Easy sweater-dress tutorial. Make a baby or toddler dress out of an old sweater.

I’m excited to show you this tutorial today. I made two sweater dresses, one I did exactly as this peasant-style sweater dress tutorial instructed (my green one), and after doing that I realized some ways to adapt it. I added ties, used a different kind of elastic and added ruffles, but I’ll explain this all in the tutorial. I haven’t had a chance to take cute photos of Lil’ J in the pink one but once I do (later today) I’ll add them to this post!

Sweater: Thrifted to Mom-Made Dress; Korker Bows: Mom Made (tutorial); Boots: Immanuel’s Closet; Tights: Walmart

This is my favorite tutorial I’ve created to date and if you like it I’d appreciate your feedback so I know if I should continue sharing what I learn or stop pulling all-nighters spending extra time taking photos and posting about it. There are lots of go-to craft blogs and I’m definitely not one of them, but I think sharing some of the easy things I have learned can help inspire other domestic craft mama wannabes like myself. Anyway, on to the tutorial!

One thing I’ll note off the bat is that when you choose your sweater note the size. I couldn’t use one of my sweaters because I didn’t have any long enough. Lil’ J is 16 months old and a tall girl, so the first dress we made was a tad short for my taste. The one I used for this tutorial is a size XL that I thrifted off eBay for $2.  I also got other sweaters from Goodwill for $3.99 to try this with.

DIY Easy sweater-dress tutorial. Make a baby or toddler dress out of an old sweater.

Step 1: Lay out your sweater and take a dress you already have to measure the length you need. Line up the bottoms so you won’t need to hem.

Easy sweater-dress tutorial. Make a baby or toddler dress out of an old sweater.

Step 2: Cut off the top part of the sweater. Both times I cut right under the neck line to get as much length as I could. For toddlers I think you’ll need to do this. For babies you may be able to cut it a little shorter (gauge based on your example dress length.)

Easy sweater-dress tutorial. Make a baby or toddler dress out of an old sweater.

Step 3: Cut the sides off by cutting up along the side of the dress about 1″ away from the example dress to add in a seam allowance (so when you sew it back together it’s not too small.) (See photo above).

Step 4: Cut diagonal arm holes along the top part of your shape. I lined up my example dress and cut the holes along the same lines about the same length. I curved them a little to make them more arm-like.

Step 5: Cut off the cuffs of the sleeves on your sweater, if you don’t have cuffs, cut the ends off so they’re about the same length as the width of the arm hole (these are going to be your short sleeves).

Easy sweater-dress tutorial. Make a baby or toddler dress out of an old sweater.

Step 6: Pin the right sides of the sleeve ends to the right side of the dress so it connects the sleeves to the dress. I pinched the sides up and pinned them to make it obvious for you to see how it looks (for some reason this was really hard for me to understand at first).

Easy sweater-dress tutorial. Make a baby or toddler dress out of an old sweater.

Step 7: Use a zig-zag stitch to sew along the pins to attach the sleeves. I used the zig zag stitch since this knit material is stretchy and I didn’t want the thread to snap and figured this would give it some more “give.”

Easy sweater-dress tutorial. Make a baby or toddler dress out of an old sweater.

Step 8: With the dress inside out, cut the collar off your original sweater and pin the raw edges together, which puts the right side of the collar to the wrong side of the dress. Then sew around those pins.

Step 9: Sew the long ends that are left of the collar strip together, then sew them down to the dress.

Step 10: Flip the dress right side out, then flip the collar strip around the outside of the dress and sew it to the dress, but leave a 1-inch hole at the end to string elastic through.

Step 11: Use a small safety pin to string 1/4in elastic through the elastic casing. I cut my elastic 16.5in for my daughter since that’s the length I’ve used for other peasant dress patterns. Then sew the two ends together and stuff it in the hole, sewing up the whole.

Step 12: Open of the dress and iron the seams flat (this gives it a more professional and less-home-made look by ironing the seams).

Step 13: Cut a strip off the long part of the sleeves of the sweater. I cut along the folded part opposite of the sleeve. Opened up it was about 2in wide. Fold that in half inside out, and sew down the side.

Step 14: Flip it right side out by sticking some object down the middle (I used a chop stick-type thing).

Step 15: Flip the dress inside out and pin the ties to the dress, one on each side, but make sure the ties are on the *INSIDE* of the dress the way it looks now. It looks anti-intuitive, but once you flip it inside out the ties will be on the outside. It looks like mine are going outside but I pushed them all the way inside before sewing.

Step 16: Starting at the sleeves, sew down each side of the dress, back-stitching over the ties to give extra enforcements.

It looks like this minus the ties and the bow:

If you want, you can be done with your dress now, as it’s real cute! Or read more to add ruffles…

Step 17: Cut another long strip (or two) from the sleeve section of your sweater, and leaving a long piece of thread before you start (so just pull a little bit out of your bobbin and top stitch before you start sewing), sew a long straight-stitch over one end of it pretty close to the edge.

Step 18: Pull the long piece of string at one end so it gathers and notice how it starts to ruffle. Pull the ruffle down the long strip until it’s your desired length.

Step 19: Pin the ruffles to the dress and hand-stitch it to the dress. (I used my machine, but it was hard to keep everything lined up, so I went back and hand-stitched it to the dress, it didn’t take very long.)

VIOLA!! And there you have a pretty, unique sweater dress for your toddler made from a thirifted and/or up-cycled sweater. I made these for just a few bucks, and it doesn’t take long once you get the hang of it.

Easy sweater-dress tutorial. Make a baby or toddler dress out of an old sweater.

What do you think? I PROMISE if I can do it you can too! I’m not crafty and just started sewing about a month ago. Give it a try with a cheap sweater and show me when you do! Post a picture on my facebook page, I’d love to see.

Made anything lately? If you want to show it off link up below.

Feel free to grab the button so others can know to share their craft ideas.

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Fab5 says:

OMG I love this.. Now I am on the search for old sweaters to make some for Ke’Yarah.:) Lil J is too cute & you did a fantastic job on her sweater dress. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂


Nichol says:

This makes me wish I could do stuff like this. My MIL gave me her old sewing machine but it’s still in the box. How cute. Sweater dresses are adorable!

OMG! This is too cute and now I’m on the search for a sweater to upcycle. You did an amazing job on this tutorial. Once again, so inspirational, and I look forward to trying it out on my Baby Girl.

Thank you!

Kim says:

What a cute dress. Great job on the tutorial…thanks so much for sharing it!

Kim says:

Forgot to write…linked up my tutorial, too! 😀

Janny says:

This is fantastic- now I just have to find an old sweater to use.

Just Jaime says:

Adorable! Love both!

LOVE! Hoping I have a little girl to do this for! 🙂

YUMMommy says:

I’m going to have to try this and see how it turns out.

Quiana says:

This is so cute! I’m totally inspired to make this. LOVE Lil J’s funny face too!

Mama Violet says:

Very cute! I love that it has a little belt.

Huda says:

so pretty, love it.

That dress you made came out fabulous!! You beautiful daughter is always dressed so hip and stylish!! She’s ADORABLE!!

Jennifer says:

Just wanted to let you know that I have mentioned this post on my blog. If there is anything you would like me to remove please let me know. Cheers

P&J Mommy says:

OMG! Sooo cute! Really making me wish I had a baby girl–don’t think my 13 year old would wear ANYTHING I attemped to make!! LOL! Thanks for sharing the cuteness!!

Kate says:

It would be super helpful if you linked up where you found the directions for how to do this!

Kate, I did, it’s at the top of this post.

Love this! We featured it in our post today. You can find it here http://onceuponasewingmachine.com/5-things-we-love-diy-childs-fall-wardrobe/
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Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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