Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Shirred Jailbird Dress + Tutorial

I had the honor of guest posting this in the Sewing for Me series at KojoDesigns last week.
 Hi! I'm Rachel from Family Ever After. It's been forever since I've sewn something for myself! I'm so incredibly excited to have been invited to participate in Sewing for Me! I'm headed to Phoenix for spring break, so I made myself a simple shirred knit sundress to wear. It could double as a swim suit cover as well. I fell in love with the fabric, not realizing that when I put it on, I would feel like a jailbird. Hence the name...

Here's the tutorial! 

knit fabric, 1 or 1.5 yards (depending on your size)
elastic thread, thin
normal sewing supplies 

Step 1: Measurements
Figure out how much you need/want. (I am about 5'2"). The piece of fabric I bought was 38" long and 60" inches wide. I didn't have to alter it much.

I cut 10 inches off for my shirred empire waist. I shirred the whole thing, and then I held it around my bust to see how much I wanted, and cut off the excess. But a good rule of thumb for shirring purposes is to take your bust measurement and double it.

Step 2: Shirring
This is such a fun technique! My friend taught me a few years ago how to do it. First, find an empty bobbin. I gave my 4 year old the job of emptying the green thread from a previous project (I always try to involve my kiddos)!
You're going to wind up the bobbin by hand, with elastic thread. Make SURE you buy the thin kind, not the thick.
Here's how you wind it up. Just keep it fairly taut, without stretching the elastic as you wind it. If you wind it too tight, your thread will break when you sew. (These pictures use the thick elastic... it was a mistake! Make sure you use the thin kind, or you won't be able to fit it through the bobbin case)!
All wound up and ready to go.
Thread your machine like normal. You're using regular thread, that matches your fabric, on the top. The elastic thread will come up just like normal thread in a bobbin case.
For most shirred projects, you'll probably want to draw lines to sew on. Typical spacing is either 1/2" or 1/4" apart. The closer together your lines, the tighter, and more stretch you'll have as a result. With this fabric, I just followed the lines, which are about 1" apart, and that was good enough for me!
You just sew down each line, backstitching at the beginning and end. I didn't change the stitch length or tension.
Keep going!
Once you're all done shirring, spray some water, and place the iron on top (don't drag it back and forth, just carefully place on top).
Ta-da! Mine ended up being just the width I wanted, to fit around my bust, and I didn't trim any excess off.
Step 3: Skirt portion
After I cut the 10 inches off the the bodice, I had a piece of fabric sized 28x60 inches. I wanted the stripes to be lengthwise, so I cut it in half, giving me 2 pieces 28x30 inches. Then I sewed them together, making sure the stripes maintained their pattern.
Then I basted a long line across the top, and gathered it up to fit around my ribcage.
Then I pinned the shirred piece to the skirt piece, right sides together, and sewed a straight line.
Here's my little model, and the progress so far.

Step 4: Make straps
My dress was just a little too long, so I cut a few inches off the bottom to turn into straps.
For the straps, I used 4 strips and created a 4 stranded braid. I secured it by sewing at the ends. I sewed to my dress after I hemmed the top of the bodice (below).

Step 5: Hemming
The great thing about working with knits, is the edges don't fray. I didn't worry about finishing off any of the seams inside, but for the hems, I still wanted a clean finish. 

For the top edge of the shirred piece, I folded the raw edge over 1/4", then 1/4" again, and sewed it.
For the bottom hem, I folded it up once and sewed!

Step 6: Finish!
To finish, I pinned the dress right sides together, and made one long straight stitch. Then I attached the straps.

The end!
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  1. Hey it's Cheri from Its So Very Cheri--stopping by from the Linky Party Hop.

    I hope you have a fabulous week.

    Great job on your new outfit.

    Don't forget in addition to the Wed party HOP I also have a Sunday party and I feature several bloggers on Saturdays. http://itssoverycheri.com/2012/04/01/its-party-time-4-1-2012/


  2. thanks for explaining the shirring...I always wondered how that was done. Love the dress!

  3. This is AMAZING!!!!! However you always come up with the nicest things!! I wonder if I could pull off a dress like that.. I LOVE IT!

    I HOPE you'll share this at The DIY Dreamer... From Dream To Reality!! PLEASE!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer... From Dream To Reality!

  5. Where are the Sew-vivor entries?!?!

  6. This is great! Looks comfortable! Well done!

  7. This is SO darling! I love your pictures, Rach. Thanks for sharing at oopsey daisy!

  8. This is such a great project! I hope you will come link it up at the Pinworthy Project Link Party going on now over on my blog, Just Us Four.

  9. Found you on the Sew Chatty Linky Party and I'm so glad I did! Can't wait to try this! Thanks for the lovely tutorial!!!

    Love, Ashley

    {From simplyeldridge@blogspot.com}

  10. I only just realized how simple shirring could be. I really want to try it sometime. I love the braided straps!

  11. I love it! I was afraid of shirring until I tried it. Now I shirr whenever I can. So fun!

    I'd love for you to link it up to Crafty Cousins.

    ~Natalie @ Crafty Cousins

  12. That looks really great! I've tried shirring before but my machine shredded up the elastic =/ Seeing your mention of thin elastic I'm going to double check that I have the right stuff!

  13. Love this! We have our Kitchen Fun & Crafty link party going on now and would love for you to share this! http://kitchenfunwithmy3sons.blogspot.com/2012/04/kitchen-fun-and-crafty-friday-link_12.html?m=1


Thanks for your comment. Have a great day!
♥Rach H