Winning at Sewing: Upcycled Girls' Dress

It's amazing how much faster a sewing project comes together when I don't have to hem things. AMAZING.

My daughter has been bugging me to make her a dress, so when I scored a free girls' dress pattern, I made up my mind to go for it. However, this is Take 2 of the dress; an earlier version that I attempted to make out of purple crushed velvet (look for the fabric in my next thrift audit) failed completely, so I had put the pattern on the shelf for a little bit. But I decided to give it another go, and I'm so glad I did.

For the past several months, I've been keeping a "rag bag" of garments that are not fit for wearing, but that may be appropriate to re-fashion. And up until this dress, I was actually feeling fairly silly about it. But it was so fun to take everything out, lay it out on our dining-room table chairs, and let my daughter go "shopping" for the fabrics she wanted to use in her dress.

The sleeves of this dress are upcycled from a beautiful (and expensive-for-me) Cynthia Rowley sweater that I shrunk in the wash. It was heartbreaking at the time, but I'm excited to see at least part of it put to good use. It's hard to see in this photo, but it's a dark eggplant color. The skirt is from a nightgown that I bought months ago on a whim because I liked the print (note: that post turned out to be prophetic!) The bodice is the only part I sewed from scratch, loosely following the free pattern I had. Even the trim is upcycled — it's T-shirt yarn I made out of one of my husband's old shirts! The gold buttons are vintage, from a bag of buttons I thrifted several months ago.

I will admit, when she picked out these three fabrics, I cringed a bit. I even tried half-heartedly to steer her to a different choice. But she was adamant, and it didn't take me long to say to myself, You know, she's 3 years old. If she wants to have a crazy, wild-looking dress, LET HER. There are absolutely no negative consequences!

And the best part? She absolutely loves it.

The finished product is far from perfect, but it's also practical: It's a comfortable, washable, easy-to-wear dress that's also warm (wool sleeves!) as we head toward winter. And the fit is such that she can do a bit of growing and still be able to wear it. This was a fun, quick project (I think the whole thing took me literally 2-3 days, in bits and pieces) and I'm already looking forward to making another one! It's changed my whole perspective on old/cast-off clothes.


  1. Replies
    1. Aww, thanks! It only took like 2 months of her badgering me before I finally gave in and did it (I was too busy sewing for ME!)

  2. I think she chose fantastic prints! I mean, definitely three year old choices, but I love the way it all looks together! And it's SO fun! I'm going to start doing this, I think; I already have a few garments that I bought on a whim that have holes that can't be fixed, or seams that keep shredding, etc... totally going to make some upcycled clothes for Evie in the future!

    1. It's so dangerous because every time I'm about to get rid of something, I think, "What if I could sew something out of this??" So I'm trying to stick to things with definite value, like a great print, texture or fabric. But it is fun, and there are SO many great refashion ideas on Pinterest.


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