I know exactly what you were just thinking: 'I wonder if vegbee could show me exactly how to make a dashiki?' Isn't it freaky how intuitive I am with these things?

Yearn no longer! My daughter's preschool is doing an Africa theme over the next few months, and her teacher asked if I could make up a few garments to support their theme. So, I did. One of the things I like to do when I learn how to make something new is to attempt spread the method about, somewhat like influenza.

The basic shape of a dashiki is an A-line with wide bell shaped sleeves. Since unstretchy woven material is used (cotton, linen, or such), the neck has a slit in it vertically on the front to allow the head to actually get in.

I made my own pattern by starting with four measurements:

A = the desire arm length measure from neck down arm
B = armhole width circumference of the upper arm multiplied by 0.75 [or 3/4 of your upper arm measurement]

C = chest width chest circumference plus 5" for a child or 10" for an adult, then divided by 4

D = desired length measure from back of neck down

To begin, find yourself a rectangular piece of paper in the same dimensions of your A x D. The following picture shows how to apply your measurements to create a pattern piece that is to be cut along length-wise folded fabric:

If you mark the point where measurements B and C connect, then you can draw a gentle A-line out from that mark for the bodice, and a bell type curve for the sleeve.

To create the neckline DO NOT WING IT. A guessimated neckline is usually too big, particularly over the shoulders. Trust me on this: I've made this mistake so many times its embarrassing. Instead, there are two good methods I use frequently. One, get yourself a well fitting shirt of woven material from your closet and trace the neckline. Two, find yourself a curve square (also called a french curve), like so:
Marked on the square is the actual part of the curve that is typically used as a neckline curve by people who actually know what they are doing (how I envy them). The curve square will also do arm hole curves and all sorts of standardized measurements for our curvy bodies. Since I figured out how they work, I use mine all the time.

If you scroll back up to the picture with the main pattern piece, you'll notice a smaller sickle shaped piece just above it. That is the facing pattern piece for the neckline. To make one, trace your neckline curve, and make another curve above 1 1/2" below. Add a sticky down yoke bit (stop me if I'm getting too technical) about 3" long to support the slit in the neckline and you are off and running.

Cut two dashiki pieces on a length-wise fold from your newly minted pattern. Note: Your pattern does not include hem or seam allowances, you must add them when cutting.

Cut two neckline interfacing pieces from the same material. Add seam allowances to the end of the curve.
Since we do not actually need two sticky down yoke things, cut off one of the dingles on one piece to serve as the facing on the back of the neck.

Place the two neckline facing pieces right sides together and stitch at the top of the curves like so:Finish the outside edge of the neckline facing with a zig zag stitch or a serger. (The inside edge we will be sewing to the dashiki so don't worry about it.)

To sew the dashiki, put the two pieces right sides together and stitch along the top of the shoulders and along both sides, like so:Hem the bottom of the dashiki and the arm openings.
To sew on the neck facing, align the shoulder seams with the seams on the facing right sides together. Pin the whole thing in place. Using chalk or washable marker, draw a line down the centre of the sticky down part from the neck to about 1/2" from the bottom. This is to be the place where we will slit open the neckline.Stitch around the neckline, joining the dashiki and facing. When you encounter your marked line, stitch down one side of the line coming to a point at the end and then (with your needle in the fabric) lift the presser foot to swivel the fabric to stitch back up the other side of the line. Try to make your stitches only 1/8" or less away from your first line going down.A word of caution. Do not back stitch or bunch up your stitches at the point. The less stitching in the area, the nicer the point will be in your opening.

Cut your fabric from the neckline to as far as you can go along your marked line. Be very careful not to cut your stitches.Clip the corners at the top of the neckline slit and turn the facing inside the dashiki, wrong sides together. Press the neck line flat.

Top stitch around the neckline at about 1/8".
And that is that.

This is a free tutorial and I encourage you to use the information in any way you need to (check the disclaimer at the bottom of the page). If it works for you, please consider supporting my etsy shop by purchasing a Little Print Design pattern or toss a dollar or two in my paypal to show appreciation and to encourage me to offer up even more quality patterns and tutorials.

Thank you!
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  1. Oooh, this is excellent! So intuitive, yet so useful. I saw some gorgeous African-style prints at Walmart yesterday.

  2. I made one! Thank you.

  3. Oh my goodness, thank you! My Dashiki I had as a kid was my fav. piece of clothing. Now i can make a new one and a matching one for my daughter! I can't wait

  4. Awesome tutorial!! (And your daughter is precious! Those EYES...)

    I blogged your tutorial at Craft Gossip Sewing Blog:

  5. Love it-thanks! Can't wait to try it're awesome. You know that right?

  6. I love this, my kiddo is a Montessorian also, so I understand the lengths that a mom will go to to help out with that process. I have some very similar fabric with safari animals on it so I will have to try this out for her. I was also thinking it would make a cute swimsuit cover up.

  7. Thanks all for the encouraging comments!

  8. I love it, it's gorgeous! Love the simplicity, and yet beauty - I may have to stop by when we're closer to summer, it's such a great summer garment! :)

  9. woo hoo! I like your blog!! I'll have to try this for my baby! Thanks!

  10. Hey Thanks! I have made these out of old beach sarungs-but the neck was always a problem. You gave an easy to understand and do neck! Thank You.

  11. You and your family rock! This is an awesome blog. You bring so much joy into my life through the things you do. Keep up the great work.

  12. Awesome shirt and tutorial. Thank you so much. Bookmared it for later use.

  13. Thank you! Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to find a pattern for this in plus sizes? I've bookmarked this page.

  14. Hi, i really want to try this one on my 1 year old girl, but mmm im having trouble..i have that same curved just that i dont know how to use it ..
    would you please explain me or when to use it?


  15. Magik,
    a french curve ruler gives you nice people shaped curves. On my ruler it actually gives you the measurements to use for the different parts of a garment (arm curve, neck curve, etc). I think it might be a good idea to explore this topic later in a tutorial, since it is really helpful when resizing patterns, another topic I'd like to cover more completely, but for this project right now I suggest you find a well fitting shirt already in your daughter's closet and use that as a guide for the neckline.

    I hope that helps, and I will definitely revisit this topic sometime as a tutorial. In the meanwhile, some web searches may be able to help you out with how to use the curve square.

  16. Oh lobe it! Great tutorial. I could SO see one of these longer, in a sheer gauze as a swinsuit cover up, or what about just making one sheer to wear with a lacy tank? Perfect for the beach or a humid summer evening to keep from becoming a feast for the skeeters!

  17. Thank you! I'm going to try the neckline out for a shirt for my ds - he has a HUGE head and a tiny body so its hard to find shirts that work!

  18. Your little girl looks very adorable in this shirt. I´ve made peasant blouse as your tutorial and want to say thanks for that

  19. This is great. It would make a super dress as well as a top, and the instructions convert easily enough to adult sizes too! Thanks.

  20. hi, thanks for the wonderful tutorial! the technique around the neckline is so simple that for the first time i got a nice and neat neckline.

    But i think i got my measurement for B wrong. i measured my daughters arm hole and it was 15, so i took B=15*.75=12, now i have a big hole around the arm.pls tell me where i went wrong!

    thanks buvana

  21. Yay for the internet! I donated a few bucks! My kiddo needs a dashiki for an international holiday performance at his school next month. I'm not a seamstress by any means, but even trying to hunt down a (Simplicity, McCall's, etc.) pattern, this was the only one I could find! So thanks! I had some issues with the yoke piece and the measurements (specifically the armpit area) but it will work just fine for our purposes! Here's ours: (and the hat I just winged, too!)