Monday, January 14, 2013

Upcycled Sweater Dress Tutorial

Sometime last summer, I saw the cutest little dress on Pinterest.  I thought the sweater bodice completely adorable and was struck by what a great winter dress it would make with long sleeves!  The best part is, this dress is a great upcycling project!  Just grab an old sweater (or oh darn, make a trip to the thrift store!) and get cutting!  

It's perfect for these chilly winter months, or you could make it sleeveless if you live in a warmer climate!

The full skirt has some great twirl factor - a must for little girls!

The back closes with a simple button closure.

And yes, I made this dress and took the pictures while everything was still green and blooming!  The best part of sewing for 2 year olds, though, is that I did the photos and then wrapped the dress for Christmas and they didn't even remember it!  

To make an upcycled sweater dress, you will need:

- An old sweater
- Skirt fabric (I used about a yard for my 3T will depend on how long you want your skirt)
- Scrap of 1/8" elastic
- Coordinating button
- Sewing stuff (machine, coordinating thread, scissors or rotary cutter/mat, hand sewing needle)

You will need a pattern for the bodice.  You can either use an existing pattern that you know fits your child, or you can make a quick pattern by folding a t-shirt in half and tracing around it, adding seam allowance.  Trace both the front and back neckline. I wanted an empire waist, so I ended up cutting my bodice off about 2" below the armhole.

Also trace the armhole and make a long sleeve pattern.  For more detailed info on this, check out this tutorial.

Once you have your pattern, take your sweater and lay out the pattern pieces.  Cut out one front bodice piece and one back bodice piece (both on the fold) and two sleeves.  I cut my sleeves on the fold of the original sweater sleeve.  If you are wise with your cut, you could even use the existing sleeve hem and save yourself a step!

Now place the front and back bodice pieces right sides together and stitch together at the shoulders.  Although this is knit fabric, I would suggest using a zig zag stitch or this is a good time to use your serger.  The sweater fabric might unravel if you don't use a finishing stitch and the zig zag or serger stitch will help maintain the stretch.

Set your sleeves in and pin in place.  Sew the sleeves in and finish the seam.

Once your sleeves are in, your bodice should look like this.

To make the button closure, I took a scrap of knit fabric or you could use a piece from the sweater.  If you use a piece from the sweater, I would finish the raw edges.  Cut a small piece about 2 - 3" wide by 4 - 5" long (depending on the size of your bodice).  Draw a vertical line down the center of the piece and pin it in place, right sides together, in the center of the back of your bodice.  Sew down each side of the line, about 1/8" away from the line.

Now cut straight down the line and then flip the knit to the inside of the bodice and press in place.  Hand tack it down, if necessary.

Sew up the sides of the bodice going all the way from the bottom of the bodice to the end of the sleeve.

Cut a piece of sweater fabric long enough to fit around your neckline and about 4" wide.  Fold it up as you would bias tape (fold in half, then unfold and fold the raw edges in to meet the center crease...more info in this tute) and tuck in the raw short edges.  Pin in place around the neckline and pin a small loop of 1/8" elastic in one end.  Sew the "bias tape" in, encasing the raw neckline edge.

This is what you should have now.

For the skirt, cut two rectangles of fabric from selvage to selvage as long as you want your skirt.  Mine was about 16".  Sew up the two short sides to make a tube and then gather the top edge to fit your bodice.  Place the skirt right sides together with the bodice and sew in place.  Finish the seam.

Your dress should look like this when you are done.  Hem the skirt and the sleeves and sew on your button and you have a beautiful dress for your little winter sweetie!

Happy sewing!


  1. Excellent Idea! Beautiful Project! Sweet Dress! I'm inspired. And I'm on it. (= Thanks so much for taking the time to share this...You've made it easy for the reader to follow along. Excellent. Lynaea @

  2. This is just darling!! I can't wait to get started on one of these... I'm thinking Easter!


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