This weekend I made a twirl dress for Clementine to wear to a friend’s Nutcracker performance. I used the Flashback Tee pattern (size 9/10) and added a circle skirt. She was delighted. Both the fact that it’s pink and it’s got major twirl are big selling points for her. I’ve made her a number of Flashback dresses before, most involving two gathered rectangles, but the twirl skirt was such a big win I’m not sure she’ll let me make another gathered one. We’ll see.
Here’s a quick how-to just in case you want to make one with your Flashback tee pattern!
You will need:
- Flashback tee sewing pattern
- Knit fabric*
- Stretch or ballpoint needle
- serger (recommended but not required)**
*Additional yardage is absolutely necessary in order to make the circle skirt, especially if you want the circle to have no seams. I purchased 3 yards of this pink double brushed poly knit (see my quick guide to knits for more info on the different types of knit and how they differ), and ended up with about 30″ left over after I was finished (this is a size 9/10). However, if you are making a smaller size or want a shorter skirt (this one was 25″ long), you’d definitely need less than that. My best advice is to sketch out your skirt ahead of time (see the diagrams below) and use that to calculate how much additional yardage you’ll need beyond what the tee calls for.
**Serger. Do ya need one? My head says no but my heart says yes. Check out my Do you need a serger post for more thoughts on this. Could I have made this dress as quickly without my serger? No. Could it have been more mindful and relaxing process if I had used Natalie Chanin’s hand-stitching knit techniques to sew all of the seams? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t be finished with the dress yet. And that smooth waist seam is easier to achieve with a serger than with a sewing machine.
Step 1: Crop the bodice pattern piece
You need to shorten the tee bodice pattern piece if you want the waist seam to land near the waist and not the hip.
I first folded the Flashback Tee bodice pattern piece in half from hem to armpit, but the skirt was so heavy (it’s super stretchy poly and has quite a bit of weight) so had to crop it higher up for the waist to land where I wanted it to. This ended up being roughly 1/3 of the way down from the armpit. You may want to start by cropping the pattern halfway between armpit and hem, pin the skirt on, and see how it looks before you sew it.
Step 2: Sew the tee
Cut out the fabric for the tee (bodices, sleeves, neckband) and sew it together. Skip hemming the tee. I added ruffled cuffs rather than hemming the sleeves.
Step 3: Cut out the circle skirt
Here’s where it gets a little tricky but stay with me.
To make a circle skirt, you cut a big circle with a little circle cut out of the center (for the waist). The radius of the big circle minus the radius of the little circle is the length of your circle skirt (I made mine about 25″ long, though I ended up trimming away a bit of length at the sides and mid-way to the center since she wanted a bit of an uneven cascading look when it was hanging down).
To get the radius of the little circle, first take the width across the bottom of the finished tee, and divide by 3.14 (that’s right: PI, you math nerds!):
width of tee / 3.14 = X
Now take X and subtract 1/2″ to get the radius of the small circle:
X – 1/2″ = R
“R” is the radius of the little circle, and R in my diagrams below. The reason that you subtract 1/2″ from X before cutting this circle is a safety measure: you actually need the circle skirt waist to be a teensy bit smaller than the tee waist, and it’s ALWAYS BETTER TO CUT THAT CIRCLE SMALLER THAN TOO BIG!!!
Now cut your skirt out. Cut this way if you want side and back seams (I did mine this way); you also save on fabric if you do it this way:
Cut out your skirt this way if you want it to be a continuous circle, no seams:
Step 4: Sew and attach the skirt
You’ll need to sew the sides and back seam together if you cut it out the way I did, then pin and sew the skirt to the tee, right sides together. To achieve a nice smooth waist seam, I sewed them together without pulling or stretching the fabric out at all. I tried it first with my sewing machine on a zig zag stitch (to try it on), then ran it through my serger with the differential set to 1.7 once I was happy with the location of the waist seam.
Twirly dress, achieved!
For extra overachiever points, sew a matching one for the doll. Heh heh heh, yeah. I DID. Not the first time, either.