How to sew a Tiered Pillowcase Dress (tutorial includes a free printable pattern in sizes 2 to 8.)
Pillowcase dresses are one of my favorite patterns to sew. They’re just so quick and easy! (My favorite type of sewing project, lol.)
A bonus aspect of a pillowcase dress is since they’re designed to be fairly loose and are put together with a tie and casing, they can grow with your little one to go from a dress to a top as they get older!
Today’s post takes on the standard pillowcase dress pattern and will show you how to add a tiered skirt to a pillowcase-style bodice to take your pillowcase dress making skills up a notch!
Last Monday, the kids and I were in a rush to get out the door for an appointment. I was trying to get myself ready along with everyone else, so I sent my 6-year-old son upstairs and told him to pick out a pretty dress for his sister to wear.
I have to say, the kid did a great job.
He came back downstairs with one of my favorite dresses! A pretty little tiered dress that I had made for my missy this past Spring. I’d always loved the fabric combination used in it. Complementary shades of pinks, greens, and browns that looked amazing in a tiered dress pattern.
The dress had been hung up in her closet and she hadn’t worn it all summer. I slipped it over her head and we were off to our appointment!
I have a great stash of summery fabrics, so I decided I should make just one more tiered pillowcase dress.
And why not create a tutorial while I am sewing it up?
(**update 1 ** – I made an adorable patriotic tiered pillowcase dress for the 4th of July. See that one here.)
(**update 2 ** – I made the cutest little free Pillowcase Dress Pattern for girls, in sizes 2 to 8. I call it the “Polished Pillowcase Dress.” The tutorial includes even more options on how to customize a pillowcase dress.) You can see the full post about that dress here.
So without further ado:
How to make a Tiered Pillowcase-Style Dress:
The tutorial below includes tier measurements to fit a 2 to 8-year-old. If you want to make a slightly larger dress, just add an inch or so from each tier for a longer/shorter dress.
Other simple patterns for girls you might like to sew:
- Knit Ruffle Skirt Tutorial
- Free Peasant Dress Pattern
- Simple Knot Dress Pattern and tutorial (free bodice pattern, sizes 2 to 6)
- How to Make a Stretchy Headband (+ video tutorial)
- Free Apron Pattern 3 sizes (toddler/tween/adult)
Sewing Instructions for the Tiered Pillowcase Dress Tutorial
- Pattern (free pillowcase bodice pattern here)
- Fabric: (amount listed below is based on 42 inch wide fabric and will make up to a size 8 dress.)
- 1/4 yard for the bodice, 5/8 yard for the 2nd tier, 3/4 yard for the 3rd tier, 1/8 yard for the tie)
- +/-28 inches of coordinating single fold bias tape
- coordinating thread
- Basic sewing supplies (scissors, paper, pen, ruler, iron)
*** Update 7/7/13*** I have made the pillowcase bodice pattern even better and uploaded it for printing here: Pillowcase dress bodice pattern. The pattern is just the bodice – you have to lengthen it into a dress, but it comes in sizes 2 to 8.) Be sure and turn off all scaling when you print.
*** Important pattern printing tip*** When printing the patterns, do not print directly from Google docs. Download the pattern to your computer and open it in your adobe acrobat reader. Choose actual size and the auto portrait/landscape option. (The pattern prints slightly smaller on the chrome and apple version of the pdf reader.)
Step 1: Print bodice pattern and cut pattern pieces.
Print, cut out and assemble the pattern.
Fold bodice fabric in half, put the long side on the fabric fold and cut 2 pieces for the bodice.
Cut the two tiers:
Middle tier: fold fabric in half fabric in half. The middle tier measurement is:
2/3: 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches tall. (Cut 2 on the fold, and when you open it, your fabric pieces will be 27 inches wide.)
4/5: 13.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall.
6: 13.5 inches wide by 9.5 inches tall.
7/8: 13.5 wide by 10.5 tall
Bottom tier, fold the fabric in half and cut 2 pieces:
2/3: 21 1/4 inches wide and 91/4 tall. (you will have 2 pieces 42.5 wide)
4/5: 21 1/4 inches wide and 10 1/4 tall.
6: 21 1/4 inches wide and 11 1/4 tall.
7/8: 21 1/4 inches wide and 12 1/4 tall.
Cut fabric pieces to 3.5 inches tall by 62 inches wide. Depending on your fabric width, you will probably have to sew 2 pieces together. (I had to piece together scraps for mine, so I sewed together 4 pieces to get the length I needed.)
Here is what you will have. (ties not shown)
Step 2: Assembling bodice and finishing armholes with bias tape:
Let’s start sewing…
Right sides together, sew up the side seams of the bodice. All seam allowances are 3/8 of an inch.
Finish the seams with your preferred method. (Pinking shears, serger, or zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.) Press the seams flat.
I like to finish my armholes with single fold bias tape, so I am going to show you how to use it.
Cut 2 pieces of single fold bias tape 13 1/2 inches long each. Turn fabric right side out and open bias tape up. Align the edge of the bias tape up with the edge of the armhole like this:
Sew along the crease removing pins as you go. Do the same for the second armhole.
Fold bias tape over to the inside of the bodice, iron down and sew.
Step 3: Create the casing.
Trim away any uneven bias tape. Fold the top edge over 1/4 inch and press. Fold over one more inch and press again. Sew as close to the folded edge as you can, creating about a 1 inch casing. This is where the tie will go.
Step 4: Assemble and add tiers.
Sew the short sides of the 2nd tier together to make a circle and finish the seam edges. Do this for the 3rd tier as well. Press the seams.
Time to gather the tiers. Set your sewing machine to the longest stitch length. (Mine goes to 7.) Sew a straight stitch all the way around, 1/4 inch from the edge. Leave the ends loose, no backstitching. Do this on both tiers. Go ahead and move the stitch length back to the normal length.
To gather the tier pull on the top thread while holding the fabric, you should see the fabric start to gather up.
Gather the 2nd tier to approximately 16 inches. (That is how wide the bottom of the bodice is.)
Gather the 3rd tier to about 23 inches.
Hold the 2nd tier to the bottom of the bodice and make any adjustments in the width of the gather.
Then, right sides of the fabric together, match up the side seams and pin the gathered part of the 2nd tier to the bottom of the bodice.
When you are done it will look like this:
Place the gathered edge under your sewing foot and sew just to the left of the gathering stitch. (When I sew gathers, I usually leave my pins in, but if you opt to leave the pins in, take care as you are risking broken needles and pins.)
Remove the pins and finish the seams.
Repeat for the third tier, lining up the bottom of the 2nd tier to the gathered edge of the 3rd tier. This takes a while… sorry!
Step 5: Create the tie.
Fold the fabric in half lengthwise and iron.
Then open up and fold both edges to the middle crease and iron.
Then fold in half and iron again.
Sew along all the edges.
Step 6: Hem the bottom.
Fold the bottom edge over 1/4 inch and press, then fold over another 1/4 inch and press again. Pin if needed and sew along the edge.
Using a safety pin, pull the tie through the bodice casing.
Now sit back and admire your work!
It is even more satisfying to find a sweet little princess to model your outfit…
I hope you are inspired to make something pretty!
If you do create something based on this tutorial, I would love for you to share it on my facebook page or tag me on Instagram using #scatteredmompatterns!