How to make inexpensive monogrammed dresses on an embroidery machine

By on May 24th, 2020
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Looking for an easy, cheap personalized gift for a little girl using your embroidery machine?  I got you covered.  I’ve officially mastered the art of making inexpensive monogrammed dresses on an embroidery machine.  You know the saying “necessity is the mother of invention?” Well, I think this pretty much sums up how I came up with the idea to make these little monogrammed dresses.

You see, I have a LOT of nieces as well as friends with little girls. Around Christmastime I get this crazy compulsion to make something custom on my embroider machine for just about everyone.  It takes A LOT of time, especially coming up with the idea. So, once I come up with a good concept, I like to make it for as many people as possible. This was certainly the case with my monogrammed dresses.

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How I got the idea

Inspiration can strike at odd times. Running into Walmart one night to pick up a few groceries and sewing notions, I spotted the most adorable little nautical, dress at the ridiculously low price of $6.49. BAM! I had my Christmas gift for all the young ladies on my list under the age of 10.  Then, I proceeded to hit every other Walmart in the St. Louis area and cleared out their stock.

Walmart nautical dress - perfect for adding a monogram.

The appliqué fabric was a little bonus piece that I picked up on one of my local fabric store shopping trips at Citycraft in Dallas.  It was the only thing I could find in my scrap area that went with the navy and white dress, but I think it worked out quite well.

personalized flower applique

Because I had purchased so many, my plan (initially) was to personalize them all in different ways. But, I just fell in love with how my groovy flower single initial initial appliqué looked on this dress. So I repeated it again, and again and again.

I knew my monogrammed dresses were a good idea once my sister started copying it

Then, I made the mistake of telling my sister about this project. She just happened to be stopping by while I was working my way through my Walmart bootie. You see, my sister also does machine embroidery. However, the extent of her creativity involves embroidering names on garments, towels, totes and lunchboxes in the same Curlz typeface again and again. Until I showed her what I was doing, she had never tried an appliqué. But, when she saw my design she asked if I would send it to her so she could stitch it out.

It’s amazing what a little flattery will get you.  I mean – she had never expressed any interest in my machine embroidery projects, so frankly, I was flabbergasted. And, since I created the design, there was no reason why I couldn’t share with her.  So being a dutiful little sister, I happily sent it along.

A few days later, my phone started blowing up with ecstatic texts from her about how her project turned out. She had bought the exact same cotton dresses at Walmart and stitched out my groovy flower single initial initial appliqué with her daughter’s initial on it. But, wait – that was exactly what I had planned to give her daughter for Christmas.  GRRRRRRRR!

Actually, I wasn’t too annoyed. There was plenty of time to come up with another Christmas gift idea for her daughter. When I complained to my husband about the situation, he said “I’m sure you copied off of her plenty of times as a kid.” Yes. He’s probably right. And, isn’t imitation the highest form of flattery?

The benefit of keeping extra machine embroidery blanks on hand

When it comes to buying machine embroidery blanks, I try not to go overboard. I’ve watched enough episodes of Hoarders to keep my stashes from overflowing. But, I did not exercise my typical overbuying restraint when it came to these dresses, and I had a few left over after I gifted the to all the little girls for Christmas.

These dresses came in a few different colors: navy, pink and orange, so I purchased all three versions in a bunch of different sizes. After Christmas, all I had left were the orange ones which is what I decided to work with to make a last minute birthday gift for a little girl named Virginia.

An orange dress with burgundy stripes is a tricky color to match with complimentary appliqué fabric.  So I decided to introduce a new color – hence the turquoise, and I think it worked.

inexpensive monogrammed dress

Fortunately, the recipient and her mom agreed.  The Monday after the party I got an email from the mom.

How cute is the dress! V wore it to school yesterday!!! Thank you 🙂

The lesson here? When you find some cute, cheap, cotton dresses like these, always buy a few extras and you can easily make a perfect birthday gift.

Monogrammed dresses are the gift that keeps on giving

Fortunately little girls keep growing and Walmart introduces new styles of dresses. So guess what I made all the little girls in my life the next year for Christmas.  Monogrammed dresses.

The next year, Walmart was selling slightly different, but just as cute cotton dresses. Of the styles they were selling, I especially liked the navy polkadot version. In fact, as soon as I saw it, I snapped up six of them for $6.49 each. And to personalize them, I came up with a new appliqué design, a single initial monogram design that is cute on kids and looks more modern than a formal monogram. It also allows for the dress to potentially be handed down.

applique dress from Walmart

And then I returned to this appliqué style and stitched it out on the next year’s version.

fun applique dress

Where to get soft, cotton dresses suitable for monogramming

My girls have now gotten too old to wear cotton “play” dresses like the ones I monogrammed for them in the past. However, I often to return to this project when I need to come up with a gift for a little girls. And every season, Walmart seems to come through with a cute cotton play dress for $6.49.

Walmart cotton dress
A cute cotton tunic dress from Walmart

I have found even more adorable versions from Amazon. They look like what you might see in the Boden catalog at a fraction of the price.

If you decide to monogram some of these fun dresses, it’s a good idea to throw in some coordinating leggings. Little girls are active little creatures and a pair of matching leggings will keep their undies from showing.

After I personalized all my Christmas dresses, I actually took all the dresses with me to the Children’s Place Outlet and picked up coordinating leggings. But you can easily complete the look on Amazon as well.

Still wondering exactly how to appliqué on your embroidery machine?

Check out this previous post where I show you how to appliqué on a dress like one of these.

Enjoy and happy embroidering!

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