Sewing: Shirred Sundress {Pattern & Tutorial}

Sewing: Shirred Sundress {Pattern & Tutorial}

Sewing: Shirred Sundress {Pattern & Tutorial}

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Sewing a shirred dress is very easy, I swear!!!! It looks complicated than the actual work, don’t let it frighten you off. If you haven’t tried one, you should try soon after reading this how-to. This summer dress is also a quick sewing project, I completed it in less than 2 hours, a great project when your loved one is taking her nap.

The fabric I sewed is knitted poly- jersey, it is stretchy like T-shirt, but you can use just any light weight cotton fabrics to achieve the same result. Thick fabric like denim is not suitable for shirring, the elastic thread just can’t get the gathers come close to each other.

Wonder where is this place? I brought my daughter to the beautiful and famous beach in Penang, Batu Ferringhi, for these photos shots. The weather is good and sunny, the sea is clear, the sands are golden and the air is breezy. We blew bubbles and it was a pleasant moment just me with my daughter :) At the end of the photography session, we picked some shells (see picture 4) and we are going to make something nice out of them!!!!

1. Fabric (light weight, eg. quilting fabric or knit jersey that I used), the quantity depends on what size you are making. Most cases, 1 yard should be sufficient.
2. Elastic thread
3. 1/4″ Elastic band
4. Ribbons
5. Matching thread

1. Sewing machine with general purpose foot
2. Small safety pin
3. Sewing kits

1. Measure the chest of the girl (C), and the length from armpit until your preferred length (L). Refer diagram & instruction below for detail.
2. Measure straps length, from front to back (over the shoulder) at the armpit level.

Straps: Cut 2 pieces of about 1 1/2″ wide x 12″ length fabrics. You need shorter length for babies and longer for adult, measure the length of the intended wearer if possible, but as safety factor, it is better to allow more so that you can cut if it is too long.
Fold the straps fabric with right side facing each other, sew with 1/4″ seam allowance, turn, press and top stitch near the edge. Repeat the same for the other.

Shirred Sundress pattern TutorialUse the diagram on the left, determine the width and length of the fabric required. Add 1/2″ for seam allowance for side, 1″ for top hem and 2″ for bottom hem. The numbers in the brackets are the sizes I used for my daughter who is 7 year-old.
Cut fabric, double-fold the top hem of about 3/4″ width, press and pin to secure. Top stitch near to the edge and about 1/2″ from the edge. This is the pocket or casing for the elastic band.
Note: This pattern is tight fit to the kid chest, if you would like to have loose fit, change the width to “2 x chest” or the widest width you can get from the fabric.

Shirring With ElasticWhen we shirr a piece of cloth or fabric, the elastic thread is always come from the bobbin side.
Hand wind the elastic thread onto the bobbin, don’t stretch the thread, a relax tension will give you better result.
A roll of bobbin is enough for a girl’s shirred sundress. If yours ran out before finished shirring, just remove the bobbin and wind again. Sew a continuous elastic thread on a row for neater look and better gathers.

Shirring With Elastic Sewing MachinePlace the bobbin into the sewing machine. Thread a matching sewing thread on the top.
Sewing Machine TensionTurn the upper tension to the maximum loose but maintain the normal stitch spacing that you used to sew for straight line stitches.
Shirred Sundress InstructionTest run on a fabric scrap and check for the tension. Adjust the tension if needed.
When you are ready, go for the real sewing.

How to shir with elasticThis is how the wrong side looks like after the following is done.
Starting with some back stitches, sew 5 rows of elastic shirrs with 1/4″ interval between each row. End each row with some back stitches to secure the elastic thread in place.
Cut a length of 1/4″ elastic band slightly longer that the shirred width. Pin one end with safety pin, slide it through the top hem pocket or casing until it comes out to the other end. Stitch at the seam line to secure the band.

Sew Simple Elastic Shirred Dress Sew the side, serge or zig-zag the raw edges if needed.
Double-fold the bottom hem for about 1″, press and pin, double stitch.
Attached the straps. Tie 2 ribbons and sew it to the front, just below the straps (with the ribbons, now you know where is the front side of the dress!!!)
Easy! Isn’t it?

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17 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Great tutorial…! Looks really easy, I am inspired to sew for my little nieces. :)

  2. really pretty!!

  3. Very nice!

    I will try something for me, cause I have only a boy :)

  4. That’s such a pretty dress! I’ve scheduled a post at Craft Gossip to go live tomorrow morning (Sunday) that points to your tutorial.


  5. Excelente!!!!! Adore el tutorial. Muy lindo trabajo.
    :) :)
    Muchas gracias.

  6. Pingback:Tutorial: Shirred sundress · Sewing @ CraftGossip

  7. this looks fairly easy to make, and yet it is very pretty!

  8. Great tutorial I will try it out soon to make a mini sundress for my little girl.

    Sertyan from Sabah

  9. Hi….this is an adorable sundress. I would like to make the dress for a 6 year old. Would you please explain the pattern? Did you cut out 36″ by 20″ and I guess it was not on the fold of the material. I just can’t seem to grasp the pattern that you have….please help….what is the swirl in the pattern picture?

    • Hi Ann, you are right, it is just 1 piece of 36 x 20. Ignore the “swirl” symbol, I put it on the pattern since I can’t draw the pattern in scale. The “swirl” just say that the actual width should be wider than as shown in the picture, just in case some people judge the pattern by the scale (36 x 20 can’t be as squarish as the picture shown, right!).

  10. I am a bi confused with the pattern fr he shirred sundress. I don’t understand the curves in the middle. Wouldn’t I just cut 2 pieces the same for he front and back?
    Looks a great pattern and i would appreciate your recommendations for the cutting out. many thanks liz in New Zealand

    • The curve at the center means that the drawing is not scaled and it should be wider than the drawing. The measurement is 1 piece (include front and back) and there is only 1 side seam.
      If you would like to sew a loose fit, change the measure from “chest + chest/2″ to “2 x chest”.

  11. Pingback:Sew | Sew Easy Butterfly Sleeve Blouse | Free Pattern & Tutorial at

  12. Fantastic, clearly explained project. This was my first shirred dress and following your instructions, and using a scrap piece, I quickly got the hang of it. It was fun to see it come together. My dress was for my 11-year-old daughter so I did 14 rows of shirring for a larger version, and also a slightly more grown-up look. Thanks for this great pattern!

  13. Thanks for the refresher. I made these many years ago for my daughters and now have neicettes to sew for. I remember I was able to wind the elastic by machine by holding the elastic thread in my hand. Also, on any machine I have ever had, “lower is looser” when It comes to tension. 9 would be the tightest. I am not sure if you meant to say tighten the tension, or if it is just a photo of a 9. I will check it on my test dress.

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