I absolutely love shirred summer dresses! They are so comfy and perfect for warmer weather.  

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of shirring, it's basically replacing your bobbin thread with elastic thread.  When you sew your rows of stitching, the elastic bobbin thread is slightly stretched while making it's way through the machine, making the most perfect little gathers! Elastic thread is something that is readily available, you can find it is most sewing store and I actually picked mine up at Wal-Mart in the sewing section.

Supplies :
Elastic Thread
Woven or Knit Fabric
Coordinating Thread

You can use this tutorial for making any size of dress or tunic that you want. It can be woven or a knit, doesn't matter! Just make sure that you prewash and lightly press before starting. 

The formula that I use in order to determine how much fabric is as follows: 

Width=  Take the chest measurement of whoever you are making the dress for, double it and add 1" for seam allowance. 

Example: 20" x 2 + 1+ 41" 

Length = Take your desired finished length and add 2" for seam and hem allowance.

Example: 15 1/2" +2"= 17 1/2" 

So the finished rectangle that I ended up with measured 41" x 17 1/2" 


Step 1. 
Hand wind your bobbin with the elastic thread. Don't stretch the thread to much when winding. 
Step 2.
 Fit your bobbin into your sew machine as you usually would. 
Step 3. 
Press down an inch of the top edge of your rectangle lengthwise. This is to finish off the edge! 
Step 4. 
Start stitching! I'm using my presser foot as a guide and it's about 3/8" from the edge. 
You can see that the elastic starts working immediately! 
Step 5. 
When you get to the end of the row leave a few inches of both elastic and thread. You can tie off these ends now or wait till you're finished and try them off then. This will help prevent unraveling in the wash. 
Step 6. 
When working on your second row, and all other subsequent rows, gently stretch out the previous gathers so that you are stitching on a flat surface.  This keeps all your rows of gathering even and it's much easier to sew straight when you stretch it out a little. 
When your bobbin filled with elastic thread runs out in the middle of a row unpick some of your stitches so that you have an inch or two loose. Refill your bobbin with elastic thread and start stitching right where you left off. When you complete the row, go back and try your two loose ends into a tight knot. 
Step 7. 
How pretty does that look! I ended up stopping at ten rows and only had to refill my bobbin once. If you are making an adult version you might need more rows. You can also space them further apart. I recommend testing it out on a scrap piece to see what you like! If you haven't yet, nows the time to tie off all your loose ends. 

Step 8. 
Stitch your back seam closed. If you are working with a stretch fabric, remember to use a stretch stitch. Finish off your edge using a serger or zig zag stitch. 
Step 9. 
Zig Zag the bottom edge of your dress and turn up an 1" and press. The zig zag stitch helps to stabilize your edge and makes it much easier to work with.  Stitch down!


When hemming I also sew with the right side up. This results in a much neater stitching line. Just make sure that you are constantly catching all layers. 
To determine the length of the straps, try the garment on and measure front to back over the shoulders. Add a little extra for seam allowance. You can make these as wide as you like!

I made mine 1" wide and 9 1/2" long. I attached them to the center back of my dress to give a nice little detail. 
All done! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Please let me know what you think in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you! 

Thanks for reading!!! 

Melanie oxoxo


05/09/2015 7:24pm

Reading this really makes me want to get some fabric and try it!

03/01/2017 7:10am

This dress tutorial is really great! I think I will really try this for my kids. I am not that really good at sewing, but I believe this one is not that difficult to do. Your baby looks really good in that dress. Anyway, thank you so much for this tutorial. This is really a big help.

05/09/2015 10:24pm

Can you really thread elastic in your bobbin holder? Seems it would be to thick... Lovely idea...Let me I just might try this! Thnx

05/10/2015 8:59am

Yep :) The reason that it immediately starts to gather is because it's pulled tight through the machine! It's such a satisfying project.

01/13/2016 8:56am

wow!! I have an absolute favorite summer dress that is a bit worn out ... I will never find something like it again and I was thinking about making a new one myself, but I had no idea that I could 'shirr' (is that how you say it? I'm not an native English speaker) the top part myself ... I'm so happy I found your blog!! Whoohoo :D

01/13/2016 10:13am

Hi Liesbet, Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you found this post useful and good luck with your dress! I was really surprised how easy shirring was and it's my favourite way to make summer dresses :)

02/20/2017 2:52am

I found your tutorial very informative. I will definitely try the procedure. I will let you know about the outcome after a few trials.


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