“Onesie Hacks”: Part 1 — the Punky Little Pixie Dress

Onesie to pixie dress conversion by Beautiful EntropySo, I’ve never been a fan of onesies for W. When she was younger, she wore cloth diapers, and onesies just never fit well. From about 18 months on, she would have been really insulted if I’d tried to put one on her; she considered them “baby clothes,” and she is a “BID DUWL” (big girl). Because I have a lot of onesies around — both from gifts people gave her and because of really neat ones that I found at the secondhand store and couldn’t resist — I have implemented a series of “onesie hacks” to transform them into something cute. As a bonus, even kids who will wear onesies generally outgrow them in length before they outgrow them in girth. These onesie hacks solve that problem and allow another season — or at least another few months — of wear. For those of you who are sewing-challenged, fear not; as you can clearly see from this post, I’m a really, REALLY lazy and minimally-skilled seamstress. I’m not a fan of measuring things when I can avoid it, I take shortcuts wherever I can, and I don’t use patterns. I also tend to drink wine while I sew, which increases my desire to keep projects as simple as possible. If I can manage these onesie hacks, so can you! My Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 12.24.47 PMonesie hacks will be posted as a series of at least three. The first one, which I call the “Punky Little Pixie Dress,” is my favorite, both because it’s EASY and because it’s SOOOO cute!

The pixie dress started out as a really gorgeous turquoise onesie that I paid a buck for at my favorite local secondhand store. Isn’t it adorable? It just needs…to not be a onesie.

First, I hacked off the bottom portion. Because I happen to own a self-healing mat and rotary cutter, I used it to make a nice straight cut that took about a second to perform. If you do any quantity of sewing at all and don’t have a rotary cutter, it’s a relatively small investment that saves tons of time. If you don’t have and don’t want one, you could always make this cut with scissors. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it’ll get hidden anyway. I made the cut as close to the bottom of the onesie as possible, just above the leg seams, to maximize the length of the resulting shirt.

One great thing about jersey (knit), IMG_0269which most onesies are made of, is that it doesn’t unravel. Consequently, if you want a really, REALLY simple onesie hack for a kid who won’t wear a onesie, has outgrown it in length, or is a boy and doesn’t want to wear a pixie dress, you can stop here. Just leave the raw edge; it’ll be fine! If you want a nearly-as-simple hack that looks a bit more polished, you can finish the seam by turning it under a quarter inch and zig-zag stitching it (don’t use a straight stitch; it’ll break on stretch fabric! Use a plain ol’ zig-zag or a special stretch stitch, if your machine has one). You could also do an overcast stitch, which many sewing machines have. I actually dig the overcast stitch done in contrasting color thread; it looks polished in a casual way.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 12.27.06 PMOk…on to the dress, for those of you who want more than a simple onesie-turned-shirt. The next thing I did was select a coordinating jersey knit. I picked up this cute fabric on sale and it had been sitting around for a while, waiting for the right project. The colors, peace signs, and silver accent, which matched the subtle silver accent on the onesie, made it perfect!

The next bit involved a little bit of math…sorry. I decided I wanted the total length of the dress to hit above the knees, with the points of the skirt hanging about 5-ish inches below the hem of the shirt. I was pretty lazy about that decision-making process; because W is still in diapers, she can wear a cute cloth diaper or bloomers under the dress, and it won’t matter if it shows. For an older toddler or little girl, you’d want to be a bit more careful. I’d suggest having theScreen Shot 2013-02-28 at 12.46.38 PM kid put the onesie-shirt on, after which you could measure just how far you’d need the skirt to fall to be decent. Remember that it’s the length of the SHORT SIDES of the skirt, rather than the length of the points, that dictates how much leg shows! Still, that’s a discussion more relevant to a t-shirt hack (maybe a later post?) than a onesie hack, as kids small enough to wear onesies are typically still in diapers.

Back to the math. The skirt of the dress is made up of two squares of fabric that have circles cut out in the center. The circumference of the cut out circle should be the same as the circumference of the shirt hem. The shortest radial distance (measurement from the center outward) from the cut out circle to the perimeter of the square will be the SHORTEST length of the skirt, while the radial distance from the circle to a point of the square will be the LONGEST length of the skirt. Confused? Look at the picture. Pictures really help.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 4.41.35 PM

Half the diagonal is 8″, so the whole diagonal is 16″.

In my case, as I said, I didn’t care about the shortest skirt hem, but I wanted the longest skirt hem to be about 5 inches below the shirt hem. I then determined the circumference of the cut out circle by measuring the circumference of the shirt. It’s not necessary to open the shirt hem into a circle to do this. Circumference measurements are the same whether they’re made flat or open, so you can just measure the distance across the shirt hem (about 10.5 inches in my case, as you can sort of see from the picture with the rotary cutter), and then double it. My shirt hem had a circumference of 21 inches, so my skirt circle needed a circumference of about the same. If you err here, err on the side of making the cut out circle too SMALL rather than too big (unless you want a gathered skirt).

Because it’s easier to measure out a circle based on the radius (distance from center to edge) rather than the circumference, I did a little more math. The radius of a circle is equal to the circumference divided by 6.28, so in my case (21/6.28), the radius of the circle was 3.34 inches. It is TOTALLY not important to be exact here. Remember that I said to err on the small side. I went with an inner radius of 3 inches.

Calculating the size of the inner circle allowed me to Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 1.00.26 PMcalculate the size of the fabric square. If my inner circle was going to be 3 inches, and if I wanted my longest measurement from shirt hem to skirt hem to be 5 inches, I needed a square with a diagonal of 16 inches (again, see the picture…it makes things easier to understand). From here, you can EITHER fold your fabric along the diagonal, measure, and square the edges, or you can do a little more math. The latter is my preference, because even though you have to do some number-crunching, the cuts are easier to do (especially with a rotary cutter…there’s that again…). The side of a square is the diagonal divided by 1.4, so my square was to have sides of just over 11 inches. I cut two squares.

Ok, I know you’re probably thinking, “This is an EASY hack? This post is really long and there are lots of steps!” Yes, but so far, we’ve only cut two pieces of fabric. Most of the work here is math, not sewing. Really. When it comes to sewing, you will be doing ONE LINE OF STITCHES. That’s it. No fooling. Hang in there.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 4.40.00 PM

Each of the pen marks forming this quarter-circle were made by measuring 3″ from the corner of the paper.

With my squares cut, the next step was to cut out the inner circle. Remember that the radius of the circle has already been calculated (and in my case, was 3″). Since the radius of a circle is the measurement from the center to any point along the circle’s perimeter, cutting a nice, round circle in the center of each square is deceptively simple! I used a piece of paper, a ruler, and a pen. With the end of the ruler at a corner of the paper, I measured 3″, made a

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 4.45.47 PM

Fold your fabric square in half, then half again, to make a smaller square that is four layers thick. Position the quarter circle pattern so that its point lies at the center of the unfolded square.

mark, changed the angle of the ruler (still with the end at the corner), made another mark, and so forth. This left me with a rough quarter-circle that I could fill in by connecting the dots. The more dots you make, the more accurate (round) your quarter-circle will be, but I got reallyScreen Shot 2013-02-28 at 4.51.33 PM good results by just eyeballing it.

Next, I cut out my quarter circle of paper to serve as a sort of pattern. Folding my fabric squares in quarters, I pinned the pattern to a quartered fabric square so that the point of the pattern was at the center of the (unfolded) square, and made my cut. Err on the side of cutting into the pattern (which makes the center circle smaller) rather than cutting too far from the edge of the pattern (which makes the center circle bigger). Repeat for the other square of fabric.

Since the original square has been folded into fourths prior to pinning the pattern and cutting, when you finish your cut and open your square, you’ll have a nice, symmetric circular hole right in the center of each square! Resist the temptation to pin the two folded sections of jersey together in an attempt to save time by cutting the center circles out of both at once; eight thicknesses of jersey is quite a lot, and your cut will tend to get uneven.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 5.01.48 PM

Here, we’re looking into the shirt from the bottom. All three layers are pinned together, and the skirt points are directed toward the top (neck) of the shirt. The inner skirt layer is wrong side to wrong side of the shirt (which is why we can see the right side). The outer skirt layer is right side to right side of the shirt (so we see the wrong side). Once I do my stitching and flip the skirt down, we’ll see both right sides.

With my two completed squares-with-circular-cut-outs, I was ready to proceed to pinning and sewing the only line of stitches this little dress requires. A word about pinning: I’m not a big fan. It’s boring. I poke myself with pins. It takes a lot of time. I never used to pin anything…until I realized that taking out stitches is even MORE boring and takes even MORE time than pinning. If I’m doing a really easy, straight seam on no more than two layers of fabric, I sometimes cheat and forgo the pinning, but for anything else, I am a convert. Since this dress involves sewing three layers of fabric together, I highly recommend pinning in this case.

As you’re assembling your pieces for pinning, decide howIMG_0261 you want the skirt points to be aligned. By offsetting the squares 45 degrees from one another, you’ll end up with eight very evenly placed points on the resulting skirt. Less than (or more than) 45 degrees of offset would result in a slightly funkier, more uneven look. Whatever you decide, you definitely want at least SOME offset, or the points will overlap completely, which defeats the purpose of the two layers (and shows a lot more leg). I opted for a 45 degree offset, but I absolutely didn’t measure…I just eyeballed it.


The hem is a little ugly, but the beauty of the sandwich technique is that it’ll get hidden between the skirt layers. Bonus…it won’t touch and irritate sensitive toddler skin!

For your assembly and pinning, you want to make a sort of “shirt sandwich,” in which the hem of the shirt is between the two layers of skirt. It’s easiest to do your sewing if you flip the skirts up so that all three edges that you’ll be joining (the shirt hem and the two circles) are laying neatly together. Since the skirt will be flipped back down once you’ve done your sewing, you’ll need to make sure that the right sides face out in the end. Stuff one skirt section inside the shirt with its right

side facing inward (wrong side touchingIMG_0258 the wrong side of the shirt). Place the other skirt section outside the shirt, with its right side touching the right side of the shirt.

Try to ensure that your pinning is as smooth as possible. I believe I actually did some folding and marking (with pins) to indicate locations (3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock) around the hem of the shirt and around each circle. I then matched these up to ensure that the fabric didn’t bunch in some areas while getting stretched in others.

When you’re done pinning, the pinned area where you’ll join shirt and skirts should lie nice and flat.

The last step is the sewing, which is ridiculously fast and easy. Just one line of stitching to secure the fabric is all you’ll need. Remember that with jersey, you need a stretch stitch (or a zig-zag).

I used an overcast stitch, for no particular reason, which gave the new hem a nice, clean look (or at least, it would have given the hem a nice, clean look if I could sew in a straight line to save my soul!)Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 5.16.08 PM

So…voila! Finished! It actually took longer to figure out how to explain what I did and write this post than it did to make the dress. I need to get some pictures of W modeling it!


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