The Patchwork Dress

Patchwork Dress
Patchwork Dress
I bought these fabrics as a layer cake just ’cause I thought they were pretty.  I finally decided what I needed to do with them was make a little patchwork sundress…my two year old is very, well, two lately.  She refused to model it for me so you’ll just have to trust me that it’s super cute on!  It did turn out a little big in length so I’ve adjusted that in the tutorial for you. :)
Here’s what you’ll need to make one:
-Layer Cake Squares (I used this Lola’s Posies Layer Cake)
-1/4 yard solid fabric for top/bottom band (Here is what I used)
-Scrap Fabric for Straps (I used scraps of Kona Cotton in Plumberry)
-1/2″ elastic
-elastic thread for shirring
-Flower, Button, Alligator Clip, Felt Circle, Embroidery Thread (if you want the flower on it)I’m going to take you through this tutorial showing you how to size it to any child.  
Please feel free to email me if you need help with the measurements! :)

Step One: Measurements and Patchwork Bodice Construction
First, get two measurements from your model: (1) the chest circumference and (2) length from chest to knee.  We’ll make the patchwork section first, as the band width measurements are based on the finished sized after the patchwork is complete.
Patchwork Dress


You want to use enough layer cake squares (typically 10″x10″) to be at least 2x the model’s chest circumference and the finished length needs to be 4″ shorter than the model’s length from chest to knee.  Since my daughter is 21″ around, I needed the dress to be at least 42″ wide.  I opted to use 2 rows of 5 squares.  This makes it bigger than it needs to be but I opted to keep the extra width (this will just make for a fuller dress).
Are you still with me? :)  It’s easier than it sounds.  Sew and serge all your pieces together with a 1/4″ seam so the patchwork section looks like this:
Patchwork Dress

On the length you’ll need to cut the necessary inches off to make it 4″ shorter than the model’s length from chest to knee (Cut the inches off each row after sewing all the squares together, cutting an equal amount from the top and bottom edges of the below). 

Now measure the width (the long edge) of your patchwork piece.  You’ll need this measurement for the band pieces.

Step Two: Cutting and Attaching the Top and Bottom Band

Top Band (cut 1): 3.5″ x width of patchwork piece
Bottom Band (cut 1): 8.5″ x width of patchwork piece

Take the bottom band and iron in half lengthwise.

Patchwork Dress

With raw edges aligned, pin to the bottom of the patchwork piece as show in below picture.  Sew with a 1/2″ seam.  Serge or zigzag.  Press seam and topstitch with 1/8″ seam.

Patchwork Dress
Now your dress looks like this:
Patchwork Dress
Now take the top band and iron in half lengthwise.  With raw edges aligned, pin to top edge of patchwork piece.  Sew with a 1/2″ seam.  Serge or zigzag.  Press seam and topstitch with 1/8″ seam.

Patchwork Dress
Step Three: Elastic Casing and Elastic Insertion
Now sew a seam 1/2″ from the top edge of the top band as shown below.  We’re making an elastic casing that will ruffle along the top.  Cut a piece of 1/2″ elastic in the same length as your model’s chest circumference.  Using a safety pin insert into the bottom casing as shown below.  Tack in place with a few stitches at each end.


Patchwork Dress

Now your dress looks like the below.  Bring side seams together (with right sides of fabric touching) and pin in place.  Sew with a 1/2″ seam, serge and press.

Patchwork Dress

Initially, I thought this would be my dress but it’s a little shapeless, right?  So we’re going to do some shirring at the waist to create a bubble top. :)  If you need help with shirring check out my shirring tutorial.

Patchwork Dress

Step Four: Shirring the Waist
Starting just above the middle of the patchwork section seam, shirr about 14 rows really close together.  I did mine about 1/8″ apart.  You’ll want to backstitch at the beginning and end of each row of shirring.  I didn’t start a new row for each seam.  Each time I completed a row, I just lifted my presser foot, shifted the dress 1/8″ inch and started shirring the next row.  I only re-started shirring with backstitching when the bobbin ran out of elastic thread.
When you’re done shirring, shrink it up with a hot iron and a lot of steam.  So much cuter with the shirred waist, don’t you think?

Patchwork Dress

Step Five: Adding the Flower Detail

For the flower, I sew on a little loop of embroidery thread as shown in below picture.  Then I take a cheapie fake flower, pop out the center and sew on a button center.  Glue on an alligator clip using a felt circle to hold it in place (hot glue works best).  Then you can attach the flower to the loop. This way, it’s easily removed for washing AND it’s a hair clip, too. :)
Patchwork Dress
Step 6: Cutting, Making and Attaching the straps

Here’s a quick tute for how I like to make my straps (because I really dislike tube-turning!).  These pics are from another dress in which I made the same type of straps.
First, cut 4 pieces of fabric 16″x2″. (I make the cotton ones a bit longer since they don’t stretch like knits do).  These example pics are from another dress I made just to show you in detail how to make your own.
Fold each short each of the strap piece over 1/4″ and iron.  Then fold strip in half lengthwise and iron.  Open and fold each side toward the middle and iron again (see pics for a better explanation).  Then fold in half and iron again.  Sew with a 1/8″ seam.  Repeat until all four straps are complete.
P1020747     P1020748
P1020750     P1020751

Find the center front of your dress and mark with a pin.  Pin each front strap 3″ out from center.  Sew in place, going over each strap 2-3 times.  Find the center back of your dress and mark with a pin.  Pin each back strap 2″ out from center and sew on.
Patchwork Dress
That’s it!  You’re all done.  I hope you have better luck getting your little model to model it than I did!
Patchwork Dress
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About By Dawn Nicole

Dawn is the DIY & Lifestyle blogger/Graphic Designer behind By Dawn Nicole. She is a mom of 3 who believes in "throwing kindness around like confetti". While Dawn loves all things creative, she has a passion for hand-lettered typography. A clean-eating foodie who loves cooking as much as a a good long outdoor run, she believes in balance and rarely lets a day go by without dark chocolate and over-caffeinating. She is also a contributor to the Silhouette Blog, Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke, and The Pinning Mama .


  1. Oh goodness how sweet and colorful, perfect for summer!

  2. I know all about 2 year olds being independent! The shirring really does give this dress shape. I can’t wait to dig through my material and see what I can piece together for this cute summer dress :)

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