Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Tea-towel dresses

By Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living
September 5, 2013 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
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
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
If it hasn't happened already, it likely will at some point: the moment you don't like one of your child's friends. What do you do?
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
They say the first step to overcoming a problem is realizing you have one in the first place. An online quiz can help you determine whether you are over-reliant on your cell phone.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
Options for meat substitutes have come a long way since Seth Tibbott's first few Thanksgivings as a vegetarian in the 1970s.
November 22, 2014 -- Updated 2112 GMT (0512 HKT)
Students unhappy with school meals are taking it out on the first lady by sharing images on social media of lunches sarcastically tagged #ThanksMichelleObama.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0255 GMT (1055 HKT)
A Louisiana family is fighting to protect its beloved pit bull from a "vicious dogs" ordinance.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2220 GMT (0620 HKT)
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. CNN's Michaela Pereira grew up in a family of five adopted girls in Canada and eventually reunited with her biological half-sister.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
It began for Nickolay Lamm as a question: What would Barbie look like if she had the dimensions of an average woman?
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 0216 GMT (1016 HKT)
Bill Cosby was thought of as a perceptive comedian and genial father figure. Now, that persona pairs with another, much darker image.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1735 GMT (0135 HKT)
If you think 'my teen would never sext,' you might be mistaken. Recent studies suggest it's more common than many parents might want to admit.
November 14, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
I pictured myself graduating from college, getting a cool job and even having a cute place of my own. Instead, I wake to the early-morning sounds of my family dog barking and my parents making coffee downstairs.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Samantha Futerman and Anais Bordier tease, poke and prod each other like they've grown up together, but they didn't. Neither woman knew she had an identical twin sister until less than two years ago.
November 13, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
A school district in Maryland has decided to remove all references to religious holidays from its school calendar, leaving some in the community frustrated.
November 13, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Female veterans often have a harder time finding employment than their male counterparts. But why?
November 14, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
I simply couldn't believe my eyes. At a children's party this year, I witnessed full-on "mean girl" behavior.
November 10, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Several children were sent to the hospital after being sickened by ingesting detergent pods.
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 1446 GMT (2246 HKT)
There are plenty of times when I literally wish I could take a hammer to the portrayal of girls and women in the media. In a new ad, a little girl gets to do just that.
November 8, 2014 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
"Playing doctor" and "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" are common rites of passage in childhood sexual behavior, according to the experts.
November 6, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
A tech startup claims credit for making Alex from Target go viral, but there's skepticism about how involved it was, if at all.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
A soft toy for cribs lets babies post pictures of themselves to social media.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 1655 GMT (0055 HKT)
Schools are increasingly confronting a controversial question: Should they do more to monitor students' online interactions off-campus to keep them safe?
November 6, 2014 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
The National Toy Hall of Fame recently inducted three new favorites into its hallowed halls. What's your favorite?
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
We don't know, and may never know, what led to the Washington school shooting, but we have to ask ourselves, following this tragedy, if we are doing enough to help our boys deal with difficult emotions without resorting to violence.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
The viral video of a New York woman being catcalled on the street has men asking, "So, what should I do?" The answer starts with respect.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1840 GMT (0240 HKT)
Trick-or-treating and dressing in costume have been Halloween traditions for a good long time now, but it seems we're still struggling to get it right.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 2038 GMT (0438 HKT)
Yes, there's actually corn in it. Corn syrup, if that counts.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Walmart found itself sending apology tweet after apology tweet after the Twitterverse raked it over the coals for a major goof on its website.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 2002 GMT (0402 HKT)
There aren't too many times when I'm speechless about what I consider an outrageous example of parenting. This is one of those times.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Holy crap, LeVar Burton.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 2138 GMT (0538 HKT)
Critics pounced on supermodel Gisele Bundchen for advocating a little mommy "me time" recently. When did it become a crime to admit that you -- as a parent -- put yourself first?
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Not again.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
"Breaking Bad's" drug-dealing chemistry teacher Walter White will have to stop making the sale at Toys R Us.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
I happen to agree with Renee Zellweger that all the chatter about her face is "silly." But I, and many other women I talked with via email Wednesday, would add some other choice words to the mix to describe the non-stop attention about her appearance: nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2206 GMT (0606 HKT)
I have long thought millennials, who expect flexibility in the workplace, would be the group that would bring an end to the stigma that is too often associated with flex time -- the belief that wanting a flexible work arrangement means you aren't willing to work as hard. But now I'm thinking it's going to be men who will get us there.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1140 GMT (1940 HKT)
Say it with us: Kids today have it sooooo easy.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1829 GMT (0229 HKT)
An Atlanta judge reportedly reprimanded an immigration attorney for bringing her 4-week-old to court for a hearing -- a hearing she asked the judge to reschedule because she was on her six-week maternity leave.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1604 GMT (0004 HKT)
Monica Lewinsky tweeted for the first time. She called herself "patient zero" of cyber-bullying.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1943 GMT (0343 HKT)
Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter with something to prove: "Kids and guns don't always mean bad things happen."
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT)
strawberry ghosts
We love Halloween season. Sweets. Sweaters. Sipping hot cider (maybe spiked). Halloween can certainly get you in the spirit, and nothing warms our hearts like these healthy Halloween treats that help you stay energized instead of stuck in a sugar coma.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1923 GMT (0323 HKT)
Does your baby cry during long flights, causing you to want to disappear from the glares of fellow passengers?
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
Ask any teen if they suffer from social media anxiety and they would probably tell you no. But the truth is getting "likes" and the fear of missing out are adding stress to teens' lives.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1313 GMT (2113 HKT)
Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to document stillborn and terminal babies' precious moments after birth.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1946 GMT (0346 HKT)
As part of the insurance coverage offered to its female employees, Facebook is paying to freeze their eggs.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Amal Alamuddin was well-known in many important circles long before she snagged the world's most eligible bachelor. But Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney, according to her law firm's website.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Trends in young adult fiction have shifted from wizards to glittering vampires to bloodthirsty "Hunger Games" and now, to teens coping with illnesses and realistic issues.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0056 GMT (0856 HKT)
Before he died this year, 14-year-old Martin Romero wanted to do something for his community.
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