Pattern Puzzle: Spiral dress

spiral_dress_steptwo_smFor a change of pace, I thought I would post a pattern puzzle in the making. I don’t know how well or poorly it will come out but who cares? One manages to learn something in the process. It has been a good exercise to practice my pattern making skills with StyleCAD.

I don’t have a sketch of it either but one of you can create one from the pattern pieces if you’re so inspired. If your pattern skills are such that you can’t tell what it will look like yet, this should also be a learning experience for you too.

I started with a very plain block, a child’s size 5 dress (hopefully this will become a real dress and then a present for my niece). I picked a child’s dress for two reasons. One is to minimize fabric loss if this project ends up as a wadder (wadder=only suitable to wad into a ball and throw away). Two, I made one of these before for myself and it got very complex with darting and what not so this style won’t complicate things unnecessarily.

Step one: Lay the front and backs together, marrying the pieces along one side seam.

Step two: draw the spiral lines. The lines will become cut lines, where the pieces will be separated from each other. Gee, that notching tutorial I wrote last week will come in handy, eh?

Step three: Pick a line to cut along. An image of what I mean is above right. It’s rather small so see the larger file if needed.

Step four: join the removed piece to the opposite side so you end up with continuous spirals. If you haven’t figured it out by now, there will be no side seams per se. This is illustrated below.


Step five: The pattern is almost ready to split apart for the next step in the pattern process. Before you cut it apart, I suggest numbering each piece consecutively. It would be a good idea to notch them.

Specifically, this is an interim stage so your notching should be designed to assist you. For example, I did not come up with a final production notching scheme. I designed one that would help me do the next step. Specifically, I need to add fullness to these sections and since I want to control it carefully, notching pieces identically was more helpful to me than not (shown below). I’ll worry about how to notch it for sewing later. For now, I need to be able to line pieces up exactly.


Step six: As the image below shows, I’ve started cutting each section apart.

Step seven: Now to add fullness to each section. Below you can see how I’ve split the first three sections down the center and pivoted the edges apart to create additional fullness along the hem line.

The goal is to spread each piece evenly so you end up with something that looks like the image below:

If you notice, the edges of the pattern above are slightly curved where as the edges between sections in step seven are perfectly straight. That’s because I do it a bit differently than how we’re taught in books. I think this way (above) is more elegant. More work certainly but more elegant. I have illustrated how to render this effect in the forum.

Anyway, this pattern is almost ready to do the fiddly portion. Namely, making facings, adding seam allowances, truing the seams for sewing, notching and all of that.


  1. Theresa in Tucson says:

    And is it the intent of the sprials to do contrasting colors such as a candy stripe or a barber pole? Looking forward to the next installment.Report

  2. Katherine says:

    That looks like it is going to be a gorgeous design. I’m looking forward to your forum entry on it.

    I have only used Corel Draw to make patterns so far and find the notching process difficult to do digitally. I presume that would be easy with a more specific program like StyleCAD?Report

  3. Kathleen says:

    I added the forum tutorial link to the entry.

    Theresa: I made one before with each section a different color -like a color wheel with red, orange, yellow,green etc. Don’t know what I’ll do with this one, don’t have any little girl fabric.

    Katherine: it is super simple to notch in stylecad. In any of the apparel cad systems. It amounts to typing “n” and clicking an edge where you want the notch. Right clicking a notch brings up its properties so you can change the type, size, cut depth, single or double, whether the notch should be smoothed (curve line), whether it should be graded or blended etc.Report

  4. Clara Rico says:

    Oh this looks like a fun project. This should make a great dress for twirling.
    My question is: How do you place the grainline. If you keep it perpendicular to the ground the pieces will be sewn on the bias. Not to mention, taking up way too much fabric. But, the garment as a whole would be on the straight of grain. Though, maybe this dress would well on the bias, with each piece cut ‘straight.’ All the better for twirling! :)Report

  5. Seth Meyerink-Griffin says:

    It seems like you could readily do this with any shell that already had the shape that you wanted. The only complication is that it would start being seriously wasteful of fabric, since you would start getting funny bends in your strips as they went around/through shaped portions of the shell (hips/waist, front/back darts, bust, etc.) You’d probably still want/need to add some small darts at strategic places to smooth out the whole shape, and it would probably be easier [for me] to get the lines in the “right” places by cutting up a shell rather than flat patterning, but not ridiculously complicated.

    For added fun, it would be interesting to place a #5 continuous zipper in every single seam. Hmmm. I might have to work on that one…Report

  6. Anita says:

    Hi. You can add darts if you want more shape at the waist: At the horizontal waist line, draw new short lines
    at a 90 degree angle on each side from the bias lines. Let’s say you want to remove 10 cm at waist, with 10 bias lines, I get it to 0,5 cm on each side of the bias line at waist, starting from zero at the horizontal bust height, to zero again at your widest part at seat area.
    Thank’s for a very inspiering website! I enjoy that whatever I am googling, I end up on your site! Pls keep on going. All the best’// Anita Stockholm, Sweden.Report

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