Winning at Sewing: DIY Lace Tablecloth Dress

I wrote a few weeks ago about my sudden craving for a maxi skirt, which led to me sewing a dress out of an old jersey bedsheet. So perhaps you can guess what happened when I, newly empowered with my mother-in-law's sewing machine, started lusting after a white lace dress.

This whole project happened kind of backwards, actually. I had been on the lookout for a white lace dress for months, and just happened upon a white lace tablecloth at my local Salvation Army while looking for a new cotton blanket. As I examined the soft lace, I began to wonder, "Hmm ... could I do this?"

Weeks earlier, I had pinned this DIY swing dress tutorial from Merrick's Art, so one night, I armed myself with washable markers, a sharp pair of scissors and a dress to use as a template, and got cutting. But, as usual, laziness and my unwillingness to follow directions prevailed, and I decided to cut the sleeves and the dress out in one piece, rather than attempting set-in sleeves (please note this all took place before my most recent dress victory). So I doubled the fabric and traced the whole dress,then cut it out so I just had a front and a back.

The rest is pretty simple: I sewed up the side seams, leaving a pretty selvage at the bottom. And I could have just trimmed off a few loose threads and stopped there.

You can see here that I am pretty pleased with myself. But there were a few things about the dress as it was that I didn't love. First of all, even though the effect of the super long sleeves was kind of elegant, I knew as soon as I put it on that they would drive me absolutely nuts.

 Secondly, the neckline was much too high for me. Not that I'm dying to show a bunch of cleavage, but neither do I like having a vast expanse of chestal area, which to my eye makes it look like my boobs are sitting somewhere near my bellybutton. So it was back to the drawing board.

 In the end, I cut the neckline out to follow a bit of the lace pattern, and then very inexpertly stitched some lace hem tape around the edges to keep them from fraying (note what a terrific job I did on the lower left corner there). (Also: Yes, that is the Necklace of Shame I'm wearing here.)

Then I shortened up the sleeves and added wide elastic, because I ALWAYS push the sleeves up on everything I wear, so I may as well make it easy on myself (sleeves sliding back down is one of my biggest clothing pet peeves).

To style this for work, I wanted very much to avoid looking like I was headed off to get married, so I went for natural tones and a slightly funky/boho feel. I thrifted these brown boots recently, as you'll see in an upcoming thrift-audit post; they are cheaply made and not too comfortable, but they're pretty cute, and I liked the way they brought this dress down from Weddingland.

Overall, I'm very happy with this project — there were some hiccups along the way (the arm openings are quite tight, which makes getting it on and off rather challenging), but in the end, I realized my vision and got the lace dress I had been wanting. It's wearable, comfortable (as long as I don't have to reach for high things) and was really quite easy to whip up. Up next in DIY sewing land, I attempt a self-drafted top with mixed results. Stay tuned!

Lace tablecloth: $2.99
Notions: $2.25
Total cost to make: $5.24


  1. This dress looks fantastic! I love that you find an old tablecloth and see a lace dress. It makes me wish my sewing machine was working right now.

    1. Thanks! It really was quite easy once I had a plan. I always make sure to check the linens section when I'm thrifting now.

  2. Ooh, I like the way it turned out, mishaps and all! And I like your alterations better than the original pattern. You sound like me -- I hate following patterns. I usually shortcut something or other, or just make up my own pattern completely. And you're making me braver about doing this. I keep checking the linens sections at my local thrift stores hoping I can find a good bedsheet to make a skirt out of (A circle skirt) or just anything that looks like good interesting fabric.

    1. Thanks! I was quite pleased with it as well. As far as following patterns/instructions goes, it really depends on my comfort level with the craft/activity, or what I'm trying to do. I am basically incapable of following a recipe when I'm cooking - I ALWAYS have to add or change something :) And it's kind of the same with knitting now - I just think, "Eh, I'll figure something out" and dive in. But I am still a little wobbly with my sewing confidence, so this was a big leap of faith for me! My problem is usually that I'm too impatient to source a pattern and cut out all the fiddly bits — I just want to do whatever it is NOW. But it was also really satisfying to take my time with the floral dress I made recently, and really follow the pattern with care to make something that I knew would turn out well.

  3. That is so cool! You did a great job and you look fab in it!

    1. Thanks! It feels so great to wear something I made myself, it just makes me smile every time.

  4. I like your sense of humour as you write...

  5. Very beautiful! My kids have a lace tablecloth down in their dress up clothes box (for draping around into whatever they need it to be), but this makes me tempted to steal it from them....
    Maybe I'll just go to the thrift store instead....


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