Would you believe I made this simple dress in less than an hour and with only two yards of fabric? This design was adapted from the simplicity of the old children’s pillow case dress pattern. A few small changes make it very suitable for adults. And hey, sometimes you just want to get your mojo back by making something easy. The best part is one design fits multiple sizes – no figuring sizing or measuring out!

For Christmas I was gifted this wonderful red Alexander Henry large print fabric with a repeat of 18″. That means the prints on the fabric only repeat a few times if you are a short person. It also means you shouldn’t use a design that has a lot of piecing.

I really wanted to use this pattern.

My early and one saving grace was that this pattern called for over 3 yards of 45″ wide fabric. I knew it wouldn’t work. The second indication that this was not a good pattern for this print was that the center seam goes right up the middle of the skirt of the dress. That seam would cut Frida’s head awkwardly and be distracting to the eye overall. No flow, no go. My common sense kicked in and said even if I can make it work with the yardage, what would the end result even look like? I will do this pattern on the first striped fabric I come across this year but not today, I told myself.

I started by laying the fabric on the floor and staring at it while I was working on alterations. I felt that the cotton weight is a little too heavy for a shirt and I really don’t need any more skirts. I folded the fabric in half and held it up to my body in front of a mirror. 36″. With that length the garment could hit from neck to knee, a dress could work.


During the Sew Dayton years (a sewing shop I formally co-owned) we taught the pillow case dress to many parents. It only took two hours, it used two fabric pieces, a ribbon and had almost zero waste. BOOM! I had my design concept.


Finish all Seams First

To save time I took my front and back pieces to my serger and serged all the way around each one. If you do not have a serger a zigzag stitch or pinking sheers will do.


Next, I went to my iron and tried to do most of my pressing at once. Starting with pressing my underarms I only pressed the amount that I had serged. I then pressed a casing into my front and back neckline for my drawstring to run through. This was a  5/8″ fold, just enough to feed my tie through. I went ahead and pressed the hemline the same as the underarms, the amount it was serged. I gave my unsewn pocket a press. Last, I pressed my salvage necktie pieces by folding them both in half and then folding raw edges into the middle. Most of the ironing is finished at this point.


On my regular sewing machine I sewed my side seams together using the 2.5 straight stitch. I like to use 1/2″ seam allowance when I am designing.

I sewed the underarms and neckline casing at the same time and then I stitched my hemline. The body of the dress is completed that quickly.

From the leftover underarm pieces I made a patch pocket.

When I got two large enough pieces I sewed them right sides together, remembering to leave a hole. Then it was flip and press my pocket.


For the drawstring I sewed my two pressed salvages together at the short ends making one long piece. Then I simply ran it through my machine, top stitching the folded edges all together. Remember, you can also use a ribbon if you would like to skip this part and save more time.

The very last step is to figure out where I wanted my patch pocket to go and then to topstitch it down. I had a friend help me with this while wearing the dress.

As you can see bundling as many like tasks as I can at each station in my sewing room saved me a tremendous amount of time. There was no running back and forth.

This dress would look cute with tights and a shirt under it or all by itself or as a swim suit cover up. So many options!

Photos by Lynn Wheeler (Thanks Lynn )

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!


Tracy McElfresh
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