I picked up this pretty voile at City Craft during my visit to Dallas and was so excited to make a little summer dress for Scarlet (you can find this fabric online here).  I used elastic thread to create shirring, which is nothing new, except I figured out how to make elastic thread work in my drop-in bobbin!  Any of you that have a newer machine might be frustrated that elastic thread just won’t seem to work!  I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and camped out, messing with the machine until I had it figured out.

I’ll tell you what worked for me as well as share this Sweet Shirred Summer Dress pattern after the jump…

Sweet Shirred Summer Dress

1.  Wash, dry and cut your fabric.  It’s better to use a light weight fabric for this dress, I used a voile.  You could use a regular printed cotton but it might not shirr as well (when i tested it out it didn’t gather as prettily).  You can cut two panels (one for the front, one for the back) into rectangles with no armholes and it will work just fine when shirred, but I cut a j-shaped armhole to make it extra deep.  You want the width to be about 2 times the width of your finished chest measurement.  But again, you don’t need to be to specific and the best way is just to look at a dress that fits your giftee and cut a piece 1.5 up to 2 times wider then that dress.  For the length, cut it the length you want from the top of the chest to below the knee, plus 1″.

2.  Start by folding the top edge of each piece in 1/4″ and iron, another 1/4″ and iron, and hem in place:

3.  Now to shirr.  If you are using a sewing machine with a bobbin case, handwind your elastic thread around the bobbin.  If you are using a drop-in bobbin machine, that might work, but for most new machines it won’t.  Usually you need toa djust the bobbin tension, but I don’t like to mess with that.  Some people keep two seperate bobbins, one with the factory tension and one adjusted for elastic thread.  I messed around with sewing shirring a bunch of different ways WITHOUT adjusting the bobbin tension, and what worked for my machine was actually the easiest – using the bobbin winder to wind the bobbin so the elastic thread was stretched out, and then setting the stitch width to 3.5.  Doing this, I got a perfect shir.  So you load elastic thread into the bobbin and regular thread in a coordinating color on the top.  If you are nervous about sewing straight lines, you can pre-draw the lines 1/4″ apart starting 1/4″ below your hem with a water or air-erasable marker.  I did it without drawing.  Sew 8 lines 1/4 apart, back stitching at the beginning and end:

This is what it looks like from the back:

Repeat on the other piece.

4.  Now lay your front and back pieces right sides facing and sew the sides together from the bottom to just below the armhole:

Finish by serging, sewing with an overlock or zig zag stitch, or just cutting with pinking shears:

5.  Now hem the bottom.  I serged a rolled hem but you can do a traditional hem by folding and ironing 1/4″ then another 1/4″ and stitching in place with a straight or blind hem stitch.

6.  Now grab your double fold bias tape and check which side is shorter.  That’s the side you want on top.  Fold the length of tape in half to find the middle, then unfold and pin the open short side to the center of the armhole:

Continue to pin all the way around:

Sew in place along the fold:

Now fold the tape over to the inside, encasing your unfinished edge, and pin:

Sew in place.  I didn’t have matching yellow thread so I carefully sewed just inside the bias tape, catching the bottom edge:

Repeat on the other armhole.

Tie the ends of the bias tape in knots.  You’re done!
sit back and relax:

or read Goodnight Moon…

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