Sew A Child's Dress Using Recycled Cloth 

Sew a Child’s Dress Using Recycled Cloth 

Today everyone is trying to save money and go green. These two goals go hand-in-hand when it comes to making girls’ dresses from recycled clothing. Bargains can be had for a few dollars at thrift shops, but some girls may turn their noses up at shopping for used clothes.

That need not stop a clever parent from creating nice ‘new’ handmade clothing in popular styles while utilizing some good quality used fabrics. These instructions describe how to use a child’s blouse and an adult-sized dress or skirt to make one complete child’s dress, with only the minimum of sewing required.

What to Buy at the Thrift Shop

Locate a thrift shop nearby, or shop at yard sales for the materials. Buy a T-shirt or button-down blouse that will fit the child. Then choose a section of material for the bottom of the dress by finding an adult-sized skirt or dress, or even a pretty cotton sheet that can be cut up to provide the material. It is fairly easy to find gently used clothes, some being very high quality – made of the sort of material that would cost a lot of money if bought right off the bolt at a fabric store.

It should not be difficult to find the two necessary items for under $5.00 total. Avoid buying clothing marked “Dry Clean Only.”

Cutting the Materials

Wash the two clothing items first. Try the shirt or blouse on the child, or lay the blouse side-by-side with one of her current tops for comparison. Cut the bottom off the ‘new’ used blouse at waist or midriff level, depending on the style wanted. Allow an extra half-inch of length for a seam. If the blouse was buttoned down to the waist, stitch the front of the blouse closed at the waist-point. Later the skirt portion will be sewn on at waist (or midriff) level.

Now measure the length of material needed to complete the skirt portion of the child’s dress. Spread out the adult-sized dress or skirt from which the material will be taken, and cut out the skirt portion of the child’s clothing. By measuring from the hem of the adult dress, it should be possible to retain the already-stitched hem intact so that a new hem will not have to be sewn.

If it is clear that the skirt material’s size will be too broad, then a vertical seam can be taken to get the correct skirt width, and just that small area of hem around the new seam will need fixing.

Sewing the Top to the Skirt

Run a gathering stitch along with the new ‘waist’ of the girl’s dress’s skirt portion. Be careful not to over-gather; the dress will be pulled over the child’s hips or shoulders, so it should not be too narrow.

Later the belt or ribbon will pull the dress snug at the waist or midriff. If the blouse section is made of stretch material, measure to ensure the waist area will not end up too narrow to pull past hips or shoulders while dressing. Use a sewing machine to sew along the seam line of the blouse at the waist (or midriff) while stretching the fabric so that when released, the waistline is wide enough to be pulled on or off easily.

Now join the blouse part to the skirt material at the seam area, right sides together. First, sew a test seam loosely to allow for quick alterations. Once it is determined that length and width are correct, go ahead and sew up the seam again, using a regular machine stitch. Trim excess seam material or use a zigzag stitch on the areas that fray. Press the seam flat with an iron.


Form belt loops out of the excess skirt material and hand-stitch onto the dress’s left and right sides at the seam line. To help keep a belt flat and positioned correctly, sew one full inch of each belt loop vertically to the side of the dress. This will keep the belt lying flat along the waist or midriff.

It might be necessary to add a belt loop in the back and discreetly tack the belt or ribbon in the front, covering the seam without drooping. Make the belt out of extra skirt material, or use a contrasting fabric or stiff, wide ribbon. If sewing the belt, sew the material into a tube shape, right sides together. Leave both ends open. Pull the tube right side out, and hand-sew the ends closed, and press.

If there is enough skirt material left over, it could be used to make a matching collar or a scarf, or even trim for the sleeves. Get creative! Make it stylish!

Thank you for reading!

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