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How to Make Pillowcase Dresses for Spirit Wear

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DIY Pillowcase Dresses

How to sew spirit wear pillowcase dresses for celebrating football season!

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My friend Trish is hopping over today to talk about how to make your own Spirit Wear for football season. The nice thing about learning to make your own pillowcase dresses to support your favorite team is that you can save money and take advantage of custom team fabric at your local fabric store… and pillowcase dresses are easy to sew. The way the licensing is setup for “licensed fabric,” you’re able to make your own items but not sell them. When you can’t buy them, make them!

With the baby, I’m having lots of guest posters and also some prescheduled posts by me over the next few months so I hope you enjoy all the guests on here to bring you new and interesting DIY projects.

Supplies Supplies listed below may include affiliate links to the products.

  • Cotton fabric with fabric from your favorite team
  • Coordinating ribbon
  • Sewing machine, pins, and typical sewing supplies

How to Make Your Own Spirit Wear Pillowcase Dresses
By Trish Buben

Two years ago, my family and I moved back to Western Pennsylvania.  Now, being from that part of the world almost guarantees that you grow up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  I am not an exception.  It had been hard living in the Baltimore area for more than a decade.  The Ravens are one of our biggest rivals!  It was even harder raising children in Raven country. It took some effort, but we managed to teach them well and they too are Steelers fans!  Every proper fan needs to have proper attire, and when you are an 8-year-old girl, that usually means a dress.  Frustratingly, though, the cute NFL licensed gear is almost always for the little ladies.  So, in gearing up for this season, I decided to make my little fans matching pillowcase dresses.
As with most things in my life, I decided to see what the internet had to say on a topic before moving forward.  As far as pillowcase dresses go, there are oodles and oodles of resources out there!  I would describe myself as a slightly experienced novice in the sewing department.  I’ve made a few things, but I’m still not pro and sometimes patterns and directions can be confusing for me.  I look for tutorials with lots of pictures and lots of information.  I found this one for the Easiest Pillowcase Dress Ever on Sew Like My Mom to be the best for me.  This post will be based off of her tutorial.  
Before you can really make any pattern, you need to know your measurements.  So, get out your handy dandy tape measure, and get to it!  According to the size chart on Sew Like My Mom, my girls would be a size 8 and 5.  Now, as she discusses, fabric traditionally comes in two widths — 45 inches and 60 inches.  Mine was 60, so I had to do a bit of cutting.
Measuring to sew a pillowcase dress.
For my length on the size 8 dress, I needed 31 inches.  As my fabric was so much wider than was needed (22 inches per side, so 44 inches total) I had to trim about 15 inches of fabric.  Because my print had text, and I wanted that text to read normally, I had to trim my fabric this way.  
Cutting fabric for a simple pillowcase dress.

Cutting fabric for sewing a pillowcase dress.
For my size 8 dress I had a piece of fabric that was 44 inches wide and 31 inches long.  My size 5 dress was 44 inches wide and 28 inches long.  I then folded the fabric in half and cut the two pieces apart.  A little note on cutting fabric on the fold — it helps to keep the fabric tight, or the scissors will wonder a bit and your straight line will get a little curvy.  You don’t need to be exact, because you do have seam allowance when you sew it together and a pillowcase dress is very forgiving.
Folding over hem for pillowcase dress.

Once all your pieces are all cut out, it is time to sew!  To start with, you are going to put a seam on your selvedge sides.  Now, the tutorial doesn’t say to measure it.  She says to eyeball about 1/3 inch up.  I am not so good at the eyeballing, so I measure.  It takes time, but I get a more accurate product in the end.
Pinned pillowcase dress ready to sew.
After measuring, iron down the hem, then fold it over on itself and iron again.  After folding it the second time, I pin it down for sewing.  
The directions from Sew Like My Mom said to sew a 1/4 inch seam.  I was pretty close to that.  
Sewing a pillowcase dress.

Now both of your pieces have nice edges.  Time to do the casing for the ribbon ties!  Measure the size of you ribbon, then give yourself a little extra space.  My ribbon was 5/8 (like the tutorial — funny how that works).  I measured down an inch, folded the fabric and ironed it down and then … well, here, I have a confession.  I messed up.  Sew Like My Mom clearly says, “fold down again”.  Yeah.  I didn’t do that.  But, it ended up being a good thing!  More to follow on that in a bit, just let me remind you — read the directions!

Sewing a pillowcase dress for spirit wear: Steelers dress!

After sewing down your casing opening, it is time to make your two pieces of separate fabric into a dress.  Put the two right sides of the fabric together.  The directions say to measure down 6 inches from the top for your arm hole opening.  I found that measurement was fine for my size 5 dress, but not big enough for my size 8 dress.  I added an extra inch (7 inches down from the top then) for my size 8 dress.  I sewed the two pieces together just inside of the seam.  Repeat on both sides.  Ta-da!  you have a dress!

Sewing together a pillowcase dress.

Now to finish up the raw edges.  Open your dress up and iron down your seams.  Then, time to hem!  Measure up an inch from the bottom and iron down.  Repeat.  Pin down and then sew!  Confession time.  I only folded it up once.  But, like the last time I missed extra directions, this turned out to work well for me.  More on that further down.
Time for ribbon.  Cut the ribbon about twice the width of your dress, so about 44 inches.  That gives you nice floppy ribbon.  You could go shorter, but probably not too much, or you will have a hard time tying pretty bows.  After you’ve cut the ribbon, you can put it into your dress.  There are a few ways to do it.  One is to put a little safety pin on the end and run it through the casing.  It works, but I prefer this handy dandy tool instead.  It was a few dollars at Joanne Fabrics.  I found, particularly with glossy ribbon, a safety pin can cause the ribbon to fray and snag.  Not a nice look.  This is also a bit easier on the hands than a safety pin, but it works the same way.  
Ribbon and casing created to make a pillowcase dress.
Don’t forget to heat seal the ends of the ribbon (hold the edge over a flame and melt it, just a little)! Ok, another confession.  Sew Like My Mom has a few more directions on this part.  She recommends sewing the ribbon into the dress.  I didn’t do this.  Sorry.  But, with my handy little tool, it isn’t too bad to have to put the ribbon back in the dress, if it comes out.
Now your dress is super done!  Time to try it on your model and admire your work!  Unless, like me, you have super skinny kiddos.  The dresses as originally made were a bit too wide for them.  The look wasn’t too bad on my 4-year-old, but she is also not as skinny as her sister.  On my 8-year-old, it was ridiculously too big.  So, time to make some adjustments.  
I removed the ribbons and set them aside.  I turned the dresses inside out and measured in about two inches from the original seam.  Then, I sewed a new seam and tore out the stitches from the old seam so I could iron them flat and fix the hem.  Worked just fine on the bottom of the dress.  The top, however, required some more effort.  I couldn’t sew in on the top, as that would close the casing.  So, remember how I said I was not so good at the direction reading? This is where it actually made less work for me. 
To take in the casing, I tore out a few of the stitches on the end.

Taking in the casing for a pillowcase dress.

Then folded the fabric in on itself.

Casing for pillowcase dress.

After folding it in, I had a new casing.

New casing for a pillowcase dress.
If I’d have folded it twice, as directed, it would have taken me a bit more time!  Once I had my new casing all finished, I re-did the hem and, for real this time, was all done!  
While this project took a bit longer than I intended — did I mention I had to order more ribbon in the middle, because I didn’t have a long enough spool?  They were fairly simple and now my girls are all ready for football season!

Love it? Pin it!

Sew an Easy Pillowcase Dress for Football Season!
DIY Spirit Wear Pillowcase Dresses

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Thanks for Reading! -DIYDanielle
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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