I’ve cleaned out my closet and I’ve got stacks to send to Goodwill. But there is one t-shirt that I don’t want, but can’t bring myself to put in the stack. First off, it’s giant on me and second, I don’t like the design and third, it was a gift … so what am I gonna do? That’s right, it’s going to find new life as fabric for my next project. Guilt free recycling! So I dug back into the bag to find coordinating colors and I set out to make a dress for Caroline. I think it turned out pretty cool!
Before I started, I hit blog land for inspiration. I found loads of great tutorials on ruffle skirts for little girls. Check out SparklinBecks or Epicurian Style for references. I also found a great write up at Analogme for a skirt for me! Love the style ladies, thanks for the tips! Armed with a bit of knowledge, my sewing machine and a glass of wine (or two), I set to work. I gathered up my old t-shirts and a new tank I picked up at Target.
You can see the dark blue and green shirts are the ones that are my normal size and the bottom t-shirt was the gift shirt. I mean really – how am I gonna fit in that?! Just a touch big for me, but a perfect skirt for a little girl. I smoothed out my shirt and cut out the base skirt using the biggest t-shirt. Since my model is Caroline, I shamelessly stole the required measurements from Heather’s posting on the tank dress she made for Caroline. But since I wasn’t putting a hem in at the bottom AND since I only have one side seam on the skirt base I didn’t need an extra inches for seam allowance so I ended up with a skirt base that was cut to 20″ x 15″ I sewed up the one side seam and my skirt base was done!
I chose to keep the t-shirt hem at the bottom of the skirt base because I didn’t want the hem to roll up. Next, on to the ruffle cuts. I decided on ruffles that were 3″ so I cut 3.5″ strips from the shirt – I cut as many as I could get out of the material and then I pieced them together to make two long strips.
The length of the strips is up to you – how much ruffle do you want? And dictated by the amount of material you have. The strips for this section of the skirt are about 50″ long. The green t-shirt I chose had a design sewn into the front so I wasn’t able to use that section of fabric. Placing the strips with the least amount of fabric at the top will give you the illusion of more ruffle because the top of the skirt is gathered.
After you’ve assembled your strips, set your sewing machine to the longest stitch length. I own a Pfaff so that length is 6 on my machine. Sew the entire length of the strip 1/4″ from the edge.
Then take your strip and pull on the bobbin thread to create a ruffle effect. Continue pulling the bobbin thread until you’ve reached the circumference of your base skirt – in my case the skirt was 38″ around. Distribute your ruffle across the length of the strip.
Mark your base skirt where you want to place the ruffle using chalk or a disappearing ink pen.
I spaced my ruffles about 2 1/2″ apart on the base skirt. You want to have overlap. I then placed a ruffle on the line, pinning right sides together.
Alright, I know, I know this was the wine making this sewing decision. (Friends don’t let friends drink and sew). As you can see I’m about to sew the ruffle down and then flip it over to the right which is the bottom of the skirt. It’s far faster just to sew the ruffle on right side up and right side out as the next ruffle will totally cover the un-finished seam at the top. I honestly didn’t think of this until I was on my last ruffle. Doh! Either way will work, with this method, I just ended up with slightly shorter ruffles.
Now, remember to change your stitch length back to your normal length and sew that ruffle down!
Continue on with all the other ruffles until you have completed the skirt base.
At first when I was sewing the strips on, I was really trying to make sure any ruffle strip seams were in the “back” of the skirt, but then I just gave up because the green had to be pieced together so much. There are enough ruffles that I don’t really notice the strip seaming too much.
OK, it’s time to get serious. The base is done, my wine is gone and it’s time to cut that tank top.
I guess I can’t return it now.
Can you believe I found such a perfectly matching tank top at Target?! Me either. I was just looking for something in plain white and saw this little beaded beauty for only $7! I cut the tank according to Heather’s directions at 3.5″ down from the arm hole. It’s time for this tank to get married to the skirt! Pin the right sides together and get ready to sew.
Press the seam down to the skirt. Yes, I tried it too and it didn’t work for me either. There’s just too much fabric there! But I didn’t want it hanging up as a dark band underneath the white tank top so I decided to sew it into submission. First I pinned the top ruffle to the tank so I wouldn’t catch it when I sewed down the seam.
I then went to town and just sewed that seam down. It doesn’t have to look pretty, the top ruffle will cover all your crooked sewing sins.
Turn the dress right side out and voilà!
Cute summer tank dress made from recycled t-shirts and a new tank top from Target. Total cost: $7 and one new raging obsession with ruffles. Seriously, everyone I know be warned: You are now going to get something with ruffles on it. I may never give another t-shirt to Goodwill again!
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