Hello! I’m Amber from Chief Household Officer and I love all things important to the head of the household, especially cooking and sewing. As a fairly new sewist myself, I like to focus on simple projects anyone with a machine can do. Today, I’m excited to show you how to make this patriotic dress using a jelly roll of fabric.
If you’ve never heard of a jelly roll then welcome to the world of quilting, where searches have you craving donuts and other delicious breakfast pastries. I don’t know WHY a jelly roll has its name but I can tell you WHAT it is: a collection of pre-cut strips for fabric that are 2 1/2″ in height.
Why use jelly rolls for a patriotic dress? Because the pre-cut 2 1/2″ strips run the length of the fabric bolt (44″) giving you perfect flag-like stripes. So, you can create an American flag motif without having to do all of the cutting yourself. Once you have the materials, you could easily whip up this t-shirt dress in less than an hour.
And a quick note, I followed the same instructions to make a size 2T and girls size 6. The difference is in the amount of gather the skirt has at the top and where the skirt falls to their knees. The amount of fabric you will be making with these instructions can easily work for those sizes, the sizes in between, and probably up to a girls 12. You’ll use a t-shirt for the top.
If you prefer video tutorials over written instructions, please watch the video here:
Supplies You Will Need:
- Jelly roll of fabric with red,white and blue theme
- Coordinating thread
- A t-shirt for your child that will be the top of the dress
- Disappearing ink marker (or other way to write on fabric)
- Basic sewing supplies (pins, scissors, seam ripper)
- Piecing foot for your sewing machine (optional)
To start, you’ll need a jelly roll with a patriotic/red,white & blue theme. Most specialty quilt stores carry jelly rolls but not all will have the fabric you need. Consider calling ahead or checking some online companies. I bought this jelly roll pack from the Fat Quarters Shop for about $20 and it provided enough material to make two skirts.
Next, lay out the strips you would like to use in the order you want them to display on the dress. Here, you can see my strips are folded in half. This will give me two identical flags for the front and back of the dress. I decided on two solid strips of red, two solid strips of white, three half strips of blue, two half strips of red, and one half strip of white. I arranged them in the pattern below.
*The fabric strips you see here are folded on one side. So there is an identical “flag” underneath as well.
Next, I cut the strips in half.
*Here you can see that second “flag” even better.
Now, I’ll place the bottom red strip to the first white strip and pin together. I am going to sew this long side together at 1/4″ seam allowance to piece the strips together.
To make your life easier, consider spending $10 on a 1/4″ piecing foot for your sewing machine. This will help keep the fabric pieces together and in the 1/4″ seam allowance. It’s a great investment because it’s not only useful for quilting, but I use it all the time for topstitching as well.
Once the pieces are sewn together on the one, long end, then you will use your iron to press the seam allowance and set the stitches. Press the seam allowance towards the darker fabric (in this case the red strip).
Continue this process of pinning and stitching the pieces together until you reach the blue strips.
Once you reach the blue strips, you’ll want to start by piecing together the right, short side of the blue piece with the left, short side of the red piece next to it. Then, you’ll press the seam allowance (towards the blue) and combine that new full strip on to the last strip of white.
Sew these strips together like the previous strips. Continue the process for your last two rows of blue/white and blue/red.
Next, repeat the process for the remaining strips that will make the “flag” for the back of the skirt. You should now have two similar “flags” from your jelly roll strips.
Place the two flags with right sides together and pin the side. You’ll want to make sure all of the rows are lined up so match your fabric and pin well.
Because the sides of the strips ended up looking wonky, I decided to draw in my stitch line with disappearing ink prior to sewing. This will help me make sure I sew a straight line.
Sew a straight stitch and don’t forget to backstitch at the beginning and end.
Push open the seam allowances and press with your iron to set the stitches.
Finish the seam allowances in the method of your choosing. I am lazy, so I often choose pinking shears.
Now, you’ll want to create the hem for the bottom red strip of the skirt. Fold the material to the wrong side by 1/8″ and press with your iron. Continue around the skirt. Next, fold it another 1/4″ and press again.
Now, with the rolled hem in place you are ready to stitch around the skirt base with a 1/8″ seam allowance.
Here is your finished hem. I used red thread to make the strip.
Now, I switch back to my cheaper white thread and make sure to pull out some tails on the thread after I re-thread my machine. We are about to do basting stitches for gathering the top of the skirt and you’ll need those tails to pull the fabric along the thread.
Stitch a basting stitch (the longest stitch you have) at 3/8″ seam allowance around the entire top of the skirt. Be sure to leave thread tails at the end of your basting stitch too (about 6″ worth).
Next, you’ll stitch another basting stitch at 5/8″ seam allowance. It will be parallel to the one you just stitched.
Now, we will mark on our store bought t-shirt where we would like the skirt part to begin. I tried this on my child first and determined where the skirt should start. I’ll also measure the width of the top and mark the center on the front and back with disappearing ink.
Create your gathers by pulling on the bobbin threads and pushing the fabric together.
Align the gathers so the sides of the fabric match the shirt, and the center of the shirt matches with the center of the flag pieces. Pin together.
Sew a straight stitch at 1/2″ seam allowance (this should fall nicely between the two basting stitches you made earlier) to secure the skirt to the top. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end.
Use your seam ripper to remove the basting stitches.
Your dress is put together and could be complete at this point. But, I decided that a simply sash would provide a nice finishing touch and made one.
I used two of the full strips from the jelly roll pack and placed them with right sides together. I stitched along all sides but left a large 6″ gap on one side (so I could turn the fabric).
Stitch together and do the corners at an angle so you have a point on each end. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Clip the corners and trim your seam allowance at the corners. Flip the fabric right side out and press the sash. Add a little topstitch along the open gap to close.
Viole. You have a beautiful, patriotic dress that your little girl will love (even if she won’t stand still for pictures).
Thanks so much for having me today. If you’re looking for more red, white and blue items check out my recipes for ambrosia salad or a summer berry salad. I also have lots of beginning sewing projects, written tutorials and sewing tutorials on my blog at Chief Household Officer. I hope to see you again.