How To Make a Shirred Fabric Summer Dress

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

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.

created on: 08/07/08

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.

created on: 08/07/08

created on: 08/07/08

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!

created on: 08/07/08

Shirred Fabric Dress

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Tammy on Mar 20, 2012:

Thanks for the help.  I have not gotten it to work correctly, but I have  mentioned to spend a small fortune in elastic thread.  I read about running a zig zag stitch over the elastic thread and pulling up the elastic on the sides to fit.  Has anyone had any experience with this method?


Penelope on Mar 20, 2012:

Andrea is right. It may be easy to make a dress this way, but it can really mess up your machine! I have an old Kenmore and my bobbin tension has not been the same since I "experimented" with elastic-thread shirring. I wish I'd left it alone. I can't seem to adjust it back to how it was and I have a drop-in bobbin, which is harder to adjust anyway. Be warned, ladies!

andrea on Jul 17, 2010:

I think it would be helpful to examine the pros and cons of using elastic thread. period. full stop. end of story. Hand winding is time consuming, but I worry about stretching, and no matter "how simple" shirring can be, no one really covers the importance of tension...and then how accommodating for the elastic thread messes up the tension for standard gutterman's.

sixmum on Jul 16, 2010:

Use your normal bobbin winder to put the shirring elastic onto the bobbin, it fully stretches the elastic, then when it is stitched onto the fabric there is room for it to shrink back and gather the fabric.

Andrea on Jul 10, 2010:

@Tammy - Check your bobbin tension...I have a White, not a brother/kenmore or singer so, I'm not sure how to advise. That said, I was having the same issues, I realized that I didn't correct my bobbin tension once I go the thread into the bobbin carrier thingy...so, I tightened just a bit more, and it worked out.

Tammy on Jul 04, 2010:

I am having trouble with the elastic thread shirring. I have hand filled the bobbin and used the longest straight stitch and my fabic gathers but has not elasticity to it. What am I doing wrong?

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