Child Size Spiral Dress

Ruffles! A huge, swirly overload of fluttering spiral. How to do this? We need volume of fabric.

As usual, I started moderate before going more extreme.  The first attempt with a 4″ curved gore produced a conservative A-line skirt shape.

Spiral skirt made from curved gores in alternating colors
Spiral gores made into a jumper dress

Simple. Just add more stripes. The delightful “Peppermint Swirl” gave me the idea of gathering the gores in order to fit more of them. It’s a small change but makes a difference.

View from the ceiling of full circle spiral swirl dress, modeled by a white teddy bear.

The teddy bear was a gift from a kind friend at a time when I was lonely. Mr. Bear is also very useful for a model, in lieu of baby girls.

Pink, purple and floral alternating striped sleeveless dress with vast spiral skirt

I made up this test model then remembered a family at church who have such a vast number of granddaughters that I don’t even need to worry about size. Just give it to them, it’ll fit somebody.

And it did! So I made them another one.

Green and yellow sunflower sleeveless spiral dress for a young girl
Flowing spiral circle skirt jumper dress being modeled by a white teddy bear

The bodice needed more coverage so I made the armholes smaller and the neckline higher, and added a button at the back of the neck.

Here is the free child’s basic sleeveless bodice pattern as a pdf for printing at home. Be sure to print at 100% rather than “fit to page”.

And here’s the four-inch skirt piece.

You’ll need to sew three of these C-shaped pieces together for each gore for smaller sizes, or four for larger sizes. It takes 14 – 16 gores for smaller sizes or 18 or more for larger sizes. The number can be flexible, you can add more gores depending on how many different colors you want to combine.

Here’s a size 8 version of this with four pieces per gore, and a very cool back-and-forth pattern that was accidental.  I discovered I’d sewn two of the gores backwards from what they should be (the blue and pink positions reversed) at about the same time I realized I hadn’t added enough gores to compensate for the larger size. So instead of picking it out, we added the red stripe in between, and I think the red stripe is what really makes this one so stunning.

Spiral swirl skirt laid out before sewing together

Here’s the recipient in full twirl.


Apr 2023. Oh, goodness gracious. People are asking for instructions and I’m thinking “What’s wrong with the instructions?” Maybe the fact that there aren’t any. Okay. Sorry about that.

But now, it’s already happened, I’ve left civilization for the dark side of the moon! Okay, a place without internet. I suppose that’s not so unusual (and maybe you wouldn’t believe it, but I am old enough to remember back when there wasn’t an internet) but without it, and without Illustrator on my desktop or my printer, I can’t do much.

Just noticed the PDF has a dumb mistake, and I can’t correct it from here. You don’t cut both front and back on the fold, of course, or how would you sew it?

Cut one front piece on the fold and two back pieces not on fold, and the same from lining material. There’s some pics of how to put a jumper together here,

Sew the backs to the fronts at shoulder seams, both fabric and lining. Lay them on top of each other “pretty sides together” (as the old 90’s Barbie Fashion Designer program put it) and stitch around the armholes and neckline, then turn inside out. On the newer version, which is more modest like a dress rather than a jumper, the neckline won’t be large enough to pull over a child’s head, so you’ll need an opening at the back with a closure like a button or something. Or cut the neckline larger like the early test and wear a top beneath.

How to choose a size. Honestly, just print the pattern and lay it on top of a dress that fits the child. Allow for seams and then make it even bigger to be on the safe side. I’ve compared Simplicity patterns to some of the free downloads and the differences are startling. I went by an industry measurement chart I found somewhere. Remember the length is the dimension most important with children because they grow taller but not much bigger around. Choose the right length then adjust for width as necessary and remember, too BIG is easier to fix.

Now for the number of gores for the skirt. Measure how large the waist seam will be and do math to see how many gores you can cram in there. With a 4″ gore you’ll get 3.5″ (or less) per gore. Add plenty of gores, ideally too many, per my dad: “If some’s good, a lot’s better, and too much is just right.” We’re going for ruffles here. You do want an even number or a multiple of three to make a repeating pattern. You can always sew half your gores together and then compare with the bodice to see if it’s going to be as ruffly as you want, then, if necessary, add another color on each side before attaching, like I did with the red stripe. No one will notice if the stripe effect gets thrown off a little.

Info on sewing spiral skirts is here:

Good luck, guys. Let me know how it goes. I can get my email, I’m not really on the dark side of the moon, and I love getting notes about sewing. Ask away and I can answer you if I stand up on the top of the hill in a certain spot.

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  1. Hi, I too am so confused on how to cut and put together a certain size of this. You make it soooo cute and I just want to learn! Thank you so much!!

    1. There, I edited the post. It’s all typed on a Chromebook in the door of a trailer at a campground while soaking up sun on my paper-white feet, so do point out any mistakes you notice 🙂

  2. How wonderful inspiration! Coul’d you please tell me what kind of fabric did you use? I’m in Brazil and I’ll try to find something similar!! And make a skirt for my 7y daughter to dance at school!
    Thank you so much!!

    1. I generally use any lightweight cotton woven. I’m big on sewing with scraps and the fabric content is not always known. I think a firm knit would probably work fine too. I hope it comes out great for you!

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