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How to make a Pillowcase Dress (free Pillowcase Dress pattern sz 2 to 16)

A Pillowcase Dress is a perfect beginner sewing project!  This type of dress is made with no zippers, buttons or hooks.

Use my free pdf pattern (available in sizes 2 to 16) to learn how to sew a Pillowcase Dress for your little miss!

how to make a pillowcase dress - free pillowcase dress pattern

What is a Pillowcase Dress?

Pillowcase dresses were originally designed to be kind of a “one size fits all” type dress for little girls.  The way the dresses are made (loose-fitting and gathered around the neckline). The dress will “grow” with the girl, eventually becoming more of a top than a dress.

This style of “dress” has actually been around for years and years.  Pillowcase dresses are fast and simple to make and originally were a great way to recycle a set of pretty pillowcases when one of the sets was lost. 

You can easily make this dress with an old pillowcase, but the trend now is to make the pillowcase style dresses with bright pretty fabrics.

If you do use a pillowcase, the instructions are basically the same except the sides and bottom hem are already done! (You would just use the included bodice pattern to cut the armholes.)

Pillowcase dress pattern

Learn How to Make a Pillowcase Dress:  

The good news is, for this tutorial, I’ve included a printable pillowcase dress pattern that you can download and print.  This post includes step-by-step instructions on how to sew the pillowcase dress, with photos for you to follow.

Since Pillowcase dresses are designed to grow with the girl, the patterns tend to be “one-size-fits-all.” 

I wanted my pillowcase dress to fit a bit better, so I created three different pattern sizes: 2t to 5, 6 to 10 and 12 to 16.

(See the version I just sewed for a 14 to 16 girl here and my adult version here.)

Variations of this Pillowcase Dress Pattern

In this pillowcase dress tutorial, I’ll show you how to make a basic pillowcase dress with a ruffle bottom. 

If you would like more ideas to change up your pillow case dress,  I have a post that includes simple options (and instructions) to “dress up” your pillowcase dress.

Pillowcase Dress Options

Various Pillowcase Dress Options are:

  • A contrasting top (which is what I did for these photos),
  • Solid dress (with no-frill and can be sewn in less than an hour!)
  • Solid with banded bottom
  • 2 Different tie/strap options.

Fabric Amount Chart for the Pattern

Fabric requirements will vary based on the style you choose and size.  For a bigger girl, (dress size 6 and up,) you might wish to add width to your pillowcase dress, which will double the amount of fabric needed.

Notice how our size 6 dress is kind of narrow in width?   I opted not to use extra fabric and could only make the skirt as wide as the fabric, which was about 42 inches.

Don’t worry though, I’ve included a little chart along with the tutorial to help you determine how much fabric is needed.)

How much fabric is needed for a pillow case dress
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.

Size Chart for the Pillowcase Dress Pattern

  • Size  Height     Weight
  • 2t:    34 inches     28
  • 3t:    36 inches     32
  • 4:     39 inches     36
  • 5:    42 inches      42
  • 6:    47 inches      48
  • 7:     51 inches     60
  • 8:     53 inches    66
  • 10:   55 inches    74
  • 12:    57.5 inches  84
  • 14:   60 inches    96
  • 16:   62 inches    110
pillowcase dress pattern

Where do I get the Pillowcase Dress Pattern?

Visit my Shop and add the free pattern to your cart and check out. Then come back here for the sewing instructions.

Enter your name and email and check out (it’s free.)

The pattern will be emailed to you.

Open The free Adobe reader and then open the pattern file. (Don’t print from directly from google’s online version of adobe reader.  It will sometimes cause the pattern to print to small or it just won’t open.)

Products used and recommended in this post:

  1. My favorite shops fabric are Fabric.com, girl charlie and Stylish Fabrics.  (My fave for knits is Funkalicious Fabrics.)
  2. My Sewing Machine: SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist 600-Stitch Machine with Extension Table, Bonus Accessories and Hard Cover
  3. My Serger: Brother 1034D 3 or 4 Thread Serger my coverstitch: Janome Cover Pro 1000cpx
  4. Pinking Shears
  5. Rotary Cutter
  6. I love my large ruler and large cutting mat, but you may prefer to start of with a smaller Cutting set
  7. Dritz Dual Purpose Marking Pen
  8. Fray Check
  9. Wonder clips (I didn’t use these in the post, but they are just awesome!

Materials Needed to Sew a Pillowcase Dress with a Ruffle:

  • Fabric (see chart link below)
  • Free Pillowcase Dress/Bodice Pattern
  • 1 package of single fold bias tape that coordinates with your main fabric
  • Scissors, ruler, iron and other basic sewing supplies

Tips/Pattern info: 

  • *** Important pattern printing tip***  When printing the pattern, do not print directly from Google docs.  Download the pattern to your computer and open it in the free adobe reader program.  Choose auto/portrait landscape and select “print actual size.”  (If you use any other pdf printing program, I can’t guarantee your pattern will print to the correct size.)
  • Seam allowances are 1/4 inch unless otherwise stated.
  • The fabric chart includes 1/4 yard for fabric ties.  For Faster assembly, you could use store-bought bias tape. (You need about 66 inches.)
pillowcase dress pattern

Pillowcase Dress Sewing Instructions:

Step 1:  Cutting out the pattern pieces.

Main dress pieces:

Measure your child from armpit to how long you want your dress to be.  Add 1/2 inch to this number, then subtract 4.  Write this final number down.  (It is the length of the dress minus the ruffle. 

Don’t have a little one to measure for the length of the pillowcase dress?  Don’t worry, here is a chart for the armhole to hem measurement. (This is the approximate recommended finished length of a dress for the size noted, hitting at mid-knee.  You still need to do the calculations in step 1, which is subtracting for a ruffle or banded hem..)

Armhole to Hem Measurement

  • 2t: 15 inches,
  • 3t: 16.75 inches,
  • 4:  18.5 inches,
  • 5: 20.25 inches,
  • 6: 21.75 inches.
  • 7:  23.25 inches
  • 8:  24.25 inches
  • 10: 25.25
  • 12:  26
  • 14: 26.5
  • 16: 27.5 inches

Fold the selvages over to the middle of the fabric.

Line up the bodice pattern so the edge that says “fold” is on the fold of the fabric.

To draw out the dress pattern, place your measuring tape or ruler at the lower corner of the armhole and measure down to your measurement to the edge of the fabric.  Use a fabric marker to mark along this line. Then with a ruler, make a straight line back over to the fold.  Cut out the pattern piece. (Ignore that my pattern piece looks different from what you printed – the one I used is before I digitized it.)

how to make a pillowcase dress

Use the 1st pattern piece as a guide to cut out the second piece.

free pattern for a pillowcase dress

Ruffle:  

Cut two strips of fabric, selvage to selvage 8.5 inches tall. (These strips will be about 42 by 8.5.)

Fabric tie:

Cut one strip of fabric 4 inches tall by the width of the fabric, cut a 2nd piece 4 inches tall by 23 inches wide.

Step 2:  Assembling the dress and finishing armholes.

Line up the front and back piece, right sides together and sew along the sides.  You will need to finish these seams with pinking shears, zig zag stitch on your sewing machine or with a serger.

When it comes to sleeveless tops, I have trouble folding fabric on a curve and making it look good, so I like to use single fold bias tape to make perfect armholes.  For this method cut 2 pieces of single fold bias tape to about 16 inches each.  Turn dress right side out and open bias tape up.  Align the edge of the bias tape up with the edge of the armhole as shown below, pin in place.

how to sew a pillowcase dress

Keep going until you have pinned the bias tape around the entire armhole.

how to use single fold bias tape on a pillowcase dress

Sew along the fold of the bias tape (about 1/4 inch in.)

free dress pattern for girls

Fold the bias tape back up and over to the other side.

how to make a pillowcase dress

Pin in place and sew right along the edge of the bias tape.  Repeat for the other armhole.

how to make a dress

Press the side seams and armholes flat.

how to add bias tape to an armhole

Step 3:  Creating the casing.

Fold the top edge of the dress over 1/4 and press.

How to sew a pillowcase dress

Fold over another inch and press again.  Sew along the bottom edge of the fold.  Repeat on the other side of the dress.

Step 4:  Create and add the ruffle.

Place the two fabric strips right sides together and cut off the selvage edges.  Sew the strips together end to end so you have a very large circle.  Iron these seams open.  (I used my serger and could only iron them to the side..)

Fold the fabric circle in half, wrong sides together, and iron flat.  (Wow, I obviously need to replace my ironing board cover…  We have very hard water and I use steam quite a bit.)

To create the ruffle, change your stitch length setting to the highest setting.  Sew a straight stitch along the open edge of the fabric circle.  Do not back stitch.

To ruffle the fabric, pull on the bobbin string in one direction while pushing the fabric in the other direction.  The father will start to gather up.  Keep pulling/pushing the fabric and thread, making sure to distribute the gathers evenly.

The flash makes it difficult to see what is going on, here is a photo from a different tutorial.  You can see a little better how the ruffle is gathering up.:

Keep gathering the ruffle until the ruffle is the same width as the bottom of the skirt.

Line up the edge of the ruffle with the bottom edge of the dress as shown below and pin in place.

Make sure you have switched the stitch length back to normal and sew the ruffle to the skirt by sewing along the bottom edge about 1/4 inch from the edge.

Finish this seam with pinking shears, zig zag stitch on sewing machine or with a serger.

how to add a ruffle to a dress

Flip dress to the front and iron the finished seam, pointed up.  Top stitch the ruffle along the bottom of the dress as shown in the photo below.

Step 5:  Creating the tie:

Sew the 2 fabric strips together so you have about a 62 to 65 inch long strip of fabric.  Cut off the selvage ends.

Fold and iron the strip as shown in the photos below:

Tuck in the ends and sew along the edge.

Thread the tie through the casing, and you are done!  Now go find a sweet little princess to try on your creation and take some pictures!!!

check out all the pillowcase dress options here!

This separate post contains 5 adorable options to switch up a Pillowcase Dress!

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Yield: 1 pillowcase dress

How to make a Pillowcase Dress (free Pillowcase Dress pattern sz 2 to 16)

How to make a pillowcase dress - learn how to sew a Pillowcase Dress with this free pattern and tutorial!

Learn how to sew a Pillowcase Dress with this free pattern & tutorial! Pattern fits girl’s size 2 to 16.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Active Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes

Materials

  • Fabric (see chart link in the tutorial above)
  • Free Pillowcase Dress/Bodice Pattern (link above)
  • 1 package of single fold bias tape that coordinates with your main fabric

Tools

  • Scissors, ruler, iron and other basic sewing supplies

Instructions

Step 1:  Cutting out the pattern pieces.

Main dress pieces:

Measure your child from armpit to how long you want your dress to be.  Add 1/2 inch to this number, then subtract 4.  Write this final number down.  (It is the length of the dress minus the ruffle.  If you don’t have a child to measure you can use the approximate measurements provided in the fabric chart here.  The fabric amounts are based on these numbers.)

Fold the selvages over the to the middle of the fabric.

Line up the bodice pattern so edge that says “fold” is on the fold of the fabric.

To draw out the dress pattern, place your measuring tape or ruler at the lower corner of the armhole and measure down to your measurement to the edge of the fabric.  Use a fabric marker to mark along this line. Then with a ruler, make a straight line back over to the fold.  Cut out the pattern piece.

Use the 1st pattern piece as a guide to to cut out the second piece.

Ruffle:  

Cut two strips of fabric, selvage to selvage 8.5 inches tall. (These strips will be about 42 by 8.5.)

Fabric tie:

Cut one strip of fabric 4 inches tall by the width of the fabric, cut a 2nd piece 4 inches tall by 23 inches wide.

Step 2:  Assembling the dress and finishing armholes.

Line up the front and back piece, right sides together and sew along the sides.  You will need to finish these seams with pinking shears, zig zag stitch on your sewing machine or with a serger.

When it comes to sleeveless tops, I have trouble folding fabric on a curve and making it look good, so I like to use single fold bias tape to make perfect armholes.

For this method cut 2 pieces of single fold bias tape to about 16 inches each.  Turn dress right side out and open bias tape up.  Align the edge of the bias tape up with the edge of the armhole as shown below, pin in place.

Keep going until you have pinned the bias tape around the entire armhole.

Sew along the fold of the bias tape (about 1/4 inch in.)

Fold the bias tape back up and over to the other side.

Pin in place and sew right along the edge of the bias tape.  Repeat for the other armhole.

Press the side seams and armholes flat.

Step 3:  Creating the casing.

Fold the top edge of the dress over 1/4 and press.

Fold over another inch and press again.  Sew along the bottom edge of the fold.  Repeat on the other side of the dress.

Step 4:  Create and add the ruffle.

Place the two fabric strips right sides together and cut off the selvage edges.  Sew the strips together end to end so you have a very large circle.  Iron these seams open.  (I used my serger and could only iron them to the side, which is fine.)

Fold the fabric circle in half, wrong sides together, and iron flat.

To create the ruffle, change your stitch length setting to the highest setting.  Sew a straight stitch along the open edge of the fabric circle.  Do not back stitch.

To ruffle the fabric, pull on the bobbin string in one direction while pushing the fabric in the other direction.  The father will start to gather up.  Keep pulling/pushing the fabric and thread, making sure to distribute the gathers evenly.

Keep gathering the ruffle until the ruffle is the same width as the bottom of the skirt.

Line up the edge of the ruffle with the bottom edge of the dress as shown below and pin in place.

Make sure you have switched the stitch length back to normal and sew the ruffle to the skirt by sewing along the bottom edge about 1/4 inch from the edge.

Finish this seam with pinking shears, zig zag stitch on sewing machine or with a serger.

Flip dress to the front and iron the finished seam, pointed up.  Top stitch along the bottom of the dress/top of the ruffle.

Step 5:  Creating the tie:

Sew the 2 fabric strips together so you have about a 62 to 65 inch long strip of fabric.  Cut of the selvage ends.

Fold and iron the strip (see image๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Fold fabric in half, wrong sides together and press.
  2. Open fabric, fold one side to the pressed center line and press again.
  3. Fold and press the other side the same way.
  4. Fold the pressed sides together and press again.

Tuck in the ends and sew along the edge.

Thread the tie through the casing, and you are done!

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48 Comments

  1. Hi,
    I just wanted to download this beautiful dress. The download file contained only the first three pages. Is there any way to get the remaining pages of the pattern?
    Thanks a lot,
    Sabine

    1. Hello, I am not sure you read the directions. The pattern is bodice only and then you draw in the skirt with provided measurements. People seem to prefer is as is saves resources and time, not having to cut out/tape together a bunch of paper.

      1. Hello Jamie,
        ahhhh, that makes sense. I did not read the instructions beforehand. That was my mistake. Thanks for this clarification. And thanks for the great patterns and inspirations here. You have a really great blog.

  2. Love the pattern. Used the pattern to teach my 9 your old son to saw. He made two dresses for his three year old sister. We did a few changes per his choice. They look great. Heโ€™s visiting us and will surprise his sister when he goes home.

  3. Paula Smith says:

    Hi Jamie
    Just wondering if you had made the pillowcase dress with the elastic waist. My granddaughter loves the pattern but asked about gathering the waist. Could you give me instruction on how best to do this, and if I would have to add to the length? Thankyou.
    Paula

    1. I have not, but my recommendation would be to add a casing similar to what is shown in this photo: here

  4. Do you have any instructions for making the tie in the back of the dress? Thank you!

  5. Margaret Van Zee says:

    Thank-you, I had made pillowcase dresses a couple years ago using your pattern, but needed to have refresher on the how. Pleasant surprise to find the larger size, just what I needed. I am making them to go with Christmas shoe-boxes to go for needy children. I do not know what country.

  6. My Granddaughter and I are making this dress for her. I’m going to make the straight band at the bottom. Is that a 4″ wide cut by the length of the front and then another 4″ length for the back, sewn to the main part of the dress with a 1/4″ seam and then sew down the sides, joining the front and the back together. Is the bottom finish hem a double 1/4″ turn up ?

    Thank You,
    Debbie

  7. I made these dresses for four of our granddaughters in no time at all using scraps in my closet! Simple and cute!

  8. Iris Hasis says:

    Thank you for sharing!!!
    I maid it!!! So easy!!!

  9. charitywhite12 says:

    Thanks for the detailed instructions, I am going to give it a try.

  10. jantucker1958 says:

    Thank You so much this pattern looks fabulous. Can’t wait to try it.

  11. Christy Shields says:

    Im a little confused the width of fabric that would be what is across the dress soo 44″ across but folded in half so that would be 22 inches across is that correct 22 for the front 22 for the back? Now is that for a child whose age is 10 would that 22″ be wide enough?

    1. The instructions state: “Fabric requirements will vary based on the style you choose and size. ย For a bigger girl, (dress size 6 and up,) you might wish to add width to your pillowcase dress, which will double the amount of fabric needed.
      Notice how our size 6 dress is kind of narrow in width? ย  I opted NOT to use extra fabric and could only make the skirt as wide as the fabric, which was about 42 inches.”

      For a size 10 child, you will definitely want to double the amount of fabric used, so you can make a wider dress. This tutorial does not calculate the width for a size 10 dress. I found this pattern for sale on etsy that goes up to a girls size 14: http://tidd.ly/1d33879

      Good luck!

      1. At some point in time, I might redo this pattern to include larger sizes, but I have no plans to do this in the immediate future.

  12. Hi what material did you use?

    Can you use poly cotton

    Thanks

    1. Definitely- almost any fabric will work with this style dress.

  13. How much did you take off for the length of the shorter one, or do you have a pattern for the top/tunic length?

  14. What a great pattern! What size do you think I should make for a little girl about to turn 2? She lives overseas and I can't get measurements. Thanks!

  15. When you attach the contrasting band to the bottom of the dress, do you sew the ends together and attach at the end, as you do with the ruffle? Any help would be appreciated!

    1. Hi, I attach the contrasting band to the main fabric before sewing the side seam. It makes it a bit easier this way. Let me know if you have any more questions.
      ~ Jamie

  16. I had one question about attaching the contrasting band at the bottom. Are you to make a large circle as you show with the ruffle and then stitch it to the dress at the end? Or do you add the band one side at a time before sewing up the side seams? Thanks for your help!

  17. Measure fom the bottom of the arm hole to get the correct measurement. But follow the shape of the bodice pattern and just angle the cut. The longer the dress, the more pronounced that angle will be. (My daughter is very tall) The design of a pillowcase dress is very flexible/forgiving so dont worry too much about it…
    Good luck,
    Jamie

  18. A little bit of confusion here. When you take your ruler and measure the length of the dress, your cut out fabric shows it goes straight for about 6 inches and then angles outward. But the picture with the ruler shows that the dress is angled from the armhole. Could you clarify this please. Thanks so much.

  19. I am so thrilled that I found your site! Thank you for your tutorials. I'm making the chevron quilt now :). This pattern is just so cute for my daughter. Thanks again!

  20. Thanks for this tutorial! I'm going to alter it a bit to have a ruffle on the neckline, but the rest of it is exactly what I was looking for! Glad your site came up in my google search ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. I love pillowcase dresses and I especially love yours with all the extra bits added in, a new dress every day! Fabulous! Thank you for sharing x

  22. Very cute! love the top with the leggings. My 5 year old has told me she no longer wants to wear pillowcase dresses…but maybe I could get her to wear one like that! ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Hi Jamie, I love pillow case dresses. Yours turned out great. Visiting from DearCreatives.com Theresa Happy Summer

  24. This is such a good idea. I love the ruffle. I'm totally going to do this! Your instructions and pics are amazing. Thanks so much! | Kristen

  25. So cute! Thanks for your clear instructions and my granddaughters will be happy to have a little dress or two! Your little models are very pretty and did a great job too!
    Have a wonderful summer! Linda

  26. I love this dress – it is so versatile and so cute…. I have made these for my granddaughter and you just can't get too many of them with all thier design options… great tutorial….

    1. Thanks, Cathy! Can't wait to see your version!
      ~Jamie

    2. What type of fabric do you use and if it is %100 cotton do you wash it first. I have quilted some but have never sewed any clothing and my 6 yr old granddaughter keeps asking when I am going to sew her a dress help please! Thanks R

      1. Little girls are so sweet, If you get the fabric print right she’ll wear it all the time, lol! Cotton works fine for this pattern and do prewash it.

  27. Finally! I've been searching around for a really good pillowcase dress pattern and tutorial and was just about to suck it up and devise one myself. And here it is in my Bloglovin' this morning. The variations are genius. Thank you! When I make one I'll put it on my blog (www.leighlaurelstudios.com) and of course link to you with all sorts of kind comments. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Cheers!
    Karin

  28. I love all the options for making the design your own! I've scheduled a link on Craft Gossip to go live tomorrow morning that links out to your tutorial.