just past the center--that will be the seam of the second and third prints. Match the center mark that you snipped with this seam and pin it.

Now you can see if you need to pull more or loosen the gathers from the skirt to match the quarter mark and the second seam. 

Evenly spread the gathers and pin.  Then work from the other "side" of the front toward the center pulling the thread gently.  Repeat  with the back.

Carefully sew the skirt and the shirt together with a half inch seam all around. You can remove the pin just before you will be sewing over it with the machine, if you like.  (I have to admit I sew over the pins, but I have broken a few needles too.)

Remove the pins if you didn't as you sewed the two pieces together and sew once again around as close as you can to your original stitches to secure the skirt and shirt together.  Then cut the long thread at the sides from gathering the material together.


I took a lot more pictures that I decided not to show here.  I hope that my instructions along with the pictures help you be successful.  I know people are at various levels of experience and I have tried to be as complete as I could for the beginner seamstress.


  1. Patricia, I love your tutorial! I made a t-shirt dress as a gift 3 years ago, but wanted to refresh my memory. Your online tutorial is perfect! Thanks so much! Hugs, Laura

    1. Thanks, Laura. I hope you have checked out my other ones that I have made. My granddaughters loves the ones with the two tier gathered skirt, esp Sadie. I have had so much fun making them different looking ones.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! These were my favorite t-shirt dresses I made for my granddaughters.

  3. Have you ever used a gathering foot to make a dress like this?

    1. Hi Anne,
      I haven't. I watched a you tube video illustrating it and it looks interesting. Will have to check it out. Thanks.