“Onesie Hacks”: Part 2 – the Soft and Sweet Dress

Onesie to sweet dress conversion by Beautiful Entropy As I mentioned in the first post in my “Onesie Hacks” series, there are lots of good reasons to transform a onesie into something else. Some babies and toddlers don’t fit into onesies well, onesies and cloth diapers don’t generally mix, and most kids outgrow onesies in length before they outgrow them in girth. Still, since onesies are baby and toddler clothing staples and are inexpensive (especially from the secondhand store!), it’s cost effective to be able to get non-onesie use out of the ubiquitous union suit.

My second onesie hack was designed for a very strange onesie that I bought my daughter from a local bookstore. It was very wide relative to its length, so with the bottom removed, it made a fairly roomy (but strangely short) shirt. Consequently, I needed a much longer skirt on it than I put on the pixie dress to make up for the missing length, and also so that it would fit for a nice long time and cover underwear, in the likely event that it still fit after potty training.

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 9.32.24 AM As with previous onesie hacks, I started by removing the lower portion with a rotary cutter (though as always, scissors will work too). I went through my fabric stash looking for something coordinating and fun. Since the shirt was funky and casual (envelope neck, goofy slogan, bookstore logo on the back), I decided to make a dress that had a definitively playful look. Some soft jersey that I’d gotten from the bargain barrel at JoAnn Crafts fit the bill nicely. As an aside, I always check the clearance fabric when I’m at JoAnn; even if I don’t have a project in mind when I buy it, as long as it’s attractive fabric, I know I’ll find a use for it eventually! The jersey I used in this project had just enough green in it to coordinate with the shirt, and brought out the purple color of the shirt lettering. I used my rotary cutter to make a long strip of fabric about 8″ wide. In the pixie dress hack, I didn’t want to gather the skirt, so I made sure the skirt exactly matched the circumference of the shirt. Not necessary in this case. I wanted a gathered skirt, so all I needed was a strip LONGER than the circumference of the shirt, where the longer the strip, the more full and gathered the skirt would be. This particular jersey was actually very soft and drapey, so I decided to go with just a little bit of gathering (since the fabric didn’t have much body), and added visual body with ruffles. I didn’t really measure the length or the width of the fabric strip. I used a dress of W’s that was just a little too big to get an idea of how long the dress needed to be, which gave me the width of the strip, and I just sort of eyeballed the length. Next, I hemmed one of the long sides of the fabric strip to serve as the bottom of the skirt. This is not necessary with jersey; if you want a raw hem, jersey won’t unravel. Remember that with a stretch fabric, you need to use a zigzag stitch, a special “stretch” stitch that many sewing machines have, or a stretch overcast stitch (for a slightly more raw look). I went with a zigzag, for no particular reason. IMG_0400 Next, I used my rotary cutter to make a bunch of narrow strips of fabric that were LONGER than the strip that would form the skirt. The idea here was that I’d use the wide strip to form a slightly gathered skirt, and would gather the narrow strips and attach them to the skirt to make ruffles. Again, I just eyeballed the length of the strips, shooting for approximately twice the length of the wide strip. Longer narrow strips will give tighter ruffles. I couldn’t actually get the narrow strips as long as I wanted them to be from my piece of fabric, so I cut more than I needed and spliced them together for extra length. In the photo below, the strips are shorter than they’ll be after I splice them. To splice the strips, I just did a simple 1/2″ hem using a straight stitch (there won’t really be any stress here, so a stretch stitch is unnecessary). The join will be hidden by the ruffling. IMG_0402

I then basted (straight stitch using a long stitch length) down the center of each narrow strip. This is one way to make ruffles. There are many other techniques for making ruffles, including using a ruffling foot or elastic bobbin thread, but I find the provisional basting technique quick and easy. Be sure you do NOT backstitch at the beginning or end of your baste; you want to be able to slide the threads.

IMG_0404 Once you’ve completed your basting stitches, you can create ruffles by holding ONE thread (either top or bottom), and sliding the fabric toward the center of the strip. You’ll need to scoot the fabric around to get the ruffles exactly the way you want them. There’s a great tutorial here if you’re interested.


Because the single basting row technique for making ruffles is sort of a lazy, short-cut technique, you really have to work the ruffles by hand to get them nice and even. I usually achieve this by pulling more thread than necessary, to make a too-short, very ruffly strip. I then stretch it out as I even out the ruffles, eventually generating a ruffled strip that is the right length. In this case, my ruffled strips needed to end up the same length as the wide strip. IMG_0407

I didn’t really have a plan as to where I wanted the ruffle strips and how many I wanted to end up with. Instead, I just started placing ruffle strips (without sewing them in place), and once I found an arrangement I liked, I went with it. A double row of ruffles at the bottom of the skirt looked right to me.


Once I had the ruffle strips arranged so that they looked nice and even and I liked the placement, I pinned them into place. I then did a zigzag stitch right down the center of the ruffle (over the basting stitch line) to secure them to the skirt. Note that because your ruffles can scoot around until you get them sewn down, you sort of need to hold them in place with your hand as you sew to prevent your sewing machine’s foot from moving them too much, and to make sure that the ruffles don’t double over or anything like that. If I’d wanted to be really technical, I could have removed the basting stitches after attaching the ruffles, but I didn’t think it showed enough to worry about it, and the ruffles hid it.


Next, I put a line of basting stitches near the top of the skirt, so that I could gather it before attaching it to the shirt. If I’d wanted to, I could have hemmed the top of the strip, but I decided I wanted a ruffly, raw edge at the top to echo the ruffly, raw edges lower down.


Using the same technique that I used to make the ruffles, I gathered the top edge of the skirt until it was the right length to fit around the shirt. I didn’t join the ends of the strip to complete the circle just yet, because I found gathering easier (in this case) with a straight strip of fabric. I pinned the gathered skirt to the shirt, making sure that the ends of the strip (which I would later join to make the skirt seam) met at the side of the skirt. I turned them under by 1/2″ each, and pinned the entire skirt in place. Once the skirt was secured to the shirt by pins, I sewed the side seam of the skirt shut using a 1/2″ hem. I did this with a straight stitch, figuring that the jersey didn’t really need to stretch along the skirt’s side seam. I then used a zigzag stitch to secure the skirt to the shirt, just as I did earlier to put the ruffles on the shirt. IMG_0412 I’m pleased with the final product; it’s sweet, funky little play dress. If the jersey had had a little more body, I think I would probably have gathered the skirt more, but the ruffles create a similar look without having to use tons of fabric. Also, because this is a very light, cool jersey, it’s a nice play dress for spring and summer in the desert; too much gathered jersey would be cute, but hot! IMG_0414 Do you have any favorite onesie hacks that you’ve tried?


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