Wednesday, April 28, 2010

tutorial for giving an outgrown t-shirt a second life as a nighty

Ok, so I have had this tutorial written up for a while now, but I was torn as to whether or not to post it because, frankly, it really bugs me that I used Dora fabric to do this. But, I don't have the time to do it over using different fabric or to take more pictures, so I am biting the bullet and posting it in all of it's Dora glory. And the point was that Gracen loves Dora, and she was the one that picked it out, and as long as they are happy, that's what really matters, right? So there you go. I also have a summer version in the works that I promise will be free of any and all obnoxious character prints, so I have placated myself with that. Also, I know that the cold weather is pretty much behind us, but I still thought this tutorial was relevant since most of you are getting ready to put away long sleeve shirts for this season, so now is a great time to put some aside for this project, make a few nighties, then put them away until the cooler weather comes back in the Fall. Nothing like being prepared!

With a bunch of long sleeve shirts that my girls had outgrown, I decided to put them to use by turning them into nightgowns. The once long sleeves had been outgrown and were too short to be long sleeves, and too long to be 3/4 sleeve. And the length of the t-shirt was too short for my girls to wear without baring their tummies much of the time, and some of the shirts had stains that just wouldn't come out, so this was my solution. These work up incredibly fast and have become the reigning favorite for bedtime attire, with both girls, Gracen especially. Ok, so here we go.


-about 1 yard of cotton or flannel fabric for each nightgown (you may need more or less depending on your measurements for the desired final length of your nightgown)

-1 outgrown long sleeve t-shirt

-thread to match fabric and/or shirt

scissors and/or a cutting mat and rotary cutter

measuring tape or ruler of some sort

(Disclaimer- I don't care for commercially licensed characters on my childrens clothing, but I let my kids have their way when it comes to their pajamas, so the following nightgown is made with Dora the Explorer fabric. I apologize for the garrish print and irritating product placement, but it was what Gracen wanted for her nightgown. So there you go, and Dora it is.)

Measure from the shoulder down to where you want the nightgown to end. For the purposes of demonstration, I wanted this nightgown for Gracen to be 31 inches long total in length. So I will divide that total measurement up between the t-shirt length, the skirt length and the ruffle length to get the desired 31 inch long nightgown in the end. Remember to make sure to add in your seam allowance. Mine was about 1/2", but you can choose whatever seam allowance works best for you.

Lay your t-shirt out flat, and remembering to add your seam allowance, make your cut.

For this nightgown for Gracen I chose to cut the t-shirt about 9 inches long from shoulder down.

I cut the bottom portion off of the shirt where I marked it. Then I cut about 4"-inches off at the hemmed edges of both sleeves (there is no perfect length to cut off of the sleeves, it's up to you and what you would like the finished length to be), thus removing the added bulk and making room for the ruffles on the sleeves in later steps.

I cut the skirt portion from regular quilting cotton, using the full width of the fabric, 44"-inches wide, and cutting it about 22 1/2 inches long.

Then I cut two more strips, each 4 inches wide by 44 inches long for the ruffle on the bottom of the skirt.

The sleeve ruffle can be done several ways. Two options are either using the leftover t-shirt fabric, OR you can cut a third 4"x44" strip from the same fabric you are using for the skirt and then cut it into two separate lengths that are both 1 1/2 to 2 times the length of your sleeve opening. For this tutorial I am using the leftover t-shirt for the sleeve ruffle, but I have also done it the other way with excellent results too. It's just your own personal preference here.

I measured my sleeve laying flat, and it was 3 1/2"-inches across at the edge, which means it's a total of 7 inches in circumference at the opening. The basics measurement for making most ruffles is to use 1 1/2 to 2 times the length of your fabric. So if you have 7"-inches you will need 1 1/2 to 2 times that number in length for the ruffle. So I will need my strips to be anywhere from 10 1/2 to 14 inches long (don't forget to add seam allowance too) depending on how ruffly and gathered I want it to be, and I cut mine anywhere from 3 to 4 inches wide. I went with 3 1/2 inches wide for this sleeve since it was as wide as I could go with what I had left of the t-shirt. So here are my strips cut into 3 1/2" x 10 1/2"-inches.

Placing the right sides together, fold them with the short sides lined up and even, and stitch them together with your sewing machine. I used a 1/4"-inch seam allowance here.

You now have a "circle" or "tube" of fabric. With wrong side together, fold the tube in half so that the right side of the fabric is on the outside, facing you, like so...

They should both look like this, with the right sides of the fabric showing.

With your sewing machine, and your longest stitch length, run a basting stitch all the way around. My longest stitch length on my current machine is 6. On my old one it was 4. They both work, so just use whatever your longest stitch length is. Do not backstitch at the beginning or end, you are going to need to be able to pull the thread to gather this.

Matching up the raw edges of the ruffle to the raw edges of the sleeve opening, and right sides together, match the seam on the sleeve and ruffle and pin the ruffle to the sleeve, pulling the thread up to gather as you go. Evenly space the gathers all the way around the sleeve. And I'm sorry I didn't get more pics of this step, I meant to, and didn't. I am a jerk.

I set my machine stitch back to a 3, and machine stitched using about a 3/8"-inch seam allowance. I stitched all the way around, and backstitched at the end to ensure my seam.

If you have a serger you can then serge that seam as well, but it's not a necessity if you are using a knit fabric for the ruffle since knit does not fray. However, if you are using a cotton/woven fabric for the ruffle, you can either serge the seam OR us a zig zag stitch after you straight stitch it so that it will stop it from fraying and looking neat after numerous rounds in the washing machine and dryer.

Afterwards I topstitched on the outside all the way around.

Next take the my two 4" x 44"-inch strips of fabric and with right sides together, matching the edges of the short sides so they are even.

Like so...

With a 1/4"-inch seam allowance, stitch them together at both ends, so you have a circle of fabric.

Then fold it in half, wrong sides together, and press it with your iron, all the way around.

Then, with your machine set to your longest stich once again, and making sure NOT to backstitch at the beginning OR the end, run a gathering stitch 1/4"-inch in on the raw edge, all the way around using one of the seams from the beginning as a starting and ending point.

Then take the fabric for the skirt, and right sides together, matching the sides, stitch down the length of the skirt (the selvage edge) using a regular stitch length (2 or 3). Serge or zig zag your edges. I used a larger seam allowance since I had to match up the selvage edges, so I stitched just inside of the selvage so it wouldn't show.

At the bottom edge, fold it in half and place a pin at that point. fold it again and pin those spots as well. This should divide the bottom of the skirt into 4 evenly space sections which will make adding the ruffle easier. And make sure that the edge you chose for the bottom of the skirt works with the direction of the fabrics print. You don't want to get your nighty all sewn together and on your little girl only to realize that all of the designs are now upside down. Not that I would know about that or anything.....ok, so maybe I know A LOT about that. But we don't need to go into all of that now. So anyways, just make sure the bottom really is the bottom. Now, take the ruffle and fold it in half and then again, marking the spots with pins, and dividing it into quartered sections as well. Match up each of the pins on the ruffle with the pins on the bottom edge of the skirt. Then, pull up the basting thread to gather, adjusting as you go, and evenly placing and pinning your gathers all along the bottom edge of the skirt. Raw edges from the skirt and the ruffle should be even. It should look something like this...

With your machine set to a regular stitch length (2 or 3), stitch all the way around, using about a 3/8"-inch seam allowance, backstitching at the end to secure your seam. Serge or zig zag over the edges afterwards.

Topstitch all the way around the top of the ruffle on the skirt.

Setting your machine to your longest stitch length once again, sew a gathering stitch all the way around the top edge of the skirt with a 1/4"-inch seam allowance. Place 4 pins at intervals evenly spaced out so that the skirt edge is divided into 4 quarters.

Do the same to the raw edge of the bottom of the t-shirt. (I serged the raw edge of the shirt only to keep it from rolling while trying to sew it to the skirt. It is not a necessity, it was just for my own convenience.)

With skirt turned inside out (wrong sides out) and the t-shirt with the right side out, place the shirt inside of the skirt, matching raw edges.


Match the side seam of the skirt to one of the side seams on the t-shirt. Pin the skirt to the t-shirt  matching all of the pins.

 Pull the basting thread on the skirt to gather, and evenly space and pin the gathers of the skirt in place to the t-shirt.

Using a regular (2-3) stitch length, stitch the skirt to the t-shirt, sewing all the way around, backstitching to secure your seam. I used about a 3/8" to 1/2"-inch seam allowance. Either works fine.

Serge or zig zag over the edges to keep it neat for washings.

 Topstitch all the way around on the t-shirt, catching the skirt seams you go to give the t-shirt added strength with the weight of the skirt now attached. And topstitching always gives it such a nice look anyways, don't you think?

And you're done!

Gracen was very pleased with the end result, and told me she was going to wear it forever. Not that she had any interest in modeling it for me, she just wanted to be goofy.

After I finished Gracen's, I made a Hannah Montana nighty for Haven.

Here are several I made before Christmas, and obviously before Gracen chopped off her hair. As you can see, I used the same fabric from the skirt to make the sleeve ruffles.

On this one of Gracen's I left off the skirt ruffle and added a square applique patch from the fabric instead on the center front of the t-shirt to cover up a stain. I just zig zag stitched all around the edges of the square with a small piece of stabilizer underneath to keep it from puckering as I sewed it on. (Haven's snowflake applique is original to the shirt from the manufacturer.)

  As you can see by the sleeve length, this shirt still fit Haven, but it was not wearable because of a bunch of marker stains across the bottom half, so this nighty was the perfect second life for it. I used flannel for this one.

There are a ton of possibilities here. You can omit the bottom ruffle on the skirt, omit the the sleeve ruffle on the shirt, use a short sleeve t-shirt or a tank top if you prefer, and even make these into a shirt for daytime wear instead just by shortening the length of the skirt part and not using the ruffle at the bottom. It's all up to you and what you want. There is a lot of room to really make these your own and have fun with it.

Please contact me with any questions, or if you need me to clarify any of my instructions. I tried my best to get it from my head to my blog, I can only hope it came out as clearly as I wanted. Just let me know, I am happy to help. And please email me or leave a comment with a link of any pictures of your own creations you make from this, I would absolutely LOVE to see them!

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