Saturday 2 August 2014

Waste Not Want Not: Bubble Dresses (from Onesies)

So, Hannah's toilet-trained ... and sleeping in a big-girl bed, and in the big-kid class at swimming lessons (you know, the one where the Mums are relegated to the seats at the side of the pool instead of being in the pool with their babies)!  Where has my baby gone?  I've shed a couple of tears I must admit, but she's so enjoying being a big-girl.  I guess her joy and excitement will take the edge off this Mummy's broken heart, and of course I'm constantly thankful for the blessing of healthy, happy, growing munchkins!

Anyway, with growing up also comes a lack of need for baby things like onesies.  I mean, it really is a little unfair to expect this 2 1/2 year old to get herself out of a onesie in time to make it to the toilet ... and she does insist on taking herself to the toilet ... "I do it myself Mummy ... you stay out!" *sobs*  So those size 2 onesies I bought on sale last year, ready for this winter are absolutely no use to us at all now ... and they're brand new.  Time for a waste-not-want-not project me-thinks!
I've wanted to have a go at a bubble dress for ages and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  I found some cute knit fabrics I've had stashed since I bought them on sale, and seeing as they're a little warmer than a light cotton poplin or something I thought they would also work for our winter weather.
Now, I know there are other ways to do bubble dresses, but this was a nap-time project for me and I was really happy with the super-quick way these came together.  I got both of these little dresses done in a couple of hours from beginning to end.  Not bad, huh! (Oh, and pay no attention to the super-crushed-ness of these dresses in the photos.  They've been worn and washed a number of times by now, and these were taken straight off the line for photos ... you now how it is!
The best part of this project (as with any other sewing for my kids) is that Hannah ... who is an absolute dress fan at the moment ... loves her "cloud dress" and her "strawberry dress" and loves to "twirl" in them.  She's mid-twirl in the pic above.  

The cloud dress is a little shorter, and not quite as drop-waisted because this onesie was a slightly smaller make than the other. I embellsihed this one with a little bow made from the same fabric as the skirt.  I thin it's a cute touch ... debating making a matching bow for a hair clip!!  The strawberry dress is a little longer and I'm hoping we might get next year out of it as well, or at least the cooler spring-time days ... I can always hope, huh!  I embellished this one with a simple applique of a strawberry cut out from a fabric off-cut.  I think the strawberry dress is my favourite!

So, wanna know how I did it?  Play along if you'd like!  It's a really simple one ... promise!

You'll Need:
- A onesie ... that fits, or even if it's a little short it will be OK.  This would be a great way to recycle a onesie that's been outgrown length-wise, especially if it's a short-sleeve / singlet version.
- Some knit-fabric (though I reckon a woven fabric would work just as well if that's what you have on hand).  For Hannah's (size 2) dresses I used about 1/2 - 3/4 metre of knit fabric.
- The usual sewing machine, serger (if you have one), scissors or rotary cutter, coordinating thread etc.

Let's get to it:

1. Grab your onesie and lay it flat.  Draw a line across to mark your cutting line (or if you're clever lazy like me, you can just free-hand the cut) then cut the clip-section of the onesie off just at the top of the leg-hole edging.

2.  Measure the width of your cut edge to help you calculate how wide to make your skirt pieces. 

3. Calculate the size of the skirt pieces as follows: Width: Double your onesie measurement from step 2.  So, Hannah's onesie was 10" wide, so I cut the skirt pieces 20" wide.  Length: Your preferred length plus 1 inch (for seam allowance), then doubled.  So Hannah's finished skirt length was  9", so I cut the length at 20" (9+1, doubled). 

4. Cut your skirt pieces (Hannah's were 20" x 20" as calculated above in Step 3).  You need 2 skirt pieces ... a front and a back.  Then place the pieces right sides together and sew down each side (using a 1/4" seam) to make a tube like so... 

5. Fold the tube up onto itself (kind of like you've half turned it through the right way), so you have a fold at the bottom, and the two raw edges together at the top.  This also encloses the side seams, so there's no need to finish those seams ... they'll never be seen again!

6. Set your sewing machine's stitch length to the longest (on my machine it's number 6), and sew a gathering stitch 1/4" from the raw edges all around the top of the skirt.  This will also join the two layers of skirt together all around the top seam.  Remember not to back stitch at the start of end of the round, and to leave nice long threads for gathering with.

7.  Lay your skirt alongside your onesie with the 2 raw edges near each other, then pull EITHER the top or bottom thread from your gathering stitch.  This will gather the skirt fabric.  Pull gently because you don't want the thread to break, and just gently move the gathers around until the skirt is the same width as the onesie, then tie off your threads to stop it un-gathering.  It can be helpful to give your gathers a little iron at this point to help set them a bit more, but I find knit fabric to be quite forgiving with gathering generally so I didn't bother this time.

8.  Now flip your onesie upside down, and insert it into the skirt so that your raw gathered skirt edge and the raw onesie edge match up.  Match the skirt side seams with the onesie side-seams and pin into place, then pin the front and back of the skirt to the front and back of the onesie at regular intervals to keep them well secured while sewing.  Remember, if you're using a directional fabric (like my strawberry one), you'll need to make sure you're joining them correctly so that the outside of the skirt will be right-way up in the end.  I would suggest turning your dress right-side-out after you've pinned the pieces together, just to check you've got them right before you sew.

9.  Sew, using a 1/2" seam around the pinned edge, joining the skirt to the onsie.  If you have one, you ca then use your overlocker (serger) to finish the edge.  If not, it won't matter,as knit fabric doesn't fray, so you'll be all good!

10.  Then turn your little dress right-side-out.  Push the waist seam (on the inside) up towards the onesie, then sew a topstitch 1/8" above the waist seam, which will secure your seam upwards, and make it sit flatter ... plus I just love top-stitching ... it's fun, right!

OK, so your little bubble dress is done ... it was easy wasn't it, and so quick!  Now you can just stop there and rush off to try your creation on your excited little munchkin, or you can take it one step further and join me for some embellishing.  The strawberry dress is just a simple applique (using a small zig-zag stitch around the edge) of a strawberry I cut from an off-cut of the skirt fabric.  Simple enough, but effective all the same, huh!  For the cloud dress, I made a little bow.  Here's what I did:

1. Cut a 4 1/2" square of coordinating fabric.

2.  Fold it in half (right sides together) and sew down the long raw edge.  Turn the tube right-side-out and iron flat, with the seam centred to one side (this will be the back).  Then tuck the ends in 1/4" and topstitch closed as close to the edge as possible (about 1/8" is OK).

3. Cut a 2" square of coordinating fabric.

4.  Fold this in half, right-sides together, sew down the long raw edge and turn it through to bring the right side out.  Iron the little tube flat, with the seam centred on one side.

5.  Pinch the middle of your larger tube in the middle to make a bow shape, then take your smaller tube and wrap it around to secure the shape.  Tuck one end of the small tube into the other, then push all the raw edges under if you can.  It's a little fiddly, but don't worry too much, as it will be on the back, and noone will see!  You'll need to pin it in place once your happy, then grab a needle and thread and sew the ends of the small tube together.  Once again, it doesn't have to be neat (as it's on the back) it just has to be effective!

Ta-Da!  A bow.  I'm thinking about making a couple more of these and gluing them to hair clips ... what do you think?

6.  And you could, of course, attach it wherever you want to on your dress.  I thought about placing it off-centre at the waist seam, but in the end I opted for putting it off-centre on the upper-chest.  

To attach it, I simply pinned it in place, then sewed directly on top of the top-stitching at each end of the bow.  Be sure to back stitch at the ends of each stitch-line to make sure it doesn't work it's way loose over time and in the wash.

And there you have it ... a couple of very cheap, very cute, very quick dresses for my rapidly growing-up  baby.

Coupled with a little pair of boots and some tights, this munchkin's is a happy big-girl indeed!


  1. A great way to get use out of the size 2 onesies. The colour combination on the pink bubble dress is adorable and I love the dropped waist.

    1. Hi Wen, I've featured your bubble dresses today...

    2. Thanks Pam! I love the dropped waste look too ... And a double thanks for featuring this!

  2. I love this! I'm a scrappy quilter and love to use everything up. What a great way to continue to use loved onesies as your baby grows older. Saving in my patterns and tutorials file!

    1. Thanks MegsAnn. I had so many hardly-worn onesies. I felt like they needed to be put to good use one way or another.