Tag Archives: shirring

The Sundress that Missed Summer

So I blinked and my summer disappeared, how about yours? We got ourselves caught up in some renovation that spiraled far out of control and I’m still reeling from it. Not to mention two year old twins are a HANDFUL. anyway, when I started this sundress there was still a comfortable amount of summer left ahead—now it’s finally finished, it’s Labour Day. I don’t know why the stupid thing about not wearing white after labour day is the one fashion rule I feel anxious about breaking but, well, there it is. Anyway.

The dress is loosely based on a tutorial By Hand London posted in their Instagram stories, I thought last spring but apparently a year ago in the spring? Anyway it’s a simple shirred sundress with rectangular puffy sleeves added, so to what extent a tutorial is really necessary I’ll leave up to you.

The real experiment for this dress, though, was using my coverstitch machine to do the shirring. No hand-winding the elastic into bobbins that always run out at the worst moment! This experiment was inspired by me noticing that the twins’ shirred storebought dresses are, in fact, stitched with a chain stitch. Which my coverstitch can, of course, do.

I tested it out, and it worked fabulously (or potentially fabulously, see below). I will be doing my shirring on the coverstitch from now on!

However, the villain of this particular make (aside from my house for forcing me to spend the summer renovating instead of sewing) was actually my elastic thread. I had a whole spool of the cheap stuff (I do know better, but it wound up in my stash somehow, and if I waited until I made it to a fabric store to buy actual good elastic thread, the whole thing would’ve been left ANOTHER year. .) And it was not evident at the start, but at some point this spool got water-damaged, and as the project proceeded the thread became more and more grody and decayed—and stuck to itself more and more, which caused endless problems with the shirring. So there’s a non-zero chance that after the first washing I’ll have to unpick and redo that entire step, which I won’t lie, is kind of horrifying. So we’re just not going to think about it right now.

The fabric was purchased from Fabricland in my last year or so of working there, which makes it five or six years old? Yikes! I’m always a sucker for border embroideries and this one is near the nicest I’ve seen, although the stitching quality isn’t the best. I wanted to use all of the three or so mètres I had, so I decided to add a gathered seam above the top of the embroidery, so I could have a little less fabric bulk in the upper portion.

It did require lining, though. One of the biggest delays in starting the dress was in finding the time to locate an appropriate lightweight cotton in stash. However, eventually I did… my stash organization is pretty rudimentary, which given my stash SIZE is not ideal.

I stitched the cotton voile lining to the outer fabric along the top and then flipped them so that edge was pre-finished, then shirred away through both layers. I was a bit nervous about the two layers feeding evenly and not getting distorted, but if there was any shifting the gathering hides it well. I sewed the back seam after. I cut the lining short so it doesn’t show through the cut-out lacework, however. Other than the piece of lining I cut off, though, this is a zero-waste dress—the sleeves dimensions were determined by what I had left over from the bodice.

Because of my issues with the thread, I stopped my bodice shirring higher than I had meant to, but I actually think I really like where it lands. When and if I get more (better) thread, I might add a few more rows, but not many.

I did need to tweak the attachment of the sleeves a bit, in the hopes of keeping them on my shoulders a bit better (it helped but they do still tend to fall down—a ribbon tie across the back may be needed). I also ran a line of 1/4” elastic around the top to try to help keep things up better, especially when the sleeves fall of my shoulders, but there still isn’t a huge difference between my high bust and full bust so this kind of support doesn’t work well for me.

The only thing missing, I fear, is pockets. Side seam weren’t an option (since there are no side seams) and patch just didn’t seem right. Also there’s that gathered seam right over prime pocket territory. I don’t know if it’ll be too much of an issue as I think this is going to have to be more of a special occasion dress anyway.

Assuming I can get out the weird pink stain one of the twins left on it already…



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Summery black shirt—another whine.

Black halter top... so close!


Well, I was progressing along nicely. Shirring the back took forever (and used up all my black elastic thread). It’s kinda boring, really. Thank goodness for podcasts. And it took three or four different attempts to get the triangle tops put on with the gathers distributed nicely; they’re still not perfect but I think they’ll do. And then I hemmed it and measured the front and put in the buttonholes (why does it always mess up on the very last buttonhole? why?) and started merrily sewing on the buttons and…

My fronts aren’t even.

There is a significant gap where the buttonhole side is longer than the button side.

Back looks pretty good.

WTF? The pattern pieces were identical, I promise you. Were the top parts sewn asymmetrically? Possibly, but not by the inch-inch and a half that they’re off.

No, the culprit in this case is my eyeballed hemming. For some reason when I was ironing the hems I couldn’t find the little hem measurer that I keep downstairs with the iron, so I eyeballed it.

My bad, apparently.

Not un-fixable, but yet another seam to rip out. Maybe I’ll remember to pick up a seam ripper today.


Like my buttons? Unlike my uneven hems?

But the shirt as a whole is looking pretty good, if a little scanty in the bottom-half coverage. I’ll have to think about drafting that downward dip in the front that was there in my original drawing.

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A quick Sunday afternoon project

Quick shirred sundress for a Very Little Girl

I needed a break from the Knit Shirt of Doom (yes, the Boy is whining about it), and I’ve been meaning to give shirring a try. I want to make myself a shirred tunic top out of the same white crinkle voile as the Boy’s shirt. But I’ve never shirred anything before, certainly not on this machine. And, as is usually the case when I have no idea how something’s going to work, I opted to try the method out on a kid’s garment first.

Now, with shirring, you have to hand-wind the elastic thread around a bobbin; then you sew parallel rows with regular thread in the top and the elastic thread in the bobbin of your machine. Opinions are divided over whether you should stretch the elastic thread as you wind it or not. I suspect it has everything to do with your machine and its bobbin tension. My machine seems to have a fairly high bobbin tension (some day I’ll figure out how to adjust that, too), so I opted for no, or at least very little, stretching as I wound.

As you can see, it worked just fine (or at least well enough). It was a smidge less than a 2:1 gather ratio. The amount of gather is also affected by stitch length, which in turn is affected by how you handle the fabric especially once the scrunching of the other rows of shirring comes into effect. I did about 1/4″ between each of my rows, or rather, the width of one side of my presser foot. I’m getting better at doing parallel rows of stitching, but not that good, especially when one side is trying to ruch up on you. I also ran a 3/8″ elastic through a casing just below the top, to keep the top nice and snug, since that is the part that seems to go first in shirred items, in my experience.

I think this will probably end up a present for the daughter of my kids’ Fairy Gothmother, a lovely and

Skull button flower

intimidating seamstress herself, whose gifts to my children over the years have included a Gothic Princess dress, a spiderweb-print sundress, and numerous other wonders. I’ve always wanted to sew something for her daughter (now two) in return, but have been too intimidated by her awesomeness vs. my own mediocre skillz. Maybe now, though, they’re up to a point where I can attempt to repay the favours?

Doubtful, but anyway… she gave my girls these skull buttons years ago and we never managed to actually put the darling things on anything, and now I can only find the one. But I think it makes a nice centre for a flower, to make the dress a little less plain, right?

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