How to Make a Shirred Fabric Summer Dress





Introduction: How to Make a Shirred Fabric Summer Dress

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This week a special SewingTips 101 will show you how to shirr fabric and create a cool new summer dress. So check out the videocheck out the video and get to work on some easy breezy summer clothes! For more DIY projects, subscribe to Threadbanger on iTunes!

For this project you will need:

Elastic thread
Regular Thread
A Sewing Machine

Step 1: Test It Out

For this dress you'll need to buy elastic thread and hand wind the elastic thread around the bobbin. Then put the bobbin in the machine and, using regular thread for the top, set your machine to a straight stitch with the longest length possible.I suggest first using a test strip for trying out shirring before you start on the actual garment. Make sure you lock your stitches and if the first row works, then create a few more rows at about half an inch apart. Use your presser foot as a guide.

Step 2: Make the Dress

Make a very simple rectangle pattern using the bust width and any desired length. Corinne measured from her armpit to two inches above the knee. Then iron the fabric and align your pattern to be parallel with crosswise grain of you fabric. Pin the pattern to the fabric and cut out the fabric. Repeat so you have two pieces. Place the front sides together and pin down one side. Using regular thread in the bobbin and a shorter stitch length, sew down the pinned side. Press your seam and sew down both sides of the seam. Next add a hem to the top and bottom of the garment.

Step 3: Finishing It Up

Put elastic thread bobbin back in you machine and do about 20 rows of shirring. Replace the elastic bobbin with regular thread, and sew the sides of the garment together. Press the seam and sew down both sides of the seam. For a center next strap cut out a long inch and half wide strip of fabric. Fold the long edges into the center and fold in half and sew around all the edges. Fold the center in half, as pictured, and sew together. Finally, sew the strap to the front top center of the garmen as a halter strap. And your new shirred summer dress is complete- enjoy!



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    How Much Fabric to Get

    The original poster is not answering questions. Though many were asked long ago, I am answering because it is a popular instructable and I have over 40 years of sewing experience.

    It all depends on how wide the fabric is and how big you are. If you want to use woven cotton fabric, and have a bust under 40", just buy the length of fabric that you want to dress to be in length, plus some extra for the straps. If you are plus and your bust is larger than the 45" width cotton fabric comes in, then you would need to buy twice the length you want the dress. BUT you don't want to use both full widths across of 45" or it will be way too big and bulky. Unless you have an 80" or so bust.

    Let's say you are a big beautiful woman and your bust is 55" and you want the dress to be 45" long. (I am 5' 4" and that is ankle length for me) A nice cotton fabric that's 44" or 45" wide will not fit around your bust (nor mine), so you must have TWO lengths of fabric, one for the front, one for the back of 45" wide fabric. to make a dress that will fit around your girls.

    Oh, I hear you thinking. Why can't I run the fabric sideways? It's best to not try and fudge and run the long length of the fabric around you sideways. Garments should be made up and down the long length of the fabric, the way it comes off the bolt unless the Zombie Apocalypse happens. The manner in which fabric is woven makes it hang all wrong when it is hung sideways on a body. It won't look good or right.

    So 45" length for the front, 45" length for the back, plus 4" for the four hems - a 1/2" one at the top and at the bottom (a double fold of 1/2" at the top and bottom of each of the two pieces means an inch gets used up at top and bottom of the front and of the back). (4 x 1" = 4"). Did that make sense? A half inch seam means that your fold over 1/2" of the raw fabric edge neatly, iron and fold 1/2" over again, iron flat, then sew it down. That's happening in four places.

    You won't be using the full width of each 45" piece across your body so we'll have plenty left over for whatever kind of straps you want to make. Fabric is sold by the yard, but can also cut in one long length with an additional increment of a partial yard if needed. We needed 94" of fabric. Fabric is almost never cut exactly straight across at some stores, so adding a little might not be a bad idea.

    94" is 14" less than 3 yards, so I would just go ahead and buy 3 yards. So any plus person with a bust over 40" or so wanting a 45" long dress needs 3 yards. Any person with a bust under 40" needs to buy whatever length of fabric they want the dress to be, plus maybe 4 inches more to have plenty for straps of whatever style you want. You CAN fudge most straps and cut them sideways on the fabric instead of lengthways if you are trying to be as economical as possible

    I've tried this but the elastic is always to tight. What am i doing wrong?

    2 replies

    Make sure you are using a long stitch length. Also do not stretch the elastic when you wind it on the bobbin. If you still have trouble, try searching with Google for shirring fabric on your brand and model. Some are finicky, but most work easily. You owner's manual may even tell you how to do it on your machine. You can find your manual online if you need to.

    How do you lock your thread? Our sewing machines never had that button of magic!

    2 replies

    She means to "backstitch". Start sewing forward a few stitches (as far as a half inch), and then put the machine in reverse to go back to the starting point at the edge of the fabric, then sew forward in the normal manner. The backward stitches go through the thread of the earlier stitches, locking them to the fabric so they cant be easily pulled out during wearing the garment or washing it. This does not work well with super thin fabrics as they will tear sometimes. It's done a bit slower than normal sewing to make sure you have full control of what's happening.

    The way to lock your stitch is to sew forward, then stop. Sew in reverse over top of your previous stitch and stop. Sew forward again. You can repeat that, but I only do it once or twice so the stitch still looks neat on the finished piece. If you don't know how to sew in reverse on your machine, just refer to the manual. My machine (it's a very basic Brother ) has a little switch on the front right side that you must hold down in order to sew in reverse, then let it go and it will sew forward again.

    ok my machiene does not allow me to put elastic thread in the bobbin and then through to the top of the machiene. What are my options?

    1 reply

    The bobbin thread is the one in the bottom of the machine. It does not go to the top.

    I'm having the opposite problem. My elastic thread keeps bunching and curving, rather than the straight threads I see sewn in the pictures.Love this dress, but I'm having troubles sewing it. Any advice?

    1 reply

    It probably has to do with adjusting your thread tension. There are a few brands and models of machines that just don't shirr well without special adjustments. Consult your manual. If you can't find the physical manual, find it online Most are available. Find with Google. Also Google using "shirring fabric with XXXmodelBrand". Insert your brand and model name or number of your own machine. There are tons of sewing forums and tutorials for free online.

    It can make a difference how tightly you wind the elastic on the bobbin. For most machines, it's only supposed to be tight enough to hold it on the bobbin, not stretched. She stretches hers in the video, and most tutorials do not have you stretch the elastic, but very slightly stretching it may be what's needed for yours.

    Remember to clean all the dust and threads out of the bobbin case and under it after each project since that can cause all sorts of issues. Refer to your owner's manual how to clean and lubricate.

    A friend is giving me sewing lessons & I just attempted to make this, as my FIRST ever project completely by myself. And it actually turned out okay! There are some things I should have done a little differently, or paid attention to more, as I was doing it. But I'm just so proud of myself! Thanks for making such a great instructable of such a cute dress! I may be heading to the fabric store later today to buy more fabric & make another one ... this time not committing the same errors! Thanks again! Love it!

    1 reply

    Wow, if that was your first project sewing, I am impressed. It is not considered a beginner project, more like intermediate.

    Please forgive my ignorance because I am very, very new at sewing, but I'm curious is the bust measurement all the way around the body or just from armpit to armpit?

    2 replies

    The bust measurement is all around the body at the fullest part of the bust

    as a large busted woman I would say depends on if you are large or small on top...personally, I would measure arm pit to arm pit for front & back ...then go from there.

    does anyone know how to attach pre shirred and non shirred fabric together?  im making a long dress with a shirred top, but the bottom is out of a different fabric.  any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    2 replies

    This is probably too late but... Have you ever made a ruffle? (If you haven't you can make a ruffle by basting 2 lines of stitching at the top of the bottom fabric without backstitching the ends; the way to ruffle it is pulling the threads on each end and moving the ruffle along the fabric) If you choose to so it this way you will want to have the shirred piece right side out and the ruffle wrong side out, match the bottom of the shirred with the top edge of the ruffle and sew along the baste lines (after the ruffle is as tight as it needs to be. I would suggest using the elastic thread bobbin for this) When the ruffle is attached it will fold downward over the edge of the seam.

    The only problem I see using the gathering method to take up a flat leangth of fabric to attach to the bottom of shirring is that then that part of the dress does not stretch, making it less comfortable. Instead, I would use a lot of pins closely space to attach the flat fabric, stretching the shirring out while pinning and stretching it again while sewing. Of course, the ideal way is to have a long enough piece of fabric for the whole length of the dress and just shirr the top part, like the tutorial shows.