Dot to Dot Sewing – Little Girl’s Basic Shift Dress (Part 1)

People tend to think sewing is hard. I would contend that it’s a way over thought process for most. I like to see sewing as drawing a giant dot to dot picture. Nobody has to have any special talents to draw a dot to dot picture. (That’s why I like them!) It doesn’t take any special talents to measure out a few dots, connect them and cut them out for sewing either!

how to sew a basic shift dress

(I promise my little girl doesn’t always look so tragical! Something about cameras… As for the big girl, an open mouth with noise coming out is fairly accurate.)

dot to dot sewing

Today I’m going to show you how to make a basic little girl’s shift dress (or tunic). We are going to draw our own pattern, dot to dot style. You’ll need to know just a few measurements of your little lady before you start. You’ll need to know the her width around, how long you want the dress/tunic to be, and how wide/low you want the neck.

Start with some paper, a ruler, and a pen. I usually like to use freezer paper because it’s large, cheap, and sturdy. I used just a regular piece of paper for this though, because their tops are so small. My two girls wear just about the same size, just one is taller than the other. I’m drawing my pattern for a smallish 4T.

dot to dot sewing little girls shift

Starting from the long side, measure out one fourth of the width of your child. If you are using a stretch knit fabric you won’t need to add any to the width. If you are using a woven fabric, add one inch.

sew a basic shift dress

Now go to the top left corner. Measure out from the corner one fourth of how wide you want the neck. For a small 4T size, my measurement was 2 and a half inches.

sew a girls shift dress

Measure down the side how deep you want the neck to be. For this small 4T size, I marked one inch down. (This is for the back neck, the front should be at least an inch lower!)

sew a girls shift dress

Connect those two dots with a curved ruler, or just eyeball it. It’s not rocket science so don’t stress it.

sew a shift dress

Now measure down the side line that you drew, three quarters of an inch.

how to sew a girls dress

Draw a line between the neck, and this dot. This is your shoulder seam line.

sew a basic shift dress

You never just want a shoulder seam to go straight across, as it will give you an extra bunch of fabric under the arm pits. If you look in a mirror, shoulders slope downwards, so you want to follow that line when sewing.

The last step is to flair out the side just slightly. If I follow this line, I can have a long A-line dress, or leave it short for just a loose tunic.

chapter37 basic girls shift dress

That is the back of the dress. Follow the same steps for the front of the dress, but lower the neckline. I also added a dot on the outer side, 4 inches from the top. This shows me where the sleeve opening should end. (I did 5 inches on the big girl’s dress for a looser sleeve.)


That’s it for the pattern! See? Measuring out dots, and then connecting them isn’t so hard is it? Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to add a cuff, and a facing to the neck. I used this basic pattern for the top of this dress…

sew a basic shift dress

…and added length to it for this dress.

chapter37 basic shift dress

I don’t want to have information overload in one post (After all, my intention is to persuade you into thinking sewing is fast, fun and easy!), so we’ll finish up with the sewing tomorrow!

Updated: You can find Part 2 HERE.

 Isaiah 40:12   Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 

Linking to:
Suger Bee Crafts
Chef in Training
Made to be a Momma
Your Whims Wednesday
Someday Crafts
One Little Momma
Sew Much Ado
Sun Scholars
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About Abby

I'm a mom and blogger. I love all things creative! Follow along at
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9 Responses to Dot to Dot Sewing – Little Girl’s Basic Shift Dress (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Dot to Dot Sewing – Little Girl’s Basic Shift Dress (Part 2) - Chapter37

  2. How cute! This is such a good idea and looks fairly easy!

  3. Pingback: Dot to Dot Sewing – Basic Woman’s Top Tutorial - Chapter37

  4. Pingback: Dot to Dot Sewing – Tunic Top for Girls - Chapter37

  5. Donna says:

    This is a really great tutorial to whip up an easy dress for a newcomer like me. The fabric you used appears to be a knit. Will this pattern work on cottons and linens as well.
    Thanks again for an easy tutorial.

  6. Zoe Smith says:

    Wow! I really need these steps to make dress for my sister. Now it will be easier for me to make dress. Thank you.

  7. Eryn says:

    Is there a way to add longer sleeves? Any suggestions? Also, I bought some basic cotton fabric, would that work for this or would knit be more playable and park friendly. Nervous about needing to do a zipper or buttons. Thanks!

  8. sara says:

    Hi I am a beginner. Which part of my child do I measure her width from? around her belly button, under armpits? Thanks

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