The other night I made myself a shirred top. And then last night I made another shirred dress for Isabelle so I thought I would take some pictures and show how it’s done, a tutorial! You can click on all the pictures to see them larger.
- Fabric (I used less than 3/4 yard for Isabelle’s dress and probably less that 1 1/2 yards for my top. Look below at measuring to figure out how much you will need. )
- Elastic Thread
The dress is simply two rectangles and the straps 4 rectangles. You can play around with the numbers to adjust how full the dress is or how long or short to make it into a top.
Cut 2 pieces for dress:
Width- Measure around chest right under armpit.
Length- Measure from armpit down to desired length then add 2 inches.
For marking- armpit down to where you want shirring to end.
Example: Isabelle is 18.5 inches around the chest and I wanted her dress to be 19 inches long so I ended up with 2 pieces at 19 x 21. My top actually came out fuller then I would have liked using the above formula. (See what I mean about playing with the numbers.) Next time I want it slimmer so I’ll reduce the width. I think I could have probably gone down a good 10 inches.
Now the straps. Again you can play with these numbers but don’t go too short or you won’t have anything to tie with. And don’t go too skinny because it’s harder to sew.
Cut 4 pieces for straps:
Width- Desired width of strap times 4.
Length- Measure up from the armpit to the top of your shoulder. Then add 10 inches to that. (Please double check this with your tape measure to see if it’s a comfortable length to tie with.)
Example: Isabelle’s straps were 14 x 1.5 and mine were 22 x 2. I wanted my straps a teensy bit wider.
1. I start with the strap pieces. You will do this with each of the 4 strap pieces. On one of the short sides I fold it up about 1/4 of an inch, wrong sides together (I iron all my folds). Then I fold the long side in half, wrong sides together. Open that up so you are left with a crease then fold the two edges of the long side to meet the crease you just made. And then fold once more so the edges are all inside.
Sew to close. Highlighted in red for example.
2. Next we move onto the dress pieces. You want to edge finish one side of your rectangle, the side where you got your chest measurement. For Isabelle that was the 19 inch side. I just use a zig zag stitch all the way down. Do that to both pieces.
3. Next is the strap placement. It’s sort of worrisome doing the straps first but it seems to work. If you’re worried it might not, you can adjust my directions and add the straps last. You want the straps at 1/4 and 3/4 along your piece. So fold your dress piece in half, wrong sides together with the zig zag edge on top. Then fold again. Line up one strap along the fold on the right side of your fabric with the unfinished edge of the strap along the zig zag edge. I like the nice clean edge of the strap to be the one showing on the sides so the stitched sides are closer to the neck. Mark your strap at 5/8 inch down.
4. Sew your strap to your dress piece by sewing a rectangle. Sew down to where your 5/8 inch mark is. Highlighted in red for example.
Repeat with the other 3 straps and you should have 2 dress pieces that look like this with the straps attached.
5. Next you sew the side seams right sides facing together using 5/8 inch seam allowance. Then finish the seams. Sew, mama, sew has a good post on seam finishes simplified.
6. Fold top edge with straps down 3/4 inch and iron.
7. Fold hem up 1/2 inch and iron. Then fold again 3/4 inch and iron. Sew the hem. If you are making a top you might want to have a more narrow hem, at 1/4 and 1/4 inch. Just adjust the size of your piece accordingly.
Now you should have a tube like this.
8. Now the shirring. This might take some playing with so try it on some test fabric first. Or if you’re impatient like me and you can’t figure out the shirring, you’ll just go ahead on the dress. And then when it doesn’t shirr tight enough you’ll end up gathering the shirring yourself. And you’ll think oh that’s not too bad, I can gather. But trust me. Shirring properly is faster than gathering and you use less elastic thread.
You’ll be using your regular thread in the needle and elastic thread in the bobbin. Hand wind the elastic thread onto the bobbin. Set your machine to a long stitch and looser than normal tension.
Now with the right side facing up sew 5/8 inch down from the top edge where your straps are around the tube. Do not backstitch at the beginning or end of this row. Then make sure you have enough elastic thread BEFORE cutting and then pull your top threads to the inside and tie knots in your threads.
Next, mark your shirring lines. I did mine 5/8 inch apart. And go down as far as you’d like your dress/top to be shirred. Or you can eyeball it like I did because I’m impatient.
Sew your shirring lines, holding the fabric taut so it doesn’t bunch up. The more lines of shirring, the tighter it should be.
All your elastic thread tied up in knots and trimmed. With Isabelle’s dress I had 5 lines of shirring. For my top I had 12.
And yay you’re done!
*Update* a reader, Cynthia, writes that she found out that it’s hard to shirr with the new model sewing machines. She suggests maybe this link might help.
Hope that made sense. Let me know how it goes. I would love to see pictures if you used this tutorial and any changes you made or improvements.