Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Tea-towel dresses

By Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Thu September 5, 2013
A smock or tunic has a slight A-line shape. !ts neck- and armholes are bound with<!-- -->
</br>bias tape.
A smock or tunic has a slight A-line shape. !ts neck- and armholes are bound with
bias tape.
HIDE CAPTION
A new use for tea-towels
A new use for tea-towels
A new use for tea-towels
A new use for tea-towels
A new use for tea-towels
A new use for tea-towels
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Charming, antique tea-towels are just the right length for toddler's dress
  • Martha Stewart used vintage towels to create dresses for her granddaughter
  • No zippers, snaps or complicated sewing required for this fun project

(Martha Stewart Living) -- Now that I am a grandmother (finally!), I have many opportunities to dream up creative projects for a whole new audience: children.

Shopping for little girls' dresses is so much fun, but it occurred to me that it would also be fun to make dresses for Baby Jude, using some of the simple designs she— and her mother, Alexis—favor. I then remembered the charming collection of vintage towels in my attic—scores of towels, sets of towels that would never, ever be used to dry dishes, pots, or pans but could be easily transformed into washable, comfortable, delightful shifts and smocks.

And who else could persuade me to break up "valuable" sets but my very first grandchild, Baby Jude? A trip to the attic in Katonah yielded many wonderful stripes and a few sets of "Scottie Dog" embroidered days-of-the-week towels, all laundered and ironed and stored by my housekeeper Laura Acuna, and ready to use.

Martha Stewart Living: Rehab your hair from harsh summer sun

I worked with the crafts department to sketch some shapes, and we set to work creating simple patterns that anyone with a sewing machine can make with minimal effort—no zippers, no snaps, just a button or two, and occasionally some bias tape or fabric ruffles.

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

We fashioned bloomers from the towels, too, using the patterns to their best advantage. Drawstrings and elastic allowed for flexible fit, and ruffled hems permitted a tunic or smock to become a dress if so desired. Scraps were not wasted, becoming dresses for dolls and accessories for other toys.

When the young ladies gathered in the photography studio for the picture session, all felt very happy to be dressed in such charming and easy-to-wear clothes. And as you can see from the photos, every dress was flattering and very, very cute.

Now my only challenge is to find more little girls to wear these adorable clothes. I have to use up the rest of my vintage towels, so I'm not left with any partial sets of Scottie homemakers or kitty-cat housekeepers!

Martha Stewart Living: Rehab your hair from harsh summer sun

Tunic dress

All of the patterns are sized for a 2-year-old. You may need to patch together towels before cutting the pieces, or supplement with linen yardage (vintage or store-bought).

Tools and materials: Tea towels, sewing machine and supplies, bias tape

1. Download, print, and assemble pattern. Lay out on towels (you may need to play around with positioning) and cut out.

2. With right sides facing, sew back pieces together, leaving

3 inches unsewn at neck. Press seam open. Cut a 6-inch piece of bias tape; sew on.

3. With right sides facing, sew seams at shoulders and sides. Press seams open.

4. Cut tape to fit around one armhole; sew on. Repeat on other side.

5. Cut tape to fit around neck, adding 12 inches on each end to create tie closure. Sew on. (Or cut tape to fit neck opening, sew on, and add a button and thread-loop buttonhole.)

6. Optional: Add ruffle. Baste along one long edge. Pull ends of thread to gather. With right sides facing, sew gathered edge to bottom of dress. Press seam open.

7. Press hem under by 1/4 inch, then another 1/4 inch. Sew.

Martha Stewart Living: How doing yoga can help curb food cravings

Drop-shoulder dress

You can also use bias tape, rather than facing, to finish the neck and notch at back.

Tools and materials: Tea towels, sewing machine and supplies, half-dome button

1. Download, print, and assemble pattern. Lay out on towels (you may need to play around with positioning) and cut out.

2. With right sides facing, sew interfacing pieces together at shoulders. Press seams open.

3. With right sides facing, sew torso pieces together at shoulders and sides. Press seams open.

4. Baste skirt piece along one long edge, then pull ends of thread to gather. With right sides facing, sew gathered edge to bottom of torso. Press seam open.

5. With right sides facing, sew interfacing around neckhole and notch at back of dress. Trim seam, flip to inside of torso, and press down.

6. Sew button at neck closure. Using some thread, create a loop buttonhole.

7. Press sleeve opening under 1/4 inch, then another 1/4 inch, and hand-sew (with a slip stitch) to hem. Repeat on other side.

8. Press hem under by 1/4 inch, then another 1/4 inch. Sew.

Martha Stewart Living: Best healthy skin beauty buys

Sundress

To maximize the length of this dress, use the existing selvage, both at the hem and the neckline, and create the channel with ribbon.

Tools and materials: Tea towels, sewing machine and supplies, ribbon or twill tape, 1½ inches wide and 1 inch wide

1. Download, print, and assemble pattern. Lay out on towels and cut out.

2. With right sides facing, sew side seams. Along one arm opening, press fabric under by 1/4 inch, then another 1/4 inch. Sew. Repeat on all sides.

3. Cut a 1-yard piece of 1˙-inch ribbon or tape to width of upper edge of towel. Create a channel at top of dress (sew it on inside). Repeat on other side.

4. Using a safety pin, thread a 1-yard piece of 1-inch ribbon or tape through channel. Repeat on other side. Tie bows at shoulders. (Trim as needed.)

Martha Stewart Living: 5-minute workouts to do right now

Bloomers

These can be worn as a diaper cover or over underpants.

Tools and materials: Tea towels, sewing machine and supplies, soft-stretch elastic, ¼ inch wide

1. Download, print, and assemble pattern. Lay out on towels (you may need to play around with positioning) and cut out.

2. To make front, sew center seam (with right sides facing) and press open. Repeat to make back.

3. With right sides facing, sew side seams and press open.

4. To create leg openings, sew inseam (with right sides facing).

5. At waist, press top edge under by 1/4 inch, then again by 1 inch. Sew around, leaving a 1-inch opening at back. Repeat process with leg openings.

6. Using a safety pin, thread 1 yard of elastic through waist channel; overlap ends (trimming as needed) and sew. Repeat process with leg openings.

7. Hand-sew openings closed.

Martha Stewart Living: DIY face masks and scrubs

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
The indictment of NFL star Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges has revealed sharp differences in cultural, regional and generational attitudes toward using physical force to discipline kids.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
cara reedy
The world often treats little people like Cara Reedy as less than human. She's learned to stand up for herself and shout back.
updated 11:26 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
The unheard voices of domestic abuse spoke up on CNN iReport when Rihanna's story of abuse came to light. In light of the Ray Rice controversy, we decided to bring back these stories that are still just as powerful as the day they were told.
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
More than 3 million children witness domestic violence every year, and the damage can last a lifetime.
updated 2:20 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
As media outlets Monday circulated video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator, many wondered why the woman -- now his wife -- could remain with him.
updated 12:52 PM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
The ways mother-daughter book clubs can help empower girls are the focus of a new book, "Her Next Chapter."
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
Colleges are working to prevent sexual assault by educating students on affirmative consent, or only "yes means yes."
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
A mom questions if she wants her daughters seeing a "sado-masochistic relationship, dressed up as a Hollywood love fantasy?"
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
In 2014, why is society still so incredibly uncomfortable with public breastfeeding? Kelly Wallace gets to the root of the controversy.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Seven years ago, Barbara Theodosiou, then a successful entrepreneur, stopped going to meetings, leaving the house and taking care of herself. She grew increasingly distraught -- her two children were addicts.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, throws America's problem with talking about race into sharp relief.
updated 10:25 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Mo'ne Davis is the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series. She's an inspiration, but will she change the face of the sport?
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
There is a reason why when people post pictures of themselves during their middle school years on Facebook for "Throw Back Thursday," we all stop and take notice.
It could cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise your child -- and that's not even including college costs, according to new government estimates.
updated 12:09 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
From parent to son, uncle to nephew, there's a raw, private conversation being revived in America in the wake of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Children sometimes get left out of our conversations about mental illness. The truth is, they suffer too.
updated 5:14 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
CNN's Kat Kinsman says that talking freely about personal mental health and suicidal thoughts can help others.
updated 1:26 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
morning person
Easy tips on how to improve everything from your dinner order to the song in your head to your career.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
The case of an Arizona mom who left her kids in a car during a job interview highlights the fluid line between bad parenting and criminal behavior.
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
A children's book about gun rights has benefited from an unexpected boost in sales after it became the subject of a mocking segment on a talk show.
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
Some campers and counselors keep the campfire flames burning with summer flings that become lifetime commitments.
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
After letting her 7-year-old son walk from their home to a park to play, a Florida mother faces up to five years in jail for child neglect.
updated 3:16 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, who lost her son in a hot car, hopes mandatory technology in cars and car seats will stop child death from heatstroke in cars.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Not to mention your jeans, bras and pillows? Here's a definitive guide to keeping all your quarters clean.
Imagination Playgrounds have snaking tunnels, platforms and springy mats just like any other playground. But they're different in one fundamental way -- they're built by kids.
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Grammy Award-winning singer Sarah McLachlan, a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls, talks about parenting, sex and whether women can have it all.
updated 7:54 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain.
updated 4:41 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
The case of a South Carolina mother arrested for allegedly leaving her 9-year-old daughter at a park while she was working sparks debate over how young is too young to leave a child alone.
updated 11:15 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
CNN's Kelly Wallace reveals 5 common parenting mistakes that many parents admit to making.
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Is it a bad idea for parents to let kids drink underage at home, or does an early sip make drinking less taboo? Studies are divided on the subject, which is a tough nut for parents to crack.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cellphones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night
updated 2:40 PM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
Professional photographer Timothy Archibald uses his camera to connect with his autistic son.
Post your personal essays and original photos, and tell us how it really is.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT