SONP Tutorial: Upcycled Shirt to Dress

Turn 1.5 yards of fabric and an old shirt into a cute new dress in just 30 minutes - Rae Gun Ramblings

(I’m the wost model ever, I can’t smile on cue or pose w/o looking like a fool, but it’s about the dress right?)

This post is a part of Hideous Dreadful Stinky’s Summer of No Pants series. For those of you who don’t know what that is Marigold over at HDS hosted this great series last year where she had all kinds of contributors share skirt and dress posts in hopes that it would help her stay away from frumpy shorts during the summer.


In addition to great tutorials and articles, SONP includes a challenge where anyone can enter their skirt or dress creations into a flickr pool for us all to share ideas and help give ourselves a deadline for making skirts and dresses for ourselves. For more info on the challenge see this post. I’m trilled to be a part of this year’s SONP if you’re visiting from HDS’s, welcome it’s great to  have you! Feel free to peek around. You can see some of my reader’s favorite posts in my sidebar to the right.

Today I’m going to share how to change a normal knit top and some fabric into a cute and comfy dress. This is the perfect project to use on that top that’s shrunk up over the years or to make the most out of the tops that haven’t seen your body in ages. Even if you don’t have any disposable shirts on hand you can run over to lots of stores and pick up a top from between 3-10 bucks so this can be a nice inexpensive project. This took me about an hour and a half but I sew all day everyday so I tend to sew a lot faster than the average person.

What you need

  • knit top (like a tank or tee)
  • 1.5 yards of skirt fabric
  • 1.5 yards of lining fabric (optional but you’ll want the extra layer if your skirt fabric isn’t very thick. I used muslin)
  • Crochet thread (optional, read my gathering technique below and see if you want to do it this way)

note: If you want a longer skirt you might want to buy more fabric so read through my directions and see my note about dress length at the bottom before you start.

(click on the photo to enlarge or go to my flickr to see more pictures and individual shots of each step)

What to do

  1. Cut your fabric down the fold (lengthwise, parallel to the salvage end, you know the fold that is there in the fabric when you buy it) You should have 4 pieces of fabric about 22″ x 54″ each (read my note below about making the dress longer)
  2. Decide how long you want the bodice part on your shirt to be and cut any extra off the bottom. I cut mine to 16 inches (shoulder to bottom and I’m 5’5).
  3.  Fold the fabric in half lengthwise and lay the top on the top of the folded fabric.
  4. Cut a diagonal from about half an inch outside of the top to the edge of the fabric stack.
  5. With right sides together sew the skirt pieces together on each diagonal, serge or finish the edge on the sewing machine to minimize unraveling. Do the same for the lining.
  6. Cut the bottom of the lining skirt so it is 3 inches shorter than the main fabric skirt.
  7. Pin the skirt to the lining with the seams of both facing in.
  8. Gather the top edge of the skirt. I love gathering by using a crochet thread and zig zagging across the thread (not sewing on the crochet thread) and when you’re done you just pull the crochet thread. But feel free to gather how ever your comfortable (for example with basting stitches). Click here for a tutorial of my gathering trick with lots of pictures. 
  9. Pin the bottom edge of the top to the the skirt top edge right sides together And sew together. Finish the edge.
  10. Now you should have a basic dress. Try it on and see if you like the length cut off some length if you want it shorter.
  11. Next make the sash. Cut two 5 inch strips from the fabric across the width of the fabric. You should have two 5x 44 (or whatever length fabric you bought) strips
  12. Measure from your side to your other side. Cut one of the strips to this size. Cut the other strip in half. (at this step I had one 16 inch strip and two 22 inch strips).
  13. Sew each of the longer (22 inch) strips to the custom sized strip. So you should have a long strip with a smaller chuck in the middle
  14. Fold the strip in half lengthwise and sew one short edge and the long edge. Inside out the tube and iron.
  15. Fold in the open short edge and sew closed.
  16. Finish the hem. I just did a rolled edge on my serger because I’m lazy like that but feel free to do whatever hem you like keeping in mind this will take away some length.
  17. Look at your accomplishment with pride. Put it on and hit the town.

A note about dress length
I’m 5’5″ and you see how long it is on me that is with a 16 inch top, rolled edge hem and about 0.5 inches taken away when I connected the top to the skirt and another 0.5 taken when I rolled the edge and my fabric was 44″ wide. I didn’t really pick the dress length. I knew that 21″ was within my normal skirt length range from a higher waist so to conserve fabric I went with it.

For a longer dress: if you want your skirt longer than 21″ (keeping in mind it’s probably going to be a higher waist) you’ll want to buy double the fabric and cut the pieces down to 54X by however long you want the skirt part. Another way to make it longer is to leave the top longer but of course this will adjust where the waist hits you.

I’d love to hear and see pics if you try my tute out so let me know. I’d love to post your pics if you send me some. And if you have any questions please ask in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.  I’ve got a few variations for this dress planned so if you’re not already a follower I’d love you to follow so you don’t miss them. Oh and be sure to check out all the other awesome SONP11 posts over at Hideous Dreadful Stinky.

Turn 1.5 yards of fabric and an old shirt into a cute new dress in just 30 minutes - Rae Gun Ramblings


  1. Very cute dress. If I could sew I would definitely make one.

  2. This is a great idea. The instructions are simple and easy :) We featured your post on our blog

  3. You’re welcome! I’ll look out for other tutorials from your blog to post on to ours :) If you blog about anything green/reuse/upcycling let me know.

  4. WONDERFUL! From one marisa to another…GREAT job!

  5. very cute!

  6. I love the fabric that you chose for the skirt of your dress. It is super cutie cute! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Fantastic! I’ve been looking for some other way to make myself some skirts/dresses!

    Hi, I’m your newest follower over from the hop. I would like to invite you to post this on our Crafty hop, here’s the link: Purple Froggie Clay Stuff

    Hope you have a wonderful Sunday!


  8. This is great! I would love if you linked this up to my Make it for less party! It goes on every Monday at

  9. Super cute!!! I love the colors that you choose!

  10. Really cute! I love the fabric your chose!

  11. I love this! So cute!

  12. OOOH!! So cute! I love the fabric you chose, and I’m jealous about your sewing speed.

  13. WOW that is CUTE! Great tutorial too!

  14. love the skirt! i love how its upcycled.i must try one .:)

  15. how creative and cute!

  16. Adorable! I love it…

  17. Oh, this looks darling! You’re very creative!
    be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  18. What a cute dress!! I have a couple shirts that I would love to upcycle into dresses. Your post has definitely inspired me!

  19. Love this dress!! Thanks for linking @’Sew Cute Tuesday’!

  20. I’m just now starting to get experimental with my sewing machine…I may just need to make a dress like this!

    I would love it if you’d stop by!

    Turning a House into a Home

  21. Great job on the dress. I love the green color. My fave!!

    Thanks for sharing.
    Found you from Sew Can Do.

    Would love if you would link up with us at on our 1st link up party too. Love your ideas.

  22. I love your post, so glad I found it. I’m going to give your tutorial a try. AND I’m going to check out SONP – I am already wearing more dresses this week bec/ of the heat, so I need to make some more!!

  23. Great skirt, I need to try this!

  24. Very cute and your instructions were clear and easy to understand. Great job!

    New follower from the Show your crafty side hop. Hope you’ll take a moment and drop by my blog as well.

    Sandy~ Cherished Handmade Treasures

  25. I just found your blog through Polka Dots on Parade! I love this upcycled project! I’d love if you linked up to Sew Woodsy.

  26. Wow this is a GREAT idea. Top sewn right to the skirt with a sash so it’s like a dress. MARVELOUS! Who doesn’t have that favorite shirt that shrunk up so you can’t wear it with anything anymore! I think I might just have to try this. Decisions, decisions! I love the step by step with instructions. As for gathering with crochet thread. Hmm. I like the idea that it’s more durable than thread, but it seems like it would take a little longer and I’m always racing to the finish when I sew. Definitely something to think about!

  27. Oh, I also love that we get to pick where to start the skirt! I am so shortwasted and hate things under my boobolas, so I get to choose the length! YEAH!

  28. This is so cute! Love the colors and the shape is so flattering on you.

  29. This turned out great & I really like the print fabric you chose. Thanks for linking to Craftastic Monday:)

  30. Great dress~ great tutorial!!

  31. I love the colour….thanks for the tute…visiting from Elle Belle

  32. Love it! So summery and I love the fabric you chose. I’m also taking part in Funky Fresh Friday at KoolBeenz :-)

  33. Hi! I wanted to let you know that you are the Friday Spotlight this week on the Glitter Blog!

  34. This turned out so great! Thanks for linking it up to Think Pink Sundays!! You were the most clicked link this week and I featured you today!

  35. Thanks all!

    Sparkling I actually think this way is faster than basting stitches when you’re doing a whole skirt since you don’t have to worry about it breaking or do two lines and all that jazz, when I’m just gathering sleeves though I do basting stitches but I actually like the crochet thread as my lazy/fast option

  36. What a cute dress, Marissa! We will be featuring this project today and you also made it to TSWL’s finest round 4! Votation will start tomorrow! Have a great weekend!

  37. That is so cute!! Love the dress!
    Thank you so much for linking up to {nifty thrifty sunday}!
    I hope to see you again tomorrow!

  38. Hello

    I just wanted to let you know that I have featured you on my blog. Please let me know if you wish for me to remove any content.

    Thanks and love your blog


  39. Love the dress! Thanks so much for sharing the tutorial. I’m featuring you tomorrow!

  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. Love your blog!! I am your new follower :) if you would like to follow me @ that would be great :) I am just starting out, but I am excited to share new recipes, crafts, and makeup..

  42. I’ve never tried that method for gathering… I definitely will though, great idea! The dress is adorable, thanks for sharing!

  43. I’ve featured you in this week’s Make & Share at HOMEmomMADE!

    I adore upcycled clothing, you did a great job. Thanks for the tute .)

  44. Quick question! So the sash…It ends up just being a tube that you slip on and off? Or is it a sash you tie in the back?

    I’m correct that it is definitely not sewn onto the dress right? I’m pretty sure that’s the only question I have before I get started making my own!

  45. Heather looks like your email is hidden so it won’t let me email you back but hopefully you see this.

    My sash just ties in the back. It’s not attached. i’ve also recently found that I like wearing these dresses with big belts too. hope that helps. I’d love to see yours when it’s done!

  46. Thanks for the answer Marissa! I’m not quite sure how to unhide my email address to be honest? I’m on WordPress so not to familiar with the ins and outs of blogger!

    But I will definitely let you know when mine is done! I hope to get the fabric some time this week :)

  47. I don’t quite get the gathering you did. I am in the process of making a tablecloth with ruffles and have been gathering the old basting way.

  48. What an awesome idea, and the dress is adorable. Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday!

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