Tuesday, September 15

Hankie Hem Dress Dimensions Update

Man, I have new respect for all those sewing tutorial writers out there...

More than a month ago I said I would post photos of the making of the hankie hem T-shirt dress as well as tips for figuring out dimensions.


Since then I have posted about:

And then I abandoned the blog completely for two weeks.

Apparently, I don’t want to post about hankie hem dress dimensions.

…I think I’m embarrassed at the amount of inner math geek that emerged (gleefully) while figuring out the optimal dimensions for any size, shape and configuration.


Yeah, that’s a quadratic equation in the photo above. And I used the Pythagorean theorem too. You know, a² + b²= c²? And then I put all that math into a spreadsheet (more glee!) to calculate the fabric dimensions based on T-shirt width and desired skirt length.

But unfortunately my brain and fingers refused to write out the steps that go with the dimensions. And the spreadsheet is not user-friendly in its current state. And the photos I took along the way show pieces that were way too long because I was guessing at the dimensions – no spreadsheet yet – and wanted to be sure I had enough length. (See below for what “enough length” resulted in before I chopped some off!)


So, here’s the best I can do:

Hankie Hem T-Shirt Dress How-To… Sort of

1) Pick your method:

  • Three Rectangles (shown below left) for solids or directionless-prints (or if you don’t care if parts of your print are “sideways”)
  • Four Panels (shown below right) for things like stripes or prints that have a “top” direction

 cropped IMG_0999cropped IMG_0998

2) Find your T-shirt and your recipient and then email the following  measurements to me (see blog sidebar for current address, or you can also write the measurements in the comments if you’d rather):

  • width of bottom of shirt (if it’s a snug shirt that needs to stretch when put on and taken off, then stretch it a bit when measuring!; my shirt was 9” wide, but I used 11” as my width)
  • minimum length, measured from bottom edge of shirt, with shirt being worn by recipient
  • maximum length, again measured from bottom edge of shirt
  • oh, and for my hem: I just zigzagged over the edge of my fabric to keep it from unraveling so had a “hem allowance” of zero; if you want a more finished edge by turning up and sewing an actual hem, let me know how much fabric you want me to include for your hem allowance

(If you can’t measure the length on your recipient, send in her age and approximate height as well as T-shirt length from shoulder to bottom edge, and I’ll estimate dimensions for a skirt that skims her knees. Body part ratios change quite a bit as you get older thus age is needed….)

3) Give me a minute to pop the numbers into my spreadsheet, then a day or two to reply (unless I’m vacationing on an island with no internet access, not likely in the near future).

4) Use the dimensions I send back to you and the sketches below to figure out how big to cut your fabric pieces (and hole).

  • Three Rectangles Method
  • Four Panels Method


5) Sew up your hankie hem dress.

  • Sew your three or four fabric pieces into a short, squat “plus sign.” On the sketches above, the dotted lines with stars at each end show where to sew pieces together. 


(Four panels method shown above. Just ignore the extra fabric under the black lines…)

  • Zigzag, hem or finish in some other way the edges of the plus sign (the pink outline above).
  • Line up the bottom edge of the shirt and the edge of the hole, right sides together, and sew using a 1/2” seam allowance.


6) Email me if you need further clarification. Seriously, I’d love to elaborate, explain, or enlighten, but only if someone actually needs the info. : )  I know for some of you, this is enough…

* * *

And, if you don’t mind non-user-friendly spreadsheets and want a copy so you don’t have to rely on me, email me and I’ll send it out to you. Maybe I’ll even color-code and format it a little. (Sometimes I can’t help myself.)


  1. Seriously. Quadradic equation and pythagorean theorem? I was a science and math kinda girl...but have never applied those equations in my everyday stay-at-home mom life. Impressive, I guess. :)

  2. I can really hear the admiration in your voice, cousin! : )

  3. I'll just have you make one for my girl! My head hurts just thinking about it.

    It just proves how talented you are!

  4. I'm pretty sure I could figure out the four-panel version from this - thanks!

  5. Jenny, you're too kind. Anyway, the next thing being made for the McC's is your dress transform...

    MaryAnne, glad you could use the info. By the way, perhaps I should have mentioned: for the dress I made (for a peanut of a 4 1/2 year old whose shirt hit between waist and hips), W was 16", D was 6" and R was about 3.5".

  6. He he he! All that Math! Tutorial-writing is not very fun, now that you mention it. But using Math to write tutorials for sewing clothes IS fun. Today I measured angles for a sewing project! Like protractor angles! Math is not hard. What is hard was drawing all those pink circles to represent fabric print. Did you really draw them all? You're amazing.

    Math aside, thanks for this awesome tutorial, K! E is going to be a fairy (can you imagine - a fairy in MN on Halloween?) for Halloween so this hanky hem dress idea will be perfect.

    One question: The circle that fits the waist isn't snug, right? Unless, because you made it out of a Tshirt, so it would have some stretch in it. I'm thinking fairy suit out of (gag) rigid fleece, so would have to be relatively form-fitting. I'll probably need a zipper, I suspect. No hurry to reply. Halloween is, like, one thousand years away. Please, please let Halloween be one thousand years away.

  7. Oh, LiEr, you crack me up. The pink circles might have been harder had my rectangles not been 1"x2" or smaller. The picture is deceivingly large... : )

    And, no, my circle wasn't snug. But sure, if you put a zipper in (or velcro or whatever), you could certainly make it more form-fitting. Are you making a little bodice too?

  8. that is a smart tutorial! btw, can you please add a pic of the finished dress(from the other post) to this post so that I can pin this tute?



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