How To Make A Shirred Cotton Dress 23

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Free Shirred Dress Pattern - DIY Adult's Shirred Dress

Free Sewing Tutorials By Sewing Bee Fabrics

How to sew an adult womens shirred dress with cotton free pattern tutorial

The weather is starting to get warmer which means it is definitely time for sewing a pretty shirred cotton summer dress or two! After plenty of compliments on this dress (Thank you!!) I decided to make another and show you how to make your own too. This tutorial will show you how to draft your own free dress pattern. Although I have made this as an adult women's sized dress, it can equally be made for a toddler or a child's dress by following the same instructions. It is also worth noting that due to the elastic bust then flared dress style, it would also make a fantastic maternity dress as it would easily accommodate pregnancy changes yet still be flattering to wear after.

Although I will admit that this isn't the quickest dress pattern to sew up because of the time needed to do your shirring, I think it's worth it both for the cuteness of the dress as well as the complete lack of any buttons, zips, darts, bust adjustments etc! It just fits!

You can either follow this tutorial as a video or if you prefer to read instructions instead, then scroll on down for the full write up on how to make your own shirred dress.

What You Will Need:

Approx 2 1/2 - 3 1/2m cotton fabric - the exact amount will depend on your size, the fabric width and pattern, plus how much you want to pattern match your pieces so I recommend you draft your pattern first to see how much you will need more easily.

Thread and Shirring Elastic

How To Make Your Dress:

This dress is made up of two pattern shapes - the dress pattern - which will need to be cut out five times and the strap pattern which will be cut twice. To make the dress pattern, first start with drawing a rectangle for the bodice. The width of your pattern needs to be twice the width of the widest point of your bust divided by 5. The height of the bodice being from around armpit level or just above to the waist with an allowance for a small hem at the top added on. You then need to flare out for the skirt for the desired length so that the bottom of the skirt is 1.5x the width of the bodice. You can add a side seam allowance if you want a looser fit, but it isn't really required.

The strap pattern piece is just a long rectange cut out twice. The width of the strap pattern piece needs to be the desired strap width with a narrow hem allowance either side. The length needs to be twice the distance between armpit level at the back, then over the shoulder to reach about armpit level at the front. Although we will add a top and bottom hem to this piece, you want a snugger fit, so allowances for these aren't added.

How to draft your own summer dress with shirring sewing pattern from measurements

First, you need to join the dress pieces together, so line up the bodice pieces and join them down the sides with pattern sides facing together as you stitch. You want to join them all into a big circle like a dress that would be way too big to ever fit you!

How to sew the side seams with a quarter inch quilting foot for a cotton shirred summer dress tutorial

Then stop the edges of your seams from fraying by either using an overcast foot and sewing a zigzag stitch over the edge of the seam, or by sewing a zigzag stitch near the edge.

Overcast foot finishing seams on a cotton summer shirred flared dress sewing tutorial

Next, sew a narrow hem all around the top edge of the dress by folding the top edge then folding again so that the raw edge is hidden in the centre then sew with a straight stitch around the edge to hold it in place.

How to hem a dress before shirring the bust bodice learn to sew

Mark the point on each of your side seams where the bodice starts to diagonally spread out to become the skirt.... Quilting clips or hair clips result in far far less accidental stabbings than pins!!!

DIY shirred dress marking the bodice with clips in this sewing tutorial video

To gather the bodice and make it elasticated, I have added shirring. To do this you will need a longer than usual stitch length - on my machine this is 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 and you may need to increase your upper thread tension.

what sewing machine settings should you use for shirring instructions on how to do shirring for a cotton dress sewing tutorial video

You will need an elastic thread in your bobbin. Most sewing machines need this winding gently onto the bobbin by hand, but occasionally some machines will prefer that elastic thread is wound under some tension.

When you first start sewing it is difficult to see how well or not it is gathering so I recommend sewing a test few lines on a scrap piece first. If your fabric isn't bunching up as you expect, look on the reverse of the fabric. If the thread looks like it is looping away from the elastic and not holding the elastic close to the fabric, you will need to increase the upper thread tension. If the elastic looks like it is zigzagging along the fabric instead of in a straight line, then you need to increase the bobbin tension. This can be done by small turns of the screw on the bobbin case/inside the top loading bobbin area - make a note of how far you have turned it to easily swap back to normal sewing after.

If you have a top loading bobbin, you will also need to be more careful to feed the elastic thread through the tensioning area, and you may need to leave the bobbin cover off as you bring the thread up to ensure it has the space to move into the correct position before putting the cover back on.

How to do shirring with elastic thread hints tips and troubleshooting for a shirred dress video tutorial
How to fix shirring when it wont gather troubleshooting tips bobbin tension adjustment for shirred dress sewing tutorial

I use a stitch guide foot to help with keeping my lines of shirring on the dress bodice. This allows me to keep a consistent gap between my lines without using a fabric marking pen or chalk.

Start your stitching at one of the seams shirring along the line of stitching you have just sewn for the top hem. Sew around the entire circumference of the upper dress. When you get to the end of the row, sew, reverse, then sew a few stitches to anchor the thread in place then move the presser foot along for the next row, lining one of the notches up with the elastic thread. I mark the notch I'm using by adding a little lipstick so that I can more easily see which notch to keep lined up with. You want your gaps between your shirring lines to be just over 1cm/approx half an inch apart. 

How to sew shirring to make a cotton dress video tutorial free pattern

Keep repeating until you reach the end of the bodice... You might want to find a good podcast or audiobook to listen to as you go... this step can take a while...

what does a shirred bodice look like on an adult shirred dress how to sew tutorial

When you reach your clips, you are done shirring your dress bodice.

make your own adult shirred dress pattern diy sewing tutorial

You might want to try on your dress at this point to check you are happy with the length then you can sew a narrow hem at the bottom in the same way as you did at the top. If you try making the hem too wide you will find that it wants to twist and not lay flat - this is because the skirt is diagonal at the sides, so the outer edge is a little longer than the part of the skirt that you are folding up to which ends up in a mismatch. The wider you make your hem, the more obvious the problem becomes.

Next sew a hem around all the edges of the 2 strap pattern pieces.

how to make wide straps for a DIY shirred bust cotton summer dress

Add shirring to the long length of the straps in the same way as you did for the bodice, starting over the top of the outer hem on one side and ending on the outer hem on the opposite side. A stitch guide foot isn't as useful here as you will be getting to the end then turning at the end of each row, so the shirring will alternate between the left and right side of your presser foot. Don't be tempted to cut your elastic at the end of each row instead as you will have a high risk of at least one set of stitches with the elastic thread pinging up and ruining the look of your strap.

How to do shirring on a strap so that the elastic thread holds the strap with no fitting issues
DIY shirred dress straps sewing tutorial video

Try the dress on with one of the 5 panels centred at the front and pin the strap pieces where you would like them to sit. I prefer to hand sew them on as I feel it gives a more hidden appearance at the front as well as allowing more movement of the shirring and stops the back edge from folding up. I sew the strap to the dress just under the top hem of the dress and just above the hem of the short edge of the strap, then stitch the bottom edge down.

How to hand sew straps onto a shirred dress made of cotton for an adult but also suitable for child toddler or free maternity pattern

If you want to tighten up your shirring even further, you can hold a steam iron just above the elastic on the back side of the stitching so that the steam acts to shrink it gathering it further. Your DIY shirred dress is now ready to wear!

Free pattern cotton summer dress with elastic shirred bust bodice tutorial and sewing video

Happy Sewing!


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