Give a little girl a dress with a full skirt and some music, and she will spend hours spinning around, delighting in the way the skirt of her dress fans out as she twirls. Such dresses when purchased from a boutique come with a considerable price tag — a hard to swallow expense considering how quickly children grow. Save your money and her old t-shirts by recycling shirts that still fit over her head but not her belly into twirl-worthy dresses.
Cotton quilting fabric
2-inch-wide grosgrain ribbon
Cut the t-shirt straight across 3 inches below the armpits.
Measure the width of the shirt along the cut edge with a ruler. Measure from the girl’s armpit to midway down her calf with a tape measure.
Triple the shirt’s width measurement, and add 1 1/2 inches to decide the width of the fabric. Add 7 inches to decide the length of the fabric. Cut two pieces of cotton fabric to these dimensions.
Place the two pieces of fabric together with the right sides facing each other. Sew pieces together along the left and right edges with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. This piece will become the skirt of the dress.
Fold the top edge of the skirt toward the wrong side of the fabric 1 1/2 inches. Iron the folded edge. Fold the top edge another 1 1/2 inches, and iron it. The direction of the fabric’s print determines the top edge. If the print has no direction either open edge of the skirt can be the top edge.
Fold the bottom edge of the skirt 2 inches toward the wrong side. Iron the folded edge. Fold the bottom edge another 2 inches, and iron it. Sew around the bottom edge with a 1 7/8-inch seam allowance.
Turn the skirt right side out. Lay the skirt flat on your work surface.
Measure along the top edge an inch from the left seam of the skirt, and make a small mark with tailor’s chalk. Make a second mark a 1/2 inch to the right of the first. Make a third mark an inch to the right of the second. Continue to make chalk marks every inch and half-inch along the top edge of the skirt until you reach the right seam. Flip the skirt over and repeat along the top edge of the back.
Fold the fabric to the left at the first mark, to the right at the second and back to the left at the third to create knife pleats. Continue folding in alternating directions all the way around the skirt pinning the folds in place as you do.
Iron the pleats along the top 5 inches of the skirt. Sew around the top edge of the fabric with a 1-inch seam allowance to secure the pleats. Remove the pins as you sew.
Tuck the bottom edge of the shirt into the top of the skirt until the top edge of the skirt is at the armpits of the shirt. Line up the side seams of the skirt with the side seams of the shirt. Pin the two pieces together.
Sew the skirt and shirt together along the seam sewn to hold the pleats together.
Measure and cut a 2-yard-long piece of 2-inch-wide ribbon. Bring the ends of the ribbon close to the flame of the lighter, not in it, to heat seal the ends to prevent fraying.
Fold the ribbon in half and gently crease it to find the center of its length. Line up the center of the ribbon with the center of the front of the dress 3/4 of an inch below the top edge of the skirt. Pin the ribbon in place all the way across the front of the dress.
Sew the ribbon tie in place across the front of the dress from side seam to side seam along the top and bottom edges of the ribbon. Remove the pins holding it in place as you sew.
The knit fabric of the t-shirt provides some forgiveness for the skirt being a little to big or small, but you still need to pleat the top of the skirt with as much precision as possible.