We’ve got another fun summer sewing project for the little ones today! Chris from Pickup Some Creativity shows you how to turn a pillowcase into a sweet and summery nightgown for a little girl. We’ve seen lots of pillowcase dress tutorials, but today’s how-to from Chris features a split bodice and sleeves (and she provides a pattern for several sizes too). You can make some Bandana Pants for summer sleeping shorts for the little boys in your life, and everyone will be set for cozy slumber! Learn more about Chris in her introduction, and be sure to look around Pickup Some Creativity for more fun and summery tutorials. Be sure to download your free Summer Pillowcase Nightgown PDF pattern today.

Pillowcases are fun to repurpose.  With a finished hem and seam, some of the sewing is already done.

As a bonus, there are so many pretty vintage options available!

On hot summer nights, when blankets are too much, having a nightgown is just the right amount of coverage.  I wanted to create a nightgown that was easy to take on and off, and had real sleeves for my daughters.  The result is this tutorial.  The PDF includes the pattern pieces you’ll need for creating your bodice.  It comes in three sizes, fitting a range from 3-8.  If you are unsure of sizing, please make a muslin of the bodice to make sure you have the correct fit.  This tutorial is best for advanced-beginner sewists who are comfortable gathering fabric, topstitching, and sewing on bias tape trim.  If you need help for this, here are some great resources:

Bias tape tips:
Bias Tape 101
How to Sew with Bias Tape
Understanding and Making Bias Tape

How to gather:
Gathering (simple version), see step 3

How to topstitch video

Let’s begin!
Gather your materials.

You’ll need:

  • Printed PDF pattern, plus scissors and tape to put the bodice piece together.
  • A lovely pillowcase.  Be aware that really old vintage may not be suitable… They tear easily.
  • 1 package, or about 1.5 yards of double fold bias tape.
  • Matching/contrasting thread
  • 1/2 yard matching material for larger size, or matching pillowcase (OR a king size pillowcase rather than standard)
  • Your sewing stuff, including scissors, pins, pattern weights, seam ripper, sewing machine, washable marking pen, iron, etc.

*All seams are 1/4″*

Step One. Print and put together your pattern. The front bodice comes in two pieces. Cut along the small dotted line edge on the right side part one, and match with the dotted line on part two. Tape together.

Step Two. Cut your pattern pieces from the pillowcase. Cut your skirt length first.

For a size 3-4, I recommend an 18″ long skirt, including the hem. For a 7-8, I cut a 25″ skirt. With the remaining fabric, lay out your pattern pieces and cut two bodice front pieces, a bodice back, and two sleeves.

I like to lay my pattern piece on the fabric, using weights to hold it down, and trace the shape with a washable sewing marker.  Then, I cut the fabric out along the marker line.  This way I don’t have to worry about pinning printer paper.  A standard size pillowcase is sufficient fabric for a size 3-4.  I found that I had to cut the back piece using the side seam as the center.

For larger sizes, either have two pillowcases handy that match, or have about 1/2 yard of fabric which will be used for a portion of the bodice.  It would be cute to make the sleeves and skirt out of the pillowcase, and use the coordinating fabric for the bodice.  There are so many options!  If you want to make this nightgown without a pillowcase, you can make your own skirt using a 1/2 yard of fabric, and sewing it together selvage to selvage, and adding a hem.

Step Three. Assemble the bodice. Begin by sewing the shoulder seams, right sides together.

Finish the seam, a zigzag stitch or pinking shears work well.  Apply bias tape to the entire neckline.  I prefer to sew the bias tape right sides together to the neckline,

 and then fold it over, pressing well.

I finish the bias tape by topstitching it into place, at 1/8″.

Sew a basting stitch along the bottom of the bodice front to hold it in place.

Step Four.  Prepare the sleeves.  Apply bias tape to the edge of each sleeve in the manner just described.  Sew a gathering stitch along the top curve of each sleeve.

Step Five.  Sew sleeves into bodice.  Match the straight part of the sleeve with the sleeve opening on the bodice.  Pulling the gathering stitch, ease the top of the sleeve to match the bodice.

Stitch into place.  Repeat for second sleeve.

Step Six.  Sew side seams of bodice and sleeve.  Match the side seams together,

and make sure the surplice doesn’t get caught in the arm seam.

Pin together.  Carefully sew the seam together.  Finish the edge.  Repeat for other side.

Step Seven.  Prepare the skirt.  Sew a gathering stitch along the top of the skirt. I suggest sewing this in two sections.  With most pillowcases, there is a central seam.  If you want this to be in the back, fold the skirt so the seam is centered.  Use a pin to mark each side.  Sew your gathering stitch to the pin, stop.  Start another gathering stitch to the second pin.

This allows you to gather the front and back independently, and makes a broken thread less likely.

Step Eight.  Attach skirt to bodice.  Match the side seam gathers with the side seams of the bodice.

Pin WRONG sides together.

Adjust your gathers so they are evenly distributed.  Sew a 1/4″ seam to join the bodice and skirt.  The seam will be on the outside of the nightgown.  This is fine, we’ll cover it up in the next step.  This way there isn’t a scratchy seam around the middle.  Press well.

Step Nine.  Apply bias tape to cover skirt seam.  To finish the nightgown, I use bias tape to cover the seam and add interest to the waistline.  With right sides together, place the opened bias tape over the waist seam, beginning at one of the side seams.

Fold over the tape’s short edge 1/4″.  This will create a finished edge when the tape is sewn in place. Carefully pin the bias tape in place.

 Take care to not fold over too much of the skirt on the underside.

Sew the bias tape to the nightgown, following the ironed-in crease as your guide.

Fold the bias tape up so that it covers the seam.  Pin in place, and topstitch at 1/8″.

To complete the look, topstitch along the other side of the bias tape.

Congratulations!  You’ve completed a sweet nightgown that will keep your little one cool and comfy on hot summer nights.