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Thursday, June 30, 2016

3-Piece Set Upcycled from a Onesie

Awhile back one of our sewing friends in the CKC patterns group, Mary Lockhart Shoemaker, shared a clever upcycle she does to turn a baby onesie into a 3-piece dress set. Check these out:

Aren't they gorgeous?!  The post was so popular that we've had multiple requests since then for a tutorial. Mary has been kind enough to let me go for it and share with you!  I got to make my first set today and I have to say, that not only did it turn out super cute but it was also really fun to make!

This tutorial will work for any size of onesie. Whatever size you choose is what the finished dress size will be. (That may seem obvious, but some upcycles end up shrinking sizes. This one stays true to size.)  I used a size 3-6m onesie for my tutorial steps. 

For supplies you will need a onesie, some fabric, and 1/4" wide elastic.  If you're using knit fabric, that's all you need. If you're using woven fabric for the skirt, you will also need 1/4" clear elastic to use on the skirt seam.

Let's get started!  First lay your onesie out on a flat surface. It's best if you have a ruler surface like this, but it's not required. Decide where you want to cut the onesie.  You will plan to make two cuts, dividing it into three pieces.  

 As shown above, you will want to leave 1-2" below the edge of the sleeves. Above the edge of the leg bindings you will want to leave 2-3". You will also want about 2" for the center headband portion. If you're not doing the center headband part, you can make your diaper cover go a little higher. When you feel good about your plan, go ahead and cut a straight line through both layers using a rotary cutter or scissors. 

Set aside the onesie pieces for now, without handling them too much. 

Take the fabric you want to use and cut two equal panels for the skirt front and skirt back. For the length, use the length you want the skirt to be, plus 1" for seams/hems. For the width, measure the width of your onesie front and times that by 2. Or, if you don't want to do any calculating, you can use the skirt measurements from the Baby Hattie's pattern like I did. (It's one of our best-selling patterns so you won't regret having it!) Make sure you cut TWO panels of that measurement so it will be a full skirt after gathering.

With the skirt panels right sides together, sew the two sides as shown in yellow above, using a 3/8" seam allowance.  Your panels will now form a large loop. 

On the bottom edge of the skirt, do a rolled hem all around the skirt.  You can use a serger, a rolled hem foot, or simply use your sewing machine and fold 1/4" to the wrong side, sewing down the center, then folding another 1/4" and sewing down the center. When you're done, it will look something like the photo above. 

Now along the top edge of the skirt, sew 1/4" from the edge using a long basting stitch and adjusting the tension as high as it will go, being sure not to backstitch at the beginning or end.  Hold the top threads and pull the fabric along the top threads, gathering the fabric as you go. It should gather up nicely, as shown above. You can sew a second row of gathering stitches if you'd like, but I always do fine with just one row! 

Lay the gathered skirt next to the bodice edge and adjust the gathers until they match up pretty closely.  Note that your bodice is right side out and your skirt is wrong side out. 

Turn the bodice upside down and slide it down into the skirt, so the right sides are together and the raw edge of the bodice is lined up with the gathered edge of the skirt. See photo above. 

Carefully pin the gathered skirt to the bodice edge, matching up the seams and being careful not to stretch the edge of the bodice. You will probably need to adjust the gathers as you go. Be sure to use lots of pins!  When you're done pinning, it should look like the photo above. 

Take it to the sewing machine. If your skirt is made of knit fabric, you can just sew the layers together normally, using a stretch stitch and 3/8" seam allowance. However, if you're using woven fabric for the skirt, you will want to use 1/4" clear elastic to stabilize that edge where you're attaching woven to knit.  To do so, use a 3/8" seam allowance to sew the layers together, but be sure to use a stretch stitch or zigzag, and hold the clear elastic right in front of the needle as you sew.  This is not as difficult as it may sound. See in the photo above that the edge of the fabric is at the 3/8" line but the elastic is centered right in front of the needle.  Again, be sure to use a stretch stitch such as the lightning bolt stitch or wide zigzag stitch -- this will allow the onesie edge to retain a little of its stretch, even with the gathered woven attached to it.  The elastic helps keep the knit from overstretching. Do this all around the skirt edge, removing the pins as you go. 

When you're done, the skirt edge will look something like this.  Check to make sure the gathers look good on the outside of the dress and then go back and serge or zigzag the seam you just sewed. 

Your dress should now look something like this.  Cute, right?!  If you want, you can press the seam upward and topstitch 1/8" above the seam.  I normally do that but on this project I opted to leave the topstitching off, in fear that it might stretch the onesie more than I would want. 

Set aside the dress for now!

Now you're ready to make the diaper cover!  There are several ways you could add the elastic, and I chose the method that will take up the least amount of fabric along that top edge.  Cut your 1/4" elastic to the length you want the waistband to be. You can either use an elastic measurement from your favorite pattern (I used Baby Kelsey's) or you can measure your baby's waist and cut the elastic 1-2" shorter than that measurement. 

Overlap the ends of your elastic 3/8" and sew across them several times to secure. You should now have an elastic loop, as shown above. 

Measure to divide the elastic loop into four equal portions and mark with pins or a marking pen. Do the same on the top edge of the onesie piece. 

Place the elastic loop just inside the top edge of the onesie piece, matching up the pins that divided them equally.  The elastic will be smaller than the cut edge of the onesie so you will need to stretch it to pin.  After pinning the elastic in four places, add more pins at each of the halfway points.  Continue adding pins at the halfway points until the elastic is pinned in place all around the edge, as shown above.  There will still be slight "bumps" of onesie fabric between each pin; this is okay! 

Take the onesie to your machine.  Be sure you have it set to a stretch stitch again, and low tension.  As you sew, be VERY careful not to stretch the onesie fabric, but at the same time you will want to pull slightly on the elastic to stretch it so it lays flat on the fabric.  The photo above shows that the fabric is naturally bubbled. The photo below shows how you want to stretch the elastic but NOT the fabric, so they both lay flat together.  

The photo above is what you want it to look like while you sew. Be sure not to stretch the fabric! (Yes, I keep repeating myself. It's that important.) Using a coordinating thread color, sew down the center of the elastic using a zigzag stitch, keeping the elastic just inside the edge of the fabric. Make sure you're sewing the elastic on the inside of the diaper cover! 

When you're done, the inside elastic should look like the photo above. 

The outside should look like the photo above.  So far so good!

Take that elastic edge and fold it under to the wrong side, pinning in place as you go. The elastic should not be visible after folding. Be sure to use plenty of pins. (You may be tempted to skip the pins, but don't!)

On the outside of the diaper cover, sew around the top edge 1/4" from the edge using a stretch stitch, removing the pins as you go. When you're done it should look something like the photo above. 

Your diaper cover is complete! Great job!  

Now it's time for the third piece of the set, the headband:

Lay the headband loop out on a flat surface. Cut an inch or two off the end. (You need the two ends to be open, plus the onesie is much wider than the baby's head.)   If you know the size of your baby's head, you can cut the strip to that measurement minus 2".   If you're not sure, you can compare to other headbands you have or follow mine as a guide. It was a perfect fit. You can still trim it down in a later step though so don't worry too much about the length at this point.  

Lay the strip out on a flat surface. fold it in half lengthwise with right sides together and sew the long edges together using a 1/4" seam allowance, as shown in yellow above. You will again want to use a stretch stitch. 

Now you will use a safety pin to turn the headband right side out. To do this, attach the safety pin near the end but not too close to an edge or it might tear through. See photo above. 

Turn the pin around on itself and push it into the opening of the headband. Because the fabric can slide on the pin, it's easier than it may sound. See photo above.  

Push the pin all the way through the headband tube until it comes out the other side and then pull the rest through. You should now have one long piece, right sides out. Flatten the tube a bit with the seam down the center back. 

This is a good time to check the length of your headband (it might have stretched) and cut it to be 1-2" shorter than the measurement of your baby's head. I made mine 17" long because it's pretty stretchy.   

Take the two raw ends of the headband and slide one end into the other. Then tuck the exposed raw edges of the other one into the hole too.  See photo above and note that there are no raw edges showing.  Sew across the layers very close to the fold, closing up the headband. 

Your headband should now look like this!  Flatten it out a bit so it looks nice, if necessary. 

Now you can attach a bow or flower if you want!  Sew it right on top of the seam you made. (The seam you see at the bottom of my headband was the side seam of the onesie. Some onesies don't have side seams though, so yours may not.)  You can use a storebought embellishment, or make your own using one of our many free tutorials!  

And that's it!  Your 3-piece set is all finished!  You can add embroidery on the bodice or extra bling here and there if you want.

And now for my favorite part... 

 The baby!  I borrowed my neighbor's little girl for modeling and my-oh-my is she precious! She has a little room to grow into it, but she didn't mind at all.  I'm just glad I had an excuse to play with her.  #babyhungryforlife

We want to give a special thanks to Mary Lockhart Shoemaker for teaching us her tricks. You can go show her some love on her page. Also, be sure to come share your creations with us in our patterns group on Facebook! That's where we got the inspiration for this post in the first place; there's definitely lots of it floating around in there. 

Now it's *your* turn to turn a onesie into a dress set for your little one! Or if you're like me, it also makes great gifts. 

Let's Create! ~ Kristen 


  1. Awesome tute! Very clear step by step instructions. One of the best ones I've read through. Your model is adorable and the outfit suits her :)

  2. Oh my gosh!! I'm absolutely doing this for baby gifts...Great tutorial! Thanks so much!