Sweater Dress Refashion

I’m excited about today’s post because one of the big reasons I became a fan of CailaMade was for her amazing kids’ clothes. Today Caila is sharing her first kid’s clothing tutorial for Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! and it is a super cute one. Here’s Caila:
sweater dress refashion
I realized recently that I’ve only shared accessories tutorials with you here at Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! and no children’s clothing. That’s a little funny, because I mostly sew clothes for my kids! So this month I thought it would be fun to share a simple refashion project with you on how to turn a women’s cardigan into a sweater dress for a little girl.
women's cardigan to girl's dress
This project idea hit me when I was shopping before Christmas and saw gorgeous holiday sweaters hanging in every store. When I found this sweater for a few bucks at Old Navy, there was no putting it back on the rack. Abbey had to have it for Christmas Eve!
All you need for this project is a women’s cardigan and some coordinating knit fabric. I used a plain black piece of interlock knit from Jo-Ann’s Fabric & Crafts store, but you could also cut off the bottom of an old t-shirt.
You will also need a hand-sewing needle and thread for the final finishing touches. I sewed this whole sweater dress on my serger, but you can do it on a regular machine using a zig zag stitch.

Below you can see the cardigan I started with. This is a size small, which yielded just the right amount of fabric for a size 4T sweater dress. If you’re making a larger size, definitely begin with a larger cardigan. The cardi I used was a V-neck, f you use a sweater with a higher neck you might be able to get an even larger sweater dress out of a size Small.

Lastly, you need a pattern to use as your cutting template. The easiest way to do this is to use a sewing pattern you already have on hand in the correct size. You don’t need a full dress pattern–a t-shirt pattern will do, and you can adjust the sides if necessary. If you don’t have a pattern, simply use a shirt that your child already owns to trace a pattern. You can find a great tutorial for tracing shirts to create your own pattern HERE. But honestly, the easiest way to do this project is to use a ready-made pattern! I have been working on my own pattern, so that’s what you’ll see in the photos below. But any t-shirt or dress pattern that includes sleeves and is intended for knit fabric will work.


Let’s get started! First, center the Fold line of your pattern along the center line of the cardigan where the buttons are. Make sure it is centered! Hold in place with pattern weights if desired and cut around the pattern. NOTE: We care cutting out the back and front pieces at the same time, so do not cut along the front neckline. Instead, cut a couple of inches higher for the back neckling. We will remove the extra from the front pieces in the next step. As you can see, my pattern piece includes both the front and back necklines on one piece of paper.

After cutting one side of your pattern out, carefully flip the pattern over so the Fold line is again centered on the cardigan. Cut around the pattern again and pull the excess fabric from the cardigan away.

NOTE: No hemming was necessary for this dress because I made sure to use the existing hemline. Make sure your pattern reaches to the bottom of the cardigan to avoid needing a hem.

You should now have a front and back piece that look like this:

Now, at this point, I removed the back neckline from my pattern.

Then I lined it up with the front piece only (make sure to remove the back before this step!) and removed the extra from the front neckline.

I ended up with this for the front piece:

Set your front and back pieces aside, and gather the sleeves from your original cardigan. Using the sleeve from a ready-made pattern (or your own), cut a short sleeve. Repeat with the other sleeve.

Now cut a 1″ strip from the ribbing at each cuff.

You should now have two sleeves and two pieces of ribbing.


The first step is to sew the shoulder seams together. Put your front and back pieces together with their right sides facing and pin along the shoulders. Sew these with a 3/8″ seam allowance. This is really simple on a serger, but if you’re using a regular sewing machine you need to sew with a zig zag stitch. Set your machine to a long stitch length and narrow width, and go for it!

Once the shoulder seams are sewn, open the dress up so it’s laying flat with right sides facing up. Pin the sleeves onto the sleeve openings with right sides together.

Start by pinning the center of the sleeve to the shoulder seam, then ease the curve of the sleeve into the curve of the arm opening, pinning as you go. This is what it will look like when you’re finished pinning:

Sew both sleeves in place with a 3/8″ seam allowance. Now you have some pretty nice sleeves goin’ on!

Lay the dress out with right sides facing and pin along each side from the sleeve all the way down to the length of the dress.

Sew the side seams with a 3/8″ seam allowance.

At this point, I like to sew a stay stitch around the neckline to keep the fibers from stretching out in one of the next steps.

It’s time to sew the ribbing onto the sleeves.

Turn the ribbing so that the raw edge matches up with the raw edge of the sleeve. Pin the two together, stretching the ribbing a little as you go.

Sew around the sleeve with a 3/8″ seam allowance, then turn the ribbing down and press the seam allowance up toward the sleeve.


For the contrasting neck tie, you need a strip of fabric 8″ wide by the measurement of the neckline plus 14″.  My neckline was 20″ plus the 14″ which equalled a 34″ strip of fabric.

To cut my piece I folded it in half length wise and laid it out on the table. Then I cut 4″ from the fold along the length of the 34″ piece.

Take your piece just as it is, with one lone side folded and the two raw edges of the long edge matching. Pin along one short end, and 7″ of the long side like you see in the picture below. Then repeat with the other end.

Turn the piece right side out and press well.

Find the center of the neck tie and pin it to the center back of the neckline with raw edges matching.

Pin all the way around the neckline. The raw edges should end right where the neckline ends, and the rest of the tie should have an encased seam allowance.

Sew the tie to the neck opening with a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Press the neck tie in half so that the folded edge meets the neckline. At the same time, press the seam allowance down toward the shoulder.

Pin the seam allowance down all the way around the neckline like you see in the picture below.

Sew around the neckline with a zig zag stitch to hold the seam allowance in place. This will allow for enough stretch to keep the stitches from breaking when the sweater dress fits over the head.

This is what you have so far! Great job!

Just one more step! Cut a piece of the contrasting knit 2″ by about 7.5″.

Fold it in half lengthwise and sew along the long edge.

Turn it right side out and press.

Cross the two ends of the neck tie like this:

Wrap the small piece of fabric around where the tie crosses over itself and tuck one raw edge inside the other. Pin in place.

Using a hand sewing needle and matching thread, stitch these ends together tightly.

Rotate the fabric so that the stitches are hidden behind the knot. And you’re finished!

That was pretty easy, yes? Now go look through all your old sweaters for something to make into a little dress for someone you love!

This was the perfect Christmas Eve dress for my daughter, and I can already tell it will get a lot of use this winter. If you’re suffering through record low temperatures (like I know many of you are), throw a warm cardigan or jacket over the sweater dress, or make it into a long sleeved dress. We still have Spring temperatures here in Southern California, so my daughter doesn’t need anything more than boots to make this outfit weather-appropriate.

Happy Sewing, and thanks so much for reading!

This post was brought to you by Caila!

Read the latest from Caila on Caila Made:

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Marigold Haske

I'm Marigold and I like to make stuff. Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! is a place where I share my love of DIY and working with my hands. You'll find projects for kids and adults that are quirky, fun, artful and functional.You can email me at marigoldhaske@gmail.com