Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tiered Twirly Dress Tutorial

It was my sweet little cousin's birthday this past week and I was feeling really inspired to make her a dress. She is a girly, girl and loves purple. When I had made the skirt here, I was a little disappointed that it didn't twirl and I really wanted to give her something that made her want to spin. Every little girl should have a twirly dress, don't you think? 

When I had the opportunity to pull this dress together I was really pressed for time, so I took a short cut using a t-shirt for the bodice. It was the first time I had done this and I was surprised how well it worked. Since the dress came together so quickly I was able to make her a matching headband and a clippy flower that she can wear on the dress, on the headband or just in her hair.

I made this dress to have the serged fabric edges exposed. I liked the ruffly look at the seams. The dress can certainly be made where there is a seam allowance is on the inside of the dress using only a sewing machine. It would still use the 1/2" seam allowance. 


1 1/2 yards of 45" (or greater) wide woven cotton fabric (I used a quilters cotton)
coordinating t-shirt, size 5T 
coordinating thread
ball point pins 
ball point (jersey) needle
basic sewing notions

Sewing Notes
As with all apparel sewing pre-wash the fabric and the t-shirt. 

The measurements provided are for a 5T. The seam allowances are 1/2" unless otherwise indicated. The skirt hem is 1 1/4".


top tier - cut 2 pieces 23" wide by 6.75" tall 
middle tier - cut 2 pieces 33.5" wide x 6.75" tall
bottom tier - cut 2 pieces 44" wide x 7.5" tall


- Serge the long edges of all the cut pieces. 

- With the 2 top tier pieces fabric fronts facing pin and and serge the short sides together. Repeat for the middle and bottom tier. Press to one side the serged seam on all the tiers. 

- Press the hem on the bottom tier. Fold and press 1/4" and then fold and press 1". Or since the edge is serged you can just fold over the 1 1/4" and press. Pin and sew hem. 

- With the longest stitch length on the sewing machine sew two gathering stitches across the top of each tier. One at 1/4" and the other at 3/4. Be sure to leave a long thread tail. This is now the top of each of the tiers.

- Lay out the t-shirt right side out as flat and even as possible. Measure 3" from the armhole. Mark with a line running across side to side. This will be the line that your first tier will be attached to. Trim off excess shirt fabric. I left about 1" below the line. (Note: I ended up changing this to 2" from the armhole for a more empire waist)

- Line up the top of the top tier side seam to the t-shirt side seams. The skirt tier should be on top. The top tier 1/2 seam allowance needs to line up the line marked on the t-shirt. With the ball tip pins, pin sides in place. Gently pull the gathering threads on the front of the skirt to gather the fabric to match the width of the shirt. You will need to fuss a bit to have the gathers evenly distributed. With ball tip pins, pin in place. Repeat on the back.

- Make sure your sewing machine stitch length has been shortened back to normal and has ball point needle. Sew the top tier to the shirt. Between the two gathering stitches is 1/2". Do your best to stay between the gathering stitches. This will make it easier to remove them later.
- Repeat the process attaching the middle tier to the top tier. The middle tier should be on top of the top tier. They need to over lap 3/4" (the edge of the top tier fabric with the 3/4" gathering stitch of the middle tier) Note: I find it helpful on on the middle and bottom tier's to locate middle like I show with the pins above. Then pull the gathering stitches in quarter's instead of just front and back since there is so much fabric to deal with. Gather, pin in place and sew. (Ball point needle & pins are not necessary anymore)

- Repeat again attaching the bottom tier to the middle tier. 

- Remove all six of the gathering stitches from the dresses. All done! 

Embellish with bows or flowers if you wish.

This flower was easy to put together and it is attached with a hair clip. This way she can wear it however she would like.

Isn't she darling!

First Spin  
Look at that smile! That's why it had to be twirly.

I am so happy this worked out. Seeing her smile is worth a million bucks! I knowing she is going to get lots of spinning miles on this dress. 

I see a lot more of these dresses in my future. So easy and so many fabric's to mix and match. I can't wait!

Thanks for stopping by the nest!