This free tiered baby dress sewing pattern has subtle gathered ruffled tiers and a classic pillowcase-dress-inspired neckline with ribbon ties that’s perfect for late spring and summer. And it’s super easy to sew.
This sewing pattern was totally inspired by a piece of fabric; specifically, the Texas Modern Strips Coral fabric at Spoonflower by Jacinda from Prudent Baby. When the fabric arrived in the mail I swooned, dreaming up in my head a free sewing pattern with elegant, subtly gathered tiers that would showcase Jacinda’s hand painted watercolor coral stripes in a classic yet modern way.
And well, I have a little secret to tell you. This pattern didn’t start as a baby dress pattern. Oh no. It started out as a tiered toddler tunic shirt pattern for my 2-1/2 year old daughter, Elise. I made it at night while she slept, not trying it on until the morning. And I realized too late that I had designed a super cute free pattern ….that was was waaay too small under her arms. And I was crushed.
But then came the lemonade! I realized that the free pattern I made was not only a super cute tiered ruffled BABY DRESS pattern but also THE PERFECT SIZE for Dagny, my downstairs neighbor Jamie’s adorable 6-month-old baby girl. Yippee!
The final free baby dress pattern size measures 10″ from underarm to underarm, 12″ across the bottom of the front panel, 16″ across the bottom of the middle tier, 20 inches around the bottom of the lowest tier, and 13.5″ from top to bottom. You could increase it as needed to fit larger sizes, details below.
Such amazing fabric. Such a cute combination of ruffled tiers with a classic pillowcase dress top. Lemonade it is.
Supplies for making my free tiered ruffle baby dress free sewing pattern:
- Kathy’s free tiered ruffle baby dress pattern – size 6 months (PDF)
- 3/4 yard fabric
- Single fold bias tape
- Grosgrain ribbon – 3/8″ wide
- Disappearing ink pen
- Good fabric scissors
- Glass head pins
- Rotary fabric cutter, ruler and self-healing mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Sewing machine
How to make a tiered ruffle baby dress free sewing pattern:
Cut your baby dress pattern pieces:
2 pieces from my free tiered ruffle baby dress pattern – size 6 months (PDF) (one for front, one for back)
Now a quick note about the next two pieces, the middle and bottom tier pieces. For Jacinda’s coral watercolor striped fabric I wanted subtle gathers (not quite so poofy of ruffles). So here are the tiers I cut:
Middle tier: 17 x 5 (cut 2)
Bottom tier: 21 x 6 (cut 2)
BUT if you’d like to have fuller tiered ruffles for your baby dress pattern, use these measurements instead:
Middle tier: 20 x 5 (cut 2)
Bottom tier: 30 x 6 (cut 2)
And here’s a quick and dirty way to size up the pattern: Increase the front pattern piece on a copier until the width of the bottom edge is 1-1/2″ – 2″ wider than your model’s underarm to underarm width. Now measure the bottom width of this larger front piece pattern. Multiply the front piece bottom width by 1.5″ to get the middle tier width (for the fuller ruffles version). Then multiply the middle tier width by 1.5 to get the bottom tier width. Height-wise, the bottom tier should be 1″ taller than your middle tier to account for the hem, so measure your model and increase the middle and bottom tier heights as needed.
OK, so now that everything is cut, you’re going to take one of your second tier pieces and gather it until it fits the bottom width of the front piece, then sew the gathered middle tier to the bottom of the front piece. Let’s break it down…
First set your machine to a really wide straight stitch width (or basting stitch). I set mine to 4 which is the highest that my machine will go.
Now this is very important: You’re not going to backstitch when you start sewing this basting-slash-gathering stitch. Sew a straight gathering stitch about 1/4″ from the top edge of the middle tier.
Remember not to backstitch — instead leave a little tail on the end.
Sew a second gathering stitch just shy of 1/2″ parallel to your first row of stitching.
Starting on the left side, gently pull the two front threads, leaving the threads on the back alone (the wrong side) and gathering up the material as you pull. When your gathers reach the middle, shift to the two front threads on the right side and repeat.
Gathered the middle tier to the exact width of the front piece. You can see from the photo below that I put the gathered middle tier on top of the front piece to make sure it was the exact same width. Now starting on the left side, tie the two front gathering strands together into a knot.
Trim the threads.
Now repeat on the right side for the front and back threads. So why did I tie these off before making sure that my gathers were even? Well, if you first can constrain it to the proper overall width, then you can more easily wiggle your gathers around using your fingers to spread them as evenly as possible. This tie-off method also helps you flatten out the areas that will be inside the side seams so the fabric will lie flat there rather than catching part of your ruffle in the seam (keeping the frilly on the front instead of wasting it in the seams).
So back to the project at hand: even out your gathers and pin the gathered middle tier to the bottom of your front piece, wrong sides together.
Change your stitch length back to its normal, non-basting length. Sew 1/2″ seam, just to the left of your gathering stitch.
Now I’m going to topstitch this ruffle later — BUT if you aren’t going to topstitch then it’s a good idea to stitch again on top of your 1/4″ gathering stitch because it will help take some stress off of the seam, making it less likely that the gathered seam will break over time.
Flip open the middle tier. Now you have a nice ruffled top edge and a straight bottom edge. Time to attach the bottom tier.
Repeat the gathering step on the top edge of your bottom tier.
Gather until it’s the exact width of the bottom of your middle tier.
Tie off threads, even out your gathers, and pin the gathered edge of the bottom tier to the straight edge of middle tier, wrong sides together.
Sew and open.
If you’re lucky enough to have a serger and know how to thread it, it’s nice to overlock the edges. I zigzagged mine in lieu of overlocking.
Press the gathered edges.
And topstitch close to the fabric edge on the straight side of the tiers.
Here it is close up.
Repeat all of the above for the back of the dress. Now pin the back and the front of the dress, wrong sides together.
Sew 1/2″ seams along the sides — but make sure to stop at the bottom of the armholes! You’ll work on armholes in a minute.
Overlock or zigzag the seams and press.
OK now for the armholes. I followed the instructions for Prudent Baby’s apron dress pattern and will paraphrase here. Take a piece of single fold bias tape. I used white.
Open it up and pin it right sides together along the armhole edge.
Here’s what it looks like pinned on both sides.
Sew the single fold bias tape down by sewing along the folded edge that’s closest to the raw edge. Oof, nighttime lighting is rough…
Now flip the single fold bias tape to the inside of the dress.
And sew it down. Armholes are done!
Now for the top edge that’s going to hold your ribbon ties. Fold the top edge down 1/4″ and press.
Fold down again 3/4″ and press.
Pin from the front side.
And sew it down – this is a time where I like to use painter’s tape to make sure that I’m sewing a straight line (and catching all the fabric below that I need to catch).
Cut two 28″ pieces of 3/8″ grosgrain ribbon. Put a safety pin through the edge of one side.
Slide the safety pin through the casing and pull it through. Repeat on the other side.
Get out a lighter to very lightly singe the edges of the ribbon. You could probably do this before you thread the ribbon through, but I forgot so I did it after. Now when you do this, work very quickly. You want to just pass the edge of the grosgrain ribbon through the fire so that it seals off the ribbon from fraying. You don’t want to brown the ribbon. Best practice on a scrap piece first.
Now this step is optional: I decided to sew down the ribbon inside the casing so that it will always look properly gathered in the front. Personally, I don’t really like how apron dresses tend to lose a their gathering look in the casing (with the ribbons shifting and such) so I like to sew it down. So try on the dress, decide how gathered you want the neck to be, and then tack down the ribbon inside the casing on the left and right sides (for both the front and back of the dress).
Finally for the hem. Turn the bottom edge up 1/2″ and iron.
Turn it up 1/2″ again and iron.
Sew the hem down using the same color thread that you used to topstitch the tiers. Put it on your little one, add sunshine and lemonade.
Did you make it? Please post a comment and let me know how this craft idea works for you. And share your own photos at the MerrimentDesign.com Facebook page, “I made it!” flickr photo gallery or tweet a picture to @merrimentdesign.
COPYRIGHT NOTE: You’re more than welcome to use free pattern and how to step-by-step tutorial for your own personal use. Contact me for any commercial use – this includes etsy sellers.