I’ve been wanting to make a cute dress all from bandanas! And, of course, in pastel rainbow colors. So I’ve been thrifting ones I can find in the colors I want. This week I decided to make my dress! I’m going to walk you through the process in case you want to try this bandana dress DIY.
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I wanted to include an inspiration image. The amazing @psychic.outlaw makes and sells bandana dresses that are just gorgeous! She inspired me with the idea to use bandanas to make a dress. I’ll make it mine own though!
bandana dress diy
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. It’d mean so much if you’d watch the video! I’m trying to get better at my video skills so I can grow my YouTube channel. If you have a few minutes to watch this and/or subscribe, I’d so appreciate it.
- Dress Pattern- McCalls M7948
- Pastel Bandanas– I thrifted lots of mine or got them at Joann. Here’s some from Amazon. I used 23 bandanas.
- Collar Pattern
- Matching Thread
- Sewing Machine
- Scissors for Sewing
- Sewing Marking Pen
- Rotary Knife
- Rotary Mat and Acrylic Ruler
- Pins and Pin Cushion
- Soft Measuring tape
how to dye a bandana
I couldn’t find enough pastel colored bandanas when I was thrifting for this project, so I bought a few white and beige ones to dye. Note, if dying bandanas, make sure to use ones that are 100% cotton.
Dying the bandanas is super easy! Make sure to wear an apron so you don’t get dye splatters on your clothes (I’ve had that happen). Here’s how to dye a bandana. First, get the bandana wet.
Then, boil water on the stove in a sauce pan. Add a little dye to the water.
Dip the bandana in the dye bath and quickly check the color. If the color isn’t bright enough, have it sit in the dye longer or add more dye. Sometimes the color will be off, so add another color of dye to get it right.
If the color is good, pull it out and rinse it in warm water.
how to bleach a bandana
For the bandanas I bought that were too bold of a color for me, I decided to bleach them. I did this at the same time as the dye, which was nice because some of them I bleached too much and so I dyed them. While other I dyed too much so I bleached them. Again, make sure to wear an apron and start with a wet bandana. Also open the windows for ventilation.
Use a plastic bin with two parts water and one part bleach.
Put the bandana in and watch it carefully. Within 30 seconds, some of my bandanas were lightened enough. While other bandanas took 10-15 minutes. Note that the bandana will lighten more after it’s out of the water so pull it a little before it’s the perfect color.
Another note is that a few of my bandanas got bleached unevenly and as a result have a tie dye look. The variation is beautiful to me, but it’s a risk if you want a more uniform look.
Once the bandana is bleached to a color that looks good, pull it out and hang it up to dry. After it dries, put it in the washing machine to clean it.
quilting the fabric
For this project I’ll mostly be cutting down the bandanas and quilting them into 9 patch squares (which is a bigger square made of 3″ squares). To start on this, iron all the bandanas.
Next, cut each bandana into 3-1/2″ strips. Most of the bandanas aren’t straight on the edges, so it’s best to trim the edge first before cutting the strips.
For each row of patchwork squares, I’m using two different colors of bandanas. I have two variations of each color. For example- a light pink and a medium pink bandana.
So once the strips are cut, I sew three of them together with a 1/4″ seam allowance (for example, I putlight pink on the ends and medium pink in the middle). Next, I repeat that step and alternate which color is on the middle and do two of those on the ends.
After the strips are sewn together, iron the seams so they face onto the darker side of bandana (that way the seams don’t show through the light fabric).
Then, take the strips of three bandanas sewn together and cut them so that they’re each 3-1/2″ long. Each of these units will have three bandana squares.
As I work my way through the bandanas, I lay the units on a table so I can see the layout of the skirt. Each row is made of two bandanas. There are 9 rows total using 18 different bandana colors. Aren’t those rainbow hues gorgeous?!
making the skirt fabric
My skirt will come out to be 24″ long and 43″ wide. That’s the measurements I like to get a full skirt and have the skirt hit the top of my knees. These measurements may need to be tweaked for each individual. Note, I don’t use a pattern for my skirt, just cut out a rectangle and then later gather. This gives me the look I like best.
Next, it’s time to take three of the units and sew them together to make the 9 patch quilting block.
So go to the laid out patchwork skirt pieces and grab three units. These get stitched together to make a big square with 9 bandanas sewn together.
Again, bring the sewn blocks to the iron and iron the seams so they lie flat.
Repeat until all 15 of the 9 patch blocks are sewn together and ironed.
Next, take the 5 blocks that are next to each other and sew them together so there’s a long row of 5 of the 9 patch blocks.
Repeat this so there’s three long rows of 9 patch blocks.
Finish by sewing the long rows into one big piece that makes up the front of the skirt.
Iron the seams flat.
I’m so obsessed with the colors for the DIY bandana dress! I think this looks like fiber art- I’m obsessed. Even if it did take me 10 hours of sewing to make!
Repeat for the back side of the skirt.
cut out the bodice
For the front of the bodice, I’m using a fun tiger bandana I found thrifting. Cut out the bodice on a fold. I’m using this Dress Pattern- McCalls M7948.
Unfortunately, I only have one bandana which is enough for the front only and no where else. Note, I searched online to try and find the same bandana so I could link it, but I couldn’t find one.
The rest of the pieces (the bodice back, sleeves, and collar) will use the quilted pieces of bandana.
For the back of the bodice, I pieced the exact bandana squares pieces I need to cut out the pattern. I could’ve probably used 2-6 more bandanas, but I’m making what I have work! Again, the top of the shoulders is where I place the light pink patches since that’s the beginning of my rainbow.
One note about this project- if using the same dress pattern as I did, make sure to make the neck hole larger than the pattern is. If I follow the pattern, then I really have to squeeze my head through. So I always cut it a little bigger.
cut out the sleeves, collar, and pockets
Next, cut out the sleeve pieces on the patchwork bandana. I used pieces with the lightest pink colors at the top since that is the beginning of my rainbow. Each sleeve uses two nine patch blocks.
Then, for the collar I did the same thing as the bodice back. I pieced bandana squares to only use what I need for the pattern. I’m using this Collar Pattern. I did a hybrid between the Peter Pan and Sailor collar. I used the back of the Peter Pan pattern with the front lapels from the sailor collar (since they’re smaller so the tiger on the front will be easier to see).
Cut a backing piece of fabric for the underneath piece of the collar.
For the pockets of my bandana dress DIY, I used scrap fabric I had on hand that has a bandana like pattern. I probably should’ve bought 4 bandanas for the pockets. But since they really don’t show, I’m fine with this.
Now all the pieces are all cut out. I like to lay my dress out so I can see a preview of how it’ll look. I’m very excited!
make the skirt
Next, it’s time to stitch the skirt together. First, I iron the hem up about 1/2″.
Then I take the skirt pieces to the sewing machine and stitch the hem that’ll make the bottom of the skirt.
Place the pocket pieces on the top of each corner of the skirt. Pin the pockets in place. Sew the pockets on. For this step, just sew the flat side of the pocket to the skirt. Repeat 4 times.
Next, gather the top of the skirt. I like a nice full skirt, but gathering can be a little tedious. To gather, first sew on a gathering stitch to the top of the skirt. Increase the stitch length to 5 (instead of the normal 2.5). Leave long long tails of string at the start and end of the gathering stitch. And don’t backstitch. Sew two parallel lines at the top of the skirt.
Once the gathering stitch is created, pull on the front two strings with one hand. With the other hand, start moving the fabric over so that it gathers. While gathering the skirt, I like to place it on a table next to the bodice. This makes it so I can quickly. see when the skirt is the size it needs to be to later connect to the bodice.
Once the skirt is gathered to the right measurement, take it to the sewing machine. Then sew around the gathers to hold them in place.
Now that the skirt is gathered, it’s time to sew the skirt up. To do that, first pin the sides of the skirt together. Next, sew the sides of the skirt together. To finish the pockets, sew up the side of the skirt to them, go up 3″, go down and around the pocket, then sew down the top of the pocket about 4″.
make the collar
To sew the collar, I’ll explain the general steps. I do have a whole blog post on how to make a ruffle collar if you want more information.
Pin the patchwork collar piece onto a plain piece of fabric backing. Take the collar to the sewing machine and sew most of the way around the perimeter. The pattern shows two divets in the neck line- that’s where the sewing should be started and stop. Leave that section open so the collar can be pushed right side out.
Iron the collar flat. Sew the section of the collar that is open so it is closed.
Hand stitch on a snap so the collar can be easily opened or closed.
Note, I’m not attaching the collar to the DIY bandana dress. It’ll be an accessory that can be easily removed or added.
make the bodice
Put the bodice front and back facing each other (right sides together). Then stitch them together at the shoulders.
Next, stitch the bodice together at the sides.
To finish the neckline on my DIY bandana dress, I’m adding double fold bias tape to get a finished edge. This won’t show much since I’ll usually wear the dress with a collar. Note, the pattern has a lining piece. I used this on another dress, but I didn’t like how it laid. Plus my whole dress will be lined, so I didn’t find that a necessary step.
add sleeves and connecting the dress
To start on the sleeves, first sew an ease stitch on the upper edge of the sleeve between the small circles. I didn’t know what an easement is, but essentially it’s making a gathering stitch on the top arch of the sleeve. Once it’s stitched on, pull the gathering stitches to create a little puff sleeve. Cute and pretty quick!
For the bottom of the sleeve, I sewed the hem. Next, stitch the sleeve seam closed.
Now I’m attaching the sleeve to the bodice. To do that, put the right sides together. Then pin the sleeve into the armhole. The large circle lines up with the shoulder seam. Adjust the ease (the gathering stitch at the shoulder) so the sleeve fits perfectly with the armhole.
For the last step for finishing the dress, pin the skirt into the bodice. I started pinning at each side. Then I found the middle of the bodice and skirt and pinned those together. Then I worked my way out with pins. Once the skirt is pinned to the bodice, sew them together. Stitch again around the skirt with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
make the lining
Right now, the DIY bandana dress is technically done. But while making it, I kept worrying about all the seams in the patchwork- how would they do with the movement from wearing a garment? Would they be uncomfortable? So I decided to make a full lining for this dress.
All I did was cut out thin fabric in the same pattern as the dress and essentially sew a second dress. This will be worn inside the bandana dress to make it more comfortable and hopefully protect the patchwork from too much wear.
After wearing the dress, the only thing I regret is that I made the skirt the same length as the rainbow bandana dress. I wish I’d hemmed it 2-3 inches shorter.
For this project, I thought it’d be fun to take all the scraps from making the patchwork to create a corresponding rainbow bow.
I followed the instructions from this YouTube video for everything besides the size. The size of my fabric is all the scraps sewn together.
It’s VERY cute! But maybe a bit too much. Possibly a bow made from one bandana would’ve been better?
The DIY bandana dress is done and I love it so much!
While I was making it I felt like the quilted bandanas looked like art- the arrangement of colors, the hand dyed ones. They all came together so beautifully and it’s a very bespoke item.
I think this is the perfect summer dress. It’d be so fun to wear to the State fair or a vintage market.
Yes, it’s a lot of look, but sometimes you need a special dress that really tells your story.
I love this dress! It feels really interesting and special and almost an heirloom piece for me. I gave it my all for a whole week making it and I’m happy to have a really pretty dress that celebrates the art of making things and re-using and repurposing old items.
For this project, I thrifted bandanas for probably 6 months before making it. My sister also helped me- one of the bandanas she found in Paris! Because of that, I really don’t have a price breakdown. I spent $1-$3 per bandana. I’d estimate that I spent $50-$60 on this project.
how long did this project take?
I thought this dress would take 3 days of work. Lol, I was so wrong. It took 5 days to create and most of those days I was sewing 7 to 8 hours a day. I estimate that just making the patchwork for the skirt took 10 hours. It was intensive to say the least.
But I think it was worth it! I wish I’d broken the project up over a few weeks so I didn’t have to burn myself out on it so much.
My hope with making this dress is that it inspires people to look at secondhand linens differently. How can I re-use something and give it a second life? Can I make something that is unique and maybe not buy a piece of fast fashion?
Lots of people tell me that they couldn’t make themselves clothes. And guess what, I couldn’t either. Until I decided it was something that was important to me so I tried. So please don’t be afraid to try! Just maybe start with an easier project than this- lol! I’d call this an advanced sewing project because of the quilting.
Anyway, I hope you love this bandana dress DIY! What do you think of it? What would you have done differently? There were lots of different ideas on lining the quilting so if you have a better option- I’d love to hear it in the comments below! Thank you for reading. It makes creating projects like this possible and I am SO grateful!
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