It’s winter and it’s so cold here! I love wearing dresses, but only have a few that are warm enough. So what’s a girl to do? How about make a quilt dress from an old thrifted patchwork quilt?! I’ve been dreaming up this quilted upcycle project for a few months and am so excited to show you how I take a quilt and make it fashion!
how to sew a quilt dress
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.
- Full size quilt or larger (quilt for making the dress and dog jacket)
- Dress Pattern- McCalls M7948
- Dog Jacket Pattern- Simplicity S9426
- Collar Pattern– I used the sailor option
- Matching Thread
- Sewing Machine
- Scissors for Sewing
- Sewing Marking Pen
- Rotary Knife
- Rotary Mat and Acrylic Ruler
- Pins and Pin Cushion
- Ruffle Trim 1-3/4 yard (trim for the collar)
- Liner fabric 3/4 yard (for lining the collar and pockets)
- Medium Ric Rack (1/2″ wide- for the collar)
- Soft Measuring tape
- 1/4″ Soft Stretch Elastic
- Double Fold Bias Tape
If making this project isn’t something you’d like to do, but you want the look of a quilt dress. Here’s some options you can buy-
Here is the quilt my sister found me thrifting. I think she got it for $5! The colors are great. It’s a full size.
It’s not in perfect condition. I washed it first and there’s still some stains. Plus there’s rips too. This is a mass made quilt (not a family heirloom). So please don’t feel too sad that I’m about to cut it up.
I wanted to do a fun pattern on the bodice. At a local antique shop, I got this square. Someone had cut up a quilt and sold it piece by piece. I bought this for $10.
step 1- cut out the patterns
Start by cutting out all the pieces needed for the quilt dress. For the skirt, I measured from my waist to my knees and added 1/2″ for seam allowance. That gave me 23″ long. I cut two 44″w x 23″ l rectangles out of the quilt along the edge so the finished binding will act as the hem. I’ll be gathering this skirt so it’ll be nice and full.
Cut out the bodice on a fold. I’m using an antique quilt square I bought so I can have a pattern on the front. It was a little small so I cut extra for the sides. If cutting the bodice from the same quilt, follow the instructions on the pattern.
Next, cut out the sleeve from the pattern. I want a long sleeve since it’s so cold. So I added 15″ to the bottom of the B pattern. Again, place the pattern so the bottom of the sleeve is on the binding of the quilt so that can act as the finished edge of the sleeve.
Cut out the rest of the pattern pieces.
For the back of the collar and the pockets, I used some cotton fabric that’s much thinner than the quilt. Another option on the collar is to use bias tape over the edge to give it a finished edge.
step 2- make the skirt
Next, it’s time to stitch the skirt together. First, serge all sides of the skirt. This makes it so there’s not fraying edges. It also looks cleaner.
Also serge the edges of each of the pockets.
Mark on the skirt where the pockets should be added. 3″ down from the top is a good spot for me. Especially on empire waist dresses. 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.
To figure out how much to gather the skirt, measure the bottom of the bodice. That measurement should match the skirt width.
Another option is to take a waist measurement. I want to be able to pull my skirt over my head to remove it. So I kept mine loose at 40″ round. That means each side of the skirt should measure 20″.
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 around the pocket, then sew down the skirt.
step 3- sew the collar
And now, I’m adding a decorative collar to the dress. It’s all in the details and this collar makes the whole dress so cute! 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.
Since the collar is already cut out, start by sewing over the ends on the trim. That way there won’t be a raw edge at the neck of the dress.
Once that’s done, pin the ruffle trim onto the collar. Place the collar face up on a table. Then put the trim right side down on top of the collar fabric. Pin those together.
Then, take the liner fabric and put it right side down on top of the quilted fabric and the ruffle. Pin all three layers together.
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.
Turn the collar right side out with the quilted fabric on top, the liner fabric on bottom, and the ruffle trim coming out the side of the collar.
Iron the collar flat. Also make sure to iron the flap closed inside the neck. I didn’t bother sewing mine closed yet. That’ll happen on the next step when the collar is attached to the bodice of the dress.
To make it extra adorable, I finished the collar by sewing Ric rack around the edge of the collar. Before sewing, I drew on a line where I wanted the Ric rack to go. I pinned on the start of the trim and then sewed that on while lining it up with the line I drew. That worked nicely.
step 4- make the bodice
Put the bodice front and back facing each other (right sides together). Then stitch them together at the shoulders. As I’m connecting everything, I’ll also be serging the finished edges. I won’t mention it on each step since it’ll get redundant. If you don’t have a serger, pinking shears or doing a zig zag stitch on the finished edge will work too.
I actually wished I’d using the serger all the way around the front and back of the bodice before I stitched the shoulders together. But doing it after worked too.
Since I’m using a collar, I’m not adding interfacing or neck facing to line the bodice. With the quilt dress, lining the bodice really isn’t needed. Instead, I’m sewing the collar to the neck line. This will create a finished edge.
To do this, I’m keeping the bodice inside out. Then, I’m pinning the collar to the neckline. The collar is right side down on top.
After pinning, I’m stitching the collar to the bodice. Note, when I made the collar, I never stitched close the hole for turning the collar right side out. That gets closed up when attaching it to the bodice.
When the bodice and collar are turned right side out, it has a nice finished neckline with the collar attached. Iron the collar as flat as possible onto the bodice. Ironing with quilted fabric is tricky since it’s so thick, but I was able to get it to lay flat after lots of ironing.
To finish the bodice, stitch the front and back of the dress together at the sides.
step 5- 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 want to add an elastic so its tighter and looks gathered. So I cut a piece of 1/4″ soft stretch elastic to 7-1/2″ long. Then I sewed in the inside of the bottom of the sleeve. I backstitched the first 1/2″ and then pulled the elastic taunt while sewing it onto the sleeve. This creates a nice detail at the bottom of the sleeve.
Note, since I used the quilt edge for all my hems, the sleeves are already hemmed. If they weren’t, I’d put the elastic inside 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.
I pinned by starting with the circle on the shoulder seam. Then I went to the armpit and lined up those seams. I worked my way up to the shoulder seam and let out the gather on the shoulder if needed. It’s best to trim the strings from the gathering stitch at this point for a clean finished product.
Stitch the sleeve into the armhole. To make it as strong as possible, stitch again 1/4″ away in seam allowance.
Turn the sleeves right sides out. Is that not the cutest sleeve you’ve ever seen?!
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 1/4″ away.
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. I followed the pattern and I really have to squeeze my head through.
Now the dress quilt is done! Let’s move onto the quilted dog jacket.
step 6- sew the dog jacket
Finally, I’m going to make the dog jacket. First I ended up cutting down all the pattern pieces. The pattern is designed to be quilted so a seam allowance is added to the edge. Since I’m working with a quilt, I can’t stitch it as the pattern calls for and I need to cut out the extra seam allowance off the edges- that’s 1/2″ on all sides.
Once that was cut down, finish the edges on the back and bottom of the hood and the short flat side of the tabs. To do that, I serged along the cut side.
Now let’s sew the hood. Put the right sides together and stitch the center back seam.
Add bias tape onto the front edge of the hood. Pin it on while flattening out the bias tape.
Sew the bias tape onto the hood on the first line closest to the edge.
Then fold the bias tape over the edge of the hood and pin it in place.
Stitch around the inside edge of the bias tape to finish it off.
I decided to be a little extra and add some Ric Rack trim around the hood too. You can never have too many details!
Pin the hood to the neck edge. Sew the hood in place.
Add bias tape around the border of the jacket. I’m sewing it on like we did the hood.
On the tabs, sew on bias tape on the three sides (the rounded edge and the two longer sides).
Add two pieces of velcro to the tabs and two pieces to the front of the jacket. Each piece of velcro should be 2-1/4″ for the front and 2-1/2″ for the tabs.
Sew the velcro in place.
Pin the tabs to the coat. Sew the tabs in place onto the body of the jacket to finish it up.
And here’s my finished quilt dress and matching dog jacket!
The dress is SO comfy and warm! Which makes sense because I’m wearing a blanket!
The quilt does add a lot of bulk, but it’s very adorable and cozy.
The details are my favorite- the gathered sleeve bottom, the bonnet girl bodice, and the fancy collar. Plus, how fun is it to have matching outfits?! Now I want to make my dog a bunch of jackets- lol.
I’m really happy with how the dog jacket turned out. I think it looks adorable!
This took 4 days of sewing- probably because I’m not the fastest. And I added a bunch of details. It was a really fun project and I’m excited to have this dress to wear for the rest of winter.
For the quilt dress, my sister gave me the quilt. I did buy the quilt front for the bodice for $10. The dress pattern cost $11 (though I had it on hand from past projects). The dog pattern cost $10. The collar pattern is $7, though, again, I already had it on hand. I bought $4 in thread. My ruffle trim, Ric rack, elastic, and bias tape cost $10.
In total I spent $34 to create the quilt dress and matching dog jacket.
I’m really happy with how these turned out! I love that I got to learn some new techniques for making this- like sewing on rick rack and I’ve never made a long sleeve. It’s fun to always be learning and getting a little better at a skill. Let me know if you have any questions on this project in the comments! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.
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What a fun project! Somehow, this blog post makes me think I could do this… quilt dresses for everyone!
Ashley Wilson says
Oh I really think you could do it! YES! Quilt dresses for everyone! I love that
Such a fun project!
Ashley Wilson says
Oh thank you Mary! I sure appreciate it!