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Free Play Dress Pattern and Tutorial sz 12 month to 14 yr)

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Whoo-hoo!  I’m back in business with a new sewing machine and this Free Play Dress Pattern and Tutorial!  I was finally able to finish up this cute little shirred play dress and put together a tutorial to share!  (Uses my free printable peasant dress pattern that comes in sizes 12 months to 14 years.)

Easy to sew, free play-dress pattern and tutorial. (size 12 month to 10)

I started on this little dress several weeks ago and then my sewing machine stopped working right as I was in the middle of the shirring.

Ugh, so frustrating!!!

I updated the peasant dress pattern I used to make this dress and wanted to share everything at the same time.  (The pattern now goes up to size 14 and has a bit of a better fit, plus the pattern is formatted into just one file.  Be sure to get the new pattern if you haven’t already, it can be found on the original tutorial post.)

You will love how simple this dress is to make.  It’s peasant dress style with faux smocking (shirring with elastic thread) and an additional embellishment at the top.  (Which you could totally leave off.)

When I was planning this dress, I intended it to have a three-inch ruffle on the bottom.

As I started cutting the pattern pieces, I didn’t really pay attention to the amount of fabric I had-1 yard of a 56 inch wide knit, which isn’t enough for her size with a three-inch ruffle.  I could have made it longer, but I had already cut the skirt to the length for ruffles, so it was too late.

Oh, well, if she wears this as a true play-dress, she would wear shorts or leggings underneath anyway, so I guess it doesn’t really matter…

I do plan on adding three buttons to the embellishment, but I couldn’t find any of my hand sewing needles and it was already close to bedtime, so I went ahead and snapped these pictures without them…

Much cuter with buttons don’t you think?  (They still aren’t sewn on, but that’s next on my list I promise!)

Are you ready to make one of these play dresses for your little one?

In addition to the materials needed for the regular peasant dress, you will need elastic thread, an extra bobbin, coordinating fabric scraps, and 3 buttons.

Jump over to the peasant dress tutorial and follow the instructions to make the dress, but do not add the elastic to the neckline.  (You will do that after adding the embellishment and shirring.)

Starting with your completed peasant dress (except for the elastic in the neckline of course and let’s pretend I am demonstrating on an actual dress instead of just a cutout.)

Measure from the seam of the casing to about 1 inch below the armhole.  Add .75 to that measurement (this is the “height” of the embellishment).

Cut 2 pieces of fabric.  One should be your measurement (height) by 3 inches wide.  The other piece should be your measurement (height) times 1.75 by 3.25 wide.

Fold the smaller piece in half, right sides together, matching up the long sides and sew along the edge using a 3/8 inch seam allowance.  Trim excess fabric from seam allowance.

Flip the fabric tube right side out and tuck the top and bottom edges in about 3/8 inch and press flat.

Sew a basting/gathering stitch down the middle of the larger fabric piece.  Pull on the bobbin thread to gather up the fabric until it is about the same height as the fabric tube.


Pin the fabric tube to the gathered fabric.


Pin the embellishment to the center front of the dress and sew along the edges as shown below.


The next step is to sew with the elastic thread to create the shirring on the bodice.  If you have never sewn with elastic thread, I have a pretty good tutorial for shirring with elastic thread on my Simple Shirred Sundress Tutorial.  (Skip to step 9 on that tutorial and read about how to shirr.)

Line the bodice up under the needle, right up against the embellishment.  Shirr in straight lines about 3/8 to 1/2 inch apart.  (whatever works best w/ your fabric.  If you are sewing on stripes, you may want to align the shirring with the stripes.)

Stop the shirring at the bodice/ sleeve seam.  You will want to cut the threads and pull them through to the other side and tie the loose threads in little knots.  (The elastic thread is pretty stretchy, so make sure you pull enough out to be able to tie a knot.)  Keep shirring on the same side until you are happy with how far down the shirring goes.  Then flip the dress around and shirr on the other side of the embellishment.  (Once I got below the armhole seam, I shirred all the way around the dress without stopping.)

Once the front is done, flip the dress over and shirr the back of the bodice.


Tie off all the loose threads, add the elastic to the neckline casing and close the casing.  That’s it, you’re done!

Have your little one try it on and go out and play!

If you make one of these dresses, be sure to come back and share it on my facebook page.  Nothing makes me happier than knowing someone actually made something using a tutorial I shared!

As always, if you liked this project, be sure to pin it!        

My favorite fabric shop for knits:  Funkalicious Fabrics.
  1. My Sewing Machine: SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist
  2. My Serger: Brother 1034D 3 or 4 Thread Serger or you can just use Pinking Shears
  3. Rotary Cutter
  4. I love my large ruler and large cutting mat, but you may prefer to start of with a smaller Cutting set
  5. Dritz Dual Purpose Marking Pen and Fray Check
  6. Ball Point needles
  7. Singer walking foot or universal walking foot
  8. Blind hem foot.
  9. Wonder clips (I didn’t use these in the post, but they are just awesome!

Are you looking for more easy sewing projects for your little girl?  Be sure to check these out:

Princess Peasant Top

Flat Front Skirt Tutorial/Pattern

Sweet Summer Sundress

Polished Pillowcase Pattern

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  1. I have made 3 dresses from this pattern. Now I want to make 1 for my cousin's grand-daughter. Please can you advise me on how to re-size the pattern fora 9 year old.

    Thank you ,


  2. Difference in size 8 to 12:
    Size 8 child's height: 53 inches size 12 child's height: 57.5
    Size 8 child's chest: 27 inches size 12 child's chest: 30
    Size 8 armscye: 12 Size 12 armscye: 13.25

    This would be my best guess: raise the bodice/arm hole 1.5 to 2 inches. Add .75 inches to the width of the bodice pattern (You are cutting two on the fold, so once sewn together, that will be 3 inches) and at least 4.5 inches to the length, though just measure your child to get the perfect length.
    Good luck, let me know if you make one!

  3. Sewing Melissa says:

    would love to upgrade the sizing to 10/12. ? how much do i need to add

    1. When I get back to my office, I will give you the difference in width and height between a size 8 and either a 10 or 12. (I'm not sure how far up in size the chart goes.) You can use the slash and spread method and up size the pattern.

  4. Schulz Family says:

    I popped over from sew many ways as soon as I saw shirring. I bought elastic to do that about a month ago but have stopped as I felt it was a bit hard to get going (having not done it before). Thanks for your links and examples – now I need to get it underway

  5. Lilly's Mom says:

    Wow, I am so envious of your sewing skills. This is a darling little dress you made. Beautiful!

  6. I have been wanting to try something like this! Thanks for the tutorial and pattern!

  7. Oh that is so cute! I've got way too much on my sewing plate right now – but I know I just NEED to make someone one of these – it's adorable!

  8. Wen from What's Mummy Up To says:

    I love this … bought some cute knit fabrics recently and might give this a go for my two I think. It would look cute with a long-sleeve top underneath for winter too I think!! Thanks!

  9. kristi dominguez says:

    Absolutely presh, Ashley!!! Thank you for linking up and partying with us!

  10. Works great on wovens, I just prefer sewing/wearing (no ironing) with knits…
    Good luck!

  11. This is adorable! Do you think it would work in a woven as well? I love the effect of the shirring!

  12. Michelle Carlson says:

    Wow, it looks so cute and your stitches are spot on. Great work.

  13. amy mayen says:

    Adorable dress & photos! Are you going to show your new machine? Did you see the Babylock serger at Melly Sews? It has a vacuum that sucks up the thread through the loops and into the needle. Now nothing else seems good enough, lol!! Anyways, thanks for the tut & hope you're loving the new machine!