Red Instead is a blog about living a creative and fun life! I also make and sell things in my handmade shop.
How To Sew A Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

How to make a Pillowcase Dress

People have been making dresses like these since forever and I certainly don’t claim these instructions as my own but I have presented them here because I know there are a lot of people looking for these online. [this post originally appeared on my other website:]

Pillowcase Dress Instructions at

Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

The traditional method of making pillowcase dresses creates a drawstring casing around the child’s neck, which makes the dresses adjustable for a growing child. This method eliminates the drawstring casing which can be a choking hazard (using elastic instead) while preserving the adjustability of ties.

pillowcase dress instructions

Start with one pillowcase, cleaned and pressed. You’ll also need 12″ of 1/2″ wide elastic, and one package of bias binding (you get this in the notions section of the fabric store – look for double fold binding tape) or 60” ribbon. You’ll need a couple of safety pins for threading your elastic. Extra rick rack or ribbon is required to decorate the lower edge of the dress (optional).

Pillowcase Dress Instructions at

STEP 1 Measure your child from the shoulder to the desired length of the dress. measure this distance on your pillowcase from the open end, and cut straight across. this cut edge will be the top of the dress.

STEP 2 On each side of the pillowcase, at the cut edge, draw armscyes (that is the dressmaker term for armhole). The shape is like a letter “J” with the top of the J at the cut edge of the pillowcase. For a small child, it should be about 3″ deep, for a larger child make it 4″ deep.

STEP 3 Fold the two top edges 1/4″ to the inside and press (don’t worry about making it exact, just get close enough). fold down and press these edges again, this time 3/4″. Doing this double turn makes the finished edge neat. Stitch along the first fold, from one end to the other, forming a tunnel (this is known as a casing).

Pillowcase Dress Instructions at

STEP 4 Cut your elastic into two 6″ pieces. Attach a safety pin to one end of one piece and use that to thread the elastic through one of the casings. As you thread the elastic, the casing will draw up, forming a stretchy neckline. You’ll need to pin the other end of the elastic when it gets to the casing so that it doesn’t come all the way out. Stitch across the open end of each casing to hold your elastic in place. Repeat with the other elastic and casing. stitch across the open end of each casing to hold your elastic in place.

STEP 5 You’re almost done! Cut two pieces of binding, each 28″ long. You’ll notice that the binding is folded lopsided–one side is wider than the other. This is to help make sure you get both sides stitched. Always stitch with the narrow side of the binding facing up and you can be sure you’re catching the back side as well.

Slip one armscye edge into the fold of one of the binding pieces, leaving about 10″ or so overhanging the top – these form the ties. Pin as much as you feel you need to in order to keep things neat. Beginning at one end of the binding, start stitching along the free edge, continuing all the way around the armscye and to the other end of the binding. Repeat for the other armscye.

Instead of the binding, you can fold a casing (as you did earlier in step 4) and thread a piece of narrow ribbon 28” long into each of the arm holes, tying into a bow at the top. Once the ribbon is threaded through, sew a couple of stitches at the side seam to keep the ribbon from being pulled all the way out.

Pillowcase Dress Instructions at

STEP 6 Sew some ribbon or rick rack approx 3 ½ – 4” from the lower edge, catching the original envelope opening of the pillowcase so that it doesn’t catch when your child puts the dress/top on.

That’s it! The hem is already finished for you.

Now you just have to tie the ties to fit your child and admire your handiwork.


>>> Download the Pillowcase Dress Instructions as a free PDF: 

This is now available to download as a PDF.  Right click and save to download the file, or left click to open the PDF (it will probably open within your browser).

Download the Pillowcase Dress Instructions

There is no need to ask (or say thank you) if you can use this pattern for your charity work or your sewing group or any other reason.  Yes, you CAN use this pattern for anything you like.  A link back here is appreciated though not required.  This post originally appeared at my other website:

Jen Leheny

Jen Leheny is the owner / designer / photographer / maker at Red Instead in Canberra, Australia. Jen also has a photo portfolio at Jen Leheny Photography and there's work info at She also likes to design and make things in her spare time, which she sells at the Red Instead Shop. And in her other spare time, she rollerskates!

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this pattern. I have two new little girls for whom I will be sewing dresses – a g-daughter and a great-g-daughter. And I’m sure I can find a variety of ways to use this pattern.

  2. Hi Jen,
    Took me a while to stumble onto your site but boy am I glad I did. First thing tomorrow I’m digging out all my vintage tablecloths and trying your pattern. Many thanks

  3. How would you do one for an adult? I know you wouldn’t use a pillowcase LOL. My mom wore one in the 70’s and I had one years ago from a company called Drawstrings of Malibu and I am trying to figure one out. Any suggestions?
    Thank you,

  4. This is great site for making. It is to an extraordinary degree educational close by edcative site. Every one of the formed substance on this site is outstandingly enlightening close by educative.

  5. Thank you for this pattern. The ladies in my Sunday School class plan to make dresses for girls in an orphanage in Haiti, and send them with our pastor when he visits in September. I have seen other directions, but none so comprehensive as yours. I appreciate the use of elastic rather than a drawstring.

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. I have many pillowcases to donate for these dresses. Is anyone interested that lives close to Fox Lake, Illinois?

  7. If I’m sewing these for your charity or another charity and I don’t have a child to measure, how do I figure out what a 4T, 2T or 6 measures—is there a general pattern to sew “generally?”

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