Monday, March 28, 2011

"Easter Frills" Twirl Dress {Tutorial - and Pattern!}

Alright, here we go with the twirl dress tutorial!  When I made the first one {that I showed you here}, I knew I wanted to make another one for EG's Easter dress!  And, lucky for you, that gave me an opportunity to create a tutorial :)  I just LOVE how this one turned out, especially with the added lining with tulle ruffle hem.  I will give you the information to create the dress with the ruffle lining, or you can certainly do it easily (and more quickly) without.  The first dress did not have a lining (this one required it because the embroidered fabric I used is kind of see-through, and I added the ruffle for a sweet twist), and it turned out super cute as well.  This is such a sweet, light, and airy dress!  Perfect for the warm weather that will soon be arriving!  Pair it with a cute cardi and I think it would be the perfect combination for any day :)  I plan to add a fabric flower pin to the bodice (I think), and will definitely let you in on that when I decide what I want to do.  Now, on with the tutorial...

EDIT:  The PDF pattern is now available for the size 4/5 (as pictured)!  CLICK HERE to download!  **Print full size with no page scaling**

Actually, before the tutorial, you really need to see how sweet this dress is once finished.  I promise you will feel the need to make more than one!  Maybe one for all the little girls in your life!  Haha :)

Materials needed:
- 2 yards main fabric (most of this is for the circle skirt part - if you want to use less fabric, you could certainly just create a gathered skirt with two rectangles for the front and back...but it just wont have the same twirlability)
- 1 1/2 yards lining fabric
- elastic thread (for shirring the's easy I promise!)
- rotary cutter/scissors
- tulle for the lining (I found the rolls of tulle to be much softer than tulle by the yard, as well as easier to use for our purposes)
- ruler
- freezer paper (or other paper) to create pattern  **If you're interested I'd be glad to upload my size 4/5 pattern - just let me know**

Before starting, decide if you want to make one with the lining (as shown above) or without the lining as in the original, shown below:

Creating the pattern pieces:

To create the front bodice *lining* (which will not be gathered) I just traced around an existing shirt in the shape I was looking for (or close to it at least).  You can see where I altered the shape just a bit to bring the sides up a little higher).  I also wanted my bodice a little shorter than on this top, so I shortened it a bit.

To create the front *main* bodice piece, we need to extend the width of the lining piece so that we can gather it up later.  To do this, I traced the existing lining pattern piece and cut out another (see below - yes, the shape looks a little different than above because I decided to make the sides just a little higher again).

I then cut my newly traced piece into even strips and taped them to a piece of freezer paper about an inch apart.  I did this because I wanted to lining piece to gather evenly all the way across.  You could certainly just eyeball it and create a longer bodice piece if you want.  Once everything is taped down, I just traced around the general shape of the pieces.  This worked perfect for me!

Here are your finished bodice pieces (both will be cut on the fold):

To create the skirt piece, there is no easier way than to follow Dana's super easy method {here} to create a perfect circle skirt.  It requires a little simple math and is pretty quick to do!  The length for your skirt pattern piece will need to be the length from the bottom of the bodice to where you want the dress to fall.  Head over to the {tutorial}, and then head back here to finish up your pieces.  **As stated above, if you don't want to mess with the super cute circle skirt, you could certainly cut out two rectangles the length you need by the width of your little one's waist (i.e. for a child with a waist of 20" and needed length of 15" you would need to two rectangles 15"x20" to make your front and back skirt pieces).  You would then sew up the sides right sides together and then gather to fit the bottom of the bodice.  Questions?  Please ask and I'll try to help!**

Okay, that wasn't too bad was it?  Now that you have your perfect circle piece, we need to make a minor modification to make the skirt lining piece (skip this step if you don't want to add a lining).  I decided to make my lining 1 1/4" shorter than my main piece so that the tulle would peek out at the bottom, but the actual lining wouldn't show (note, the pictures below show me making it 1" shorter...I later decided I needed it 1 1/4" and make the correction w/o taking pics...same steps apply!).

To adjust your pattern piece, measure 1 1/4" at several spots along the bottom of your piece, then trace along those marks as shown.

Mark above the ling "lining length" and below the line "main length", but do not cut yet!

Now your pattern pieces are all finished!  Time to cut everything out!

Cutting out your pieces:

First, I cut out my main circle part by folding the fabric into fourths and placing the sides of my pattern along the two sides with folds, as shown (and as described in Dana's tutorial).

When cut, your piece should look like this:

And, when opened, voila!  A perfect circle skirt  for your dress :)

To cut out the lining, you will now cut the bottom part of your pattern piece off along the line you made earlier.  DON'T throw it away, you'll want to make this again!  Ha!  Use this shorter piece to cut out another circle skirt from your lining fabric (not shown).

Cut out your main bodice piece on the fold:

Not pictured, cut a lining bodice piece from your lining fabric.

Your back bodice is simply a rectangle and is roughly the height of your main bodice by the width of your main bodice.  My height was 3" and I just laid out my main bodice to judge the width (as shown).

For the straps, I cut out two long strips (much longer than I knew I needed so that I could adjust them later) 1 1/2" inches wide.  The strips will end up 1/4 of the width you cut them out, so adjust as needed if you want wider straps (i.e. for a 1 inch wide strap you would need to cut out strips 4 inches wide).  I wanted mine skinny.

To determine the amount of tulle needed, measure around the bottom of your skirt lining pattern piece.  Keeping in mind that the piece is 1/4 of your circle, multiply that measurement by 4 to get an approximate circumference of your circle.  My piece measured approximately 29 inches and I rounded up to 30".  Multiplying 30" by 4 gave me an approximate circumference of 120".  I wanted the tulle to be ruffled, so I needed to add to this measurement to allow for ruffling.  Feel free to add as much as you want, but I decided I didn't want it super ruffle and just went with 1.5 times my circumference of 120".  Thus, my tulle needed to be 180" long (120 x 1.5).  

The width of my tulle roll was 6", and I wanted a 3" ruffle, so I just folded this in half.  I recommend using a roll of tulle :)

Now we are ready to get started with the actual dress making!  I like to start with my least favorite task first to get it out of the way...ironing!

First, on a very LOW setting, iron your long piece of tulle in half so that it is 3" wide:

Next, take your back bodice rectangle and fold one long edge over 1/2" then another 1/2" to enclose the raw edge (this will create end up being the little ruffle at the top of the back bodice):

Now, we are basically going to fold the strap pieces just as you would create bias tape.  Fold one of the pieces in half long ways and press:

Then fold each side in to meet the middle fold, and press again:

To finish the strap, fold your pressed piece in half once again, along the original middle fold line:

Here is the unfinished strap next to the one we just created:

Repeat above steps with the other strap piece:

Now, we're really ready to rock and roll with the dress!!  Here are all of the pieces pressed and ready to begin sewing:

Assembling the Dress:

Thankfully, once all of the prep work is done, the dress is super quick and easy to assemble!

Start with the straps and sew down the open edge on both straps.  Sew as close to the edge as possible making sure to catch the underside of the strap as well:

Set the straps aside and get out your long piece of folded tulle.  I failed to take pictures of this part (sorry!), but you are just going to ruffle your tulle strip at this point.

Using the longest stitch on your sewing machine, sew a basting stitch along the open edge of your tulle (opposite the fold) along the entire length.  Make sure not to backstitch at either end so that you can pull the threads for gathering.  To gather, pull on the bobbin thread at one end and push the fabric toward the other end.  Gather just enough so that your tulle strip will fit around the outside circle of your lining. 

Once the strip is ruffled to the correct length, lay your lining circle right side up and pin your tulle ruffle with the fold toward the center (matching up raw edges of the lining with the raw, basted edge of the ruffle), as shown.  Pin, pin, pin, pin, pin everything in place:

Once securely pinned, sew the ruffle on using a seam allowance just inside of your basting stitch so that it won't show:

Once you've stitched all the way around, flip your ruffle to the wrong side of the lining (flipping the raw edge underneath):

Now sew right along the edge of the lining (with your raw ruffle and lining edge underneath) to sew the ruffle in place:

 Finished lining edge will look like this:

And, lining piece like this:

To create the bodice, take your main lining piece and sew a basting stitch along the entire top and bottom  raw edges (remember don't backstitch:

 Gather both the top and bottom edges of the bodice piece until it matches the shape of the lining bodice piece, as shown below:

Pin the main and lining bodice pieces right sides together along all edges except the bottom.  At this point, you will also sandwich your two straps in between the bodice pieces at the ends of the top part as shown:

Remember to leave the bottom edge open (for turning), then start at one bottom corner and sew all the way around to the other bottom corner (where you have pinned):

Trim the seam allowance and flip right side out.  Yay, a finished front bodice:

Set the front bodice aside, and grab your back piece,  Sew all the way across the top, right along the edge of the fold you pressed earlier:

Next, we are going to shirr the back to gather it and allow for stretch when taking the dress on and off.  To start, loosely hand wind your bobbin with elastic thread.  Only pull it tight enough so that it doesn't twist up while you are winding it.  You should NOT pull it taut:

Once your bobbin is wound, you are ready to sew.  Starting just under the top edge you just sewed, begin sewing your lines of shirring.  At the end of each row, instead of cutting, pull your fabric a little so that your threads pull out enough to turn around and start sewing the next line.  I did 5 rows slightly more than 1/8" apart and left about 1/4" un-shirred at the bottom to attach the skirt to:

Once shirred, it will look something like this:

Now take your back bodice and lined front bodice and pin together at the sides, right sides together:

Sew up the sides, finish the seams w/ a zig zag stitch or serger, and flip right side out.  Your finished bodice should look like this:

To add the skirt part of your dress, slip the lining circle piece into the main circle piece (right side of lining to wrong side of main - it should look just as it will when the dress is worn), as shown below.  Then mark the sides, middle front, and middle back with pins:

Next, flip your bodice piece inside out and slip over the circle pieces right sides together (as shown) matching up all raw edges.  Then, match your bodice sides to where you pinned your circle sides and pin all layers together (bodice and two circles); match your front bodice middle to your skirt front middle; and your back bodice middle to your back skirt middle.  You should now have everything pinned together in four places, as shown below:

Continue pinning evenly all the way around (your circle pieces will be slightly wider than your bodice and will have to gather a little as you pin).  The easiest way for me to do this is to find the middle point of the circles and bodice between two pins (as shown below), then match those two points together and pin:

After pinning that together, you will have a smaller area to find the middle of and pin:

Pin evenly all the way around:

Sew all the way around with a 1/2" seam allowance, attaching the bodice piece to both circle layers.  Be sure to gently stretch your back bodice piece taut as you go so that you still allow it to stretch after sewn:

Finish your edge with a zig zag or serge, flip it right side out, and you have your beautiful almost finished dress!

Hem the edge of your main piece only by folding the raw edge under 1/4" and 1/4" again (or more if you wish) then sew.  Your lining piece is already finished with the tulle.  

Also, topstitch around the bodice if you wish (shown below).

**One final daughter decided she liked the dress as a halter, but you may not {the original dress was not a halter}.  If you wish to create the spaghetti straps as in the original, at this point you can try the dress on your little one and flip the straps over her shoulder where they will lay.  Mark the straps at the desired length and then sew them to the back bodice piece, sewing over the first line of sewing already there so it won't be noticeable.  Make sense?  If not, let me know and I'll be glad to help :)**

To complete your dress, press the bodice piece to flatten out your gathering:

Then, press the back of your bodice and blast the shirring with some steam so that it will shrink up, as shown:

Before steaming

After steaming

Tada!  You now have a beautiful twirl dress, with or without the lining.  Your little girl will be beyond thrilled, as mine was!

No doubt, she'll even jump for joy :)

Enjoy this tutorial?  Please let me know, and definitely share if you decide to make one!  For personal use only, please :)


  1. Awesome dress! thanks so much for the tute. My daughter is also a 4-5T, it would be great if you could upload the pattern! and also the measurements of the circle skirt, if you've got them, please. I'd love to sew a blue dress like this for my little girl.

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! I loved the first one you made and thinking of doing Easter dresses. I have a 4T also, so if you have a pattern to upload that would be great! Then I'd only have to come up with a 3T one for my other daughter! OOh! Can't wait to go pick out some fabric!! :)

  3. That is so cute! My daughter loves her twirly skirt, I bet she'd love this dress too :)

    I'd love it if you'd check out my Party on Tuesdays:

  4. Love your tutorial. I am a new follower!
    ~ Kimberlee at The Spunky Diva 
    {Check out how I made my name 'clickable'.}

  5. This is adorable!! I like the thorough step-by-step instructions. I'd love to try it, but I don't think my 2 yr old son would be too impressed. :) Maybe a birthday gift for his little friend Rose?


  6. Adorable! I loved twirl dresses when I was little and my 2 year old daughter is just starting to understand the spin action! Great tutorial.

  7. super cute - and some SERIOUS twirl action. Great job :)

  8. You were featured on Today's Top 20! Woo Hoo!


  9. featured you on my FB page today - - you were the most view link at TAke-A-Look Tuesday!

  10. I LOVE this! Its PERFECT for you to Link up at my Linky PAR-TAY,

    Whassup Wednesday!!!

    And I have a party button you can grab so your friends can come too:)



  11. Very cute! Thanks for the tutorial too.

    I saw this on Train to Crazy.

  12. I love this - I need to make a few of these for my girls! I am going to pin this on pinterest so I know to come back - thanks for the great tutorial!

  13. What an adorable dress - and a great tutorial!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a great weekend!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  14. love this dress, too sweet.

  15. It looks fantastic, awesome tutorial! Thanks for sharing Visiting from Tatertots & Jello.

  16. Oh I love this dress! I have made twirl dresses in the past but not this style. I don't know that I'll get it done before easter but I will certainly be making these for summer! I would love for you to link this to my VIP party today =)

  17. I keep saying I want to try to make clothing for my girls. This tutorial is so awesome. You make it look so easy! LOVE this dress. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Thanks so much for the tutorial!! I would love it if you would share this at my Marvelous Mess party....each week I pick one project to feature on my sidebar!! Here is the link:

  19. Great tutorial!! I am featuring this on my Idea List party today:

  20. hiya , what a really cute dress . i love both versions of it tfs i am visiting form amaze me mondays and am your newest follower hope youcan stop by mine and follow me too

  21. Here's a link to my finished product. Thanks so much for the tutorial - I love this dress!


  22. I made the orignal version of this dress and it is perfect. Your pattern and directions are fantastic!!! This is my 4 year olds new favorite dress. I think I might be making more of them. We both got tons of compliments when she wore it. Thank you so much!!!!!!! I am recomending your site to everyone!

  23. Hello ~ I found your blog via the "Addicted to Tutes" blog which I found via ?? ~ following links really is fun but geez, no housework gets done. LOL

    Anyway, I just wanted to say this dress is just ADORABLE! And I wanted to give you a HUGE thank you for including the pattern. I see so many adorable tutorials and so many start out with their instructions saying 'grab your child's favorite shirt or pants or dress etc' but that's not always possible. I am always searching for cute ideas to make things for my Granddaughter who lives 3 hrs away so I don't have access to her clothing so I am VERY thankful you have included the pattern for this adorable dress. You are awesome! THANK YOU!

  24. So so so so so Lovely!!!!!!

    Lo intentaremos!!!

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  26. thanks so much!! gorgeous pattern!! You are such an inspiration!! going to try this one out. thanks again!!