Monday, April 15, 2013

Shirred, Asymmetrical, Maxi, Summer Dress, DIY Tutorial, wow that was a mouthful!

Hey guys!
I am definitely "shir" crazy!! I just can't help myself, I love shirring/smocking and hope you don't mind all the projects featuring this technique. Today I made a super easy dress for my daughter that is spot on trend too! Maxi dresses...IN, Asymmetrical hemlines...IN, Neon Colors...IN, then add the shirring technique and it's over the top cute!!  There are just so many fun things you can do to change this look and it's very simple and can be done in a few hours.I changed the sleeves a little on this dress from the first one I made. You could also make it not have sleeves at all or do a thin tie around the neck (halter style) if you wanted this to be more of a swim cover-up dress. Just so many choices!! I may be making lots of these.

What you will need:

Fabric of your choice, (I used a light weight cotton broadcloth in Neon Pink) I cut a 42"x34" piece for the body of the dress, 2- 4x22" strips for the ruffle, and 2- 6x22" strips for the sleeves.
Thread that matches perfectly (that's one way to make it look more professional and less home-made)
Elastic thread, (for the shirring/smocking part only) All other sewing should be done with regular thread.
Sewing Machine and Serger (if you have one) If you don't have a Serger, just finish your raw edges as you normally would, by a zig-zag or with pinking shears.
I used the narrow rolled edge hemming foot and the ruffling foot. (You don't have to have these, I have them, so I use them.) Instead you can just turn ends, press, turn, press and sew to hem. And baste and gather stitches to ruffle.

First thing you will do is measure the person you are making this darling frock for. I measured around the chest, just under the arms. (I got a measurement of 24" on my 7 year old) I took that measurement and doubled it (getting 48") then I subtracted 6" and that's the width I used for this dress. Then I measured from where the dress sat at the chest/under arm area to where I wanted the dress to hit at the leg. (I got 34" long.) After taking the measurements cut your fabric piece to those measurements. So mine was 42" wide and 34" long. The wide top edge is the edge you will shir. The bottom wide edge is the bottom hem. The other edges are the sides of the dress.

Shirring Formula: for this dress measure underarm/chest area all the way around, double that number, then subtract 6" and that is how wide your piece needs to be.

Next you will serge (or finish however you normally do so it doesn't fray) the bottom raw edge of the fabric. And then I used my narrow rolled edge hemmer foot to do a nice narrow hem at the top edge of the fabric. (If you don't have one of these feet, just hem by turning edge over, pressing, turning over, press again and then sew down, making it as narrow as you can.

This picture shows me using the narrow rolled edge hemming foot to make a narrow hem.

Once you have the bottom finished and the top in a narrow hem. Then you begin the shirring process. So you need to change your bobbin thread to the elastic thread. (To do this just wind it by hand around the bobbin and insert as normal) Then change your stitch length to the longest one you have. Now using the 5/8" mark on my machine I sewed a straight line down the length of the fabric. (Make sure to back stitch when you start and stop.)

When I got close to the bottom edge, I put the needle down, lifted the presser foot and turned the fabric so the edge of the presser foot is now along the side of the dress. And I stitched only two stitches down the side. (This is the way I figured out to not have to start and stop for each line of shirring you make. I felt like it wastes too much thread and time to start and stop.) 2 stitches gives the perfect room (on my machine) so it lines up with the previous stitch when you turn it.  After making those 2 stitches on the side, you will then put needle down again, and lift presser foot again and turn so that you are going to go down the length of the fabric again.

Here the picture shows the needle down, presser foot up, I've already turned it again and am ready to make the 2nd shirring row. I use the previous stitch as my guide, keeping the left edge of the presser foot lined up with the previous stitch and stitch all the way to the bottom. Then you repeat the above process of needle down, presser foot up and turn, 2 stitches and turn again, and continue stitching down the side. You repeat this as many times as you want lines of shirring. (I did a total of 10 rows of shirred stitching.) So you will either use the right or left side of your presser foot (depending what side your stitch is on) as your guide to make a straight line.

This shows me proceeding to stitch down the length of the fabric using the previous stitch as my guide. (See how the left side of the presser foot is lined up with my previous stitch?)

It's important to keep the fabric pulled smooth and tight (the more rows you make, the more the fabric will begin to ruffle and that's what we want, but only after we have sewn it.) You don't want to sew it while it's ruffled or scrunched together. Keep it smooth using your hands.

After you have done as many rows as you would like, make sure to back stitch at the end.
This is what the top of the dress looks like when I did 10 rows of shirring.
Then I sprayed the shirred area with water and pressed lightly to allow it to shrink up. (It's almost like magic!)
This is what the dress looks like from the wrong side. You can see the turn arounds with the elastic threads. (That's from the turning at the ends.) Now you will fold the dress in half, with right sides together to match the sides up and pin.
Then I sewed down the side of the dress using the 5/8" seam marker on my machine as my guide. Removing pins as I got to them.
Now the dress looks like a skirt. Put it on your model so you can see where you want to make the asymmetrical hem on the bottom. (Make sure before you make the cut that you have the seam in the back or the side wherever you like it. I liked mine at the side.) I used my scissors and started cutting on my right side and worked to my left making a cut up, around and down again. This part is up to you how much you take off. If in doubt, start small and get bigger, you can always take off more, but it's hard to put back on!)
Here I am making it more even, now that I got the length where I wanted it. (See how in the pic below that it isn't square in the front? That's what I'm fixing.)
Then I folded the dress in half to make the cuts the same. See how I'm trimming off the excess of one of them so it matches the other?
Then just one more cut to make a more rounded flow to the bottom hem.
Then I serged the round cut I just made so it wouldn't fray.
Now the body of the dress is ready for the hem ruffle. To make the ruffle take the two 4x22" pieces and sew them together at the small ends. (As shown below)
This is the two 4x22" pieces serged (sewn) together to make the ruffled hem at the bottom.
Then finish one of the long edges of this piece with the serger and use a narrow hem on the other long edge. The serged edge will be attached to the dress body and the narrow will become the new hem at the bottom of the dress. Once you have those edges finished you can make the ruffle one of 2 ways: I use the ruffle foot (as shown below) to make ruffles. I set it to the 12 setting. Or you could do it the old fashioned way by baste stitching and gathering it by hand until it fits your dress.
Now that you have your ruffle ready, with right sides together, line up ruffle and dress bottom and pin as shown below.
Once you have it pinned down you will need to stitch the ruffle ends together before you stitch the ruffle to the dress. (So pin down and where you need to sew the ruffle to itself put a pin right where you need the stitch to be so the ruffle will line up with the bottom of the dress perfectly.) In the pic below I am marking the place where I need to stitch the ruffle ends together.
Once you have sewn the ruffle ends together then you can stitch the ruffle down to the bottom of the dress as shown here. (Removing pins as you come to them.) I used the 5/8" seam allowance again.
Now the ruffle is sewn to the bottom of the dress. Put the seams to the left and top stitch all the way around the dress using the 1/4" seam allowance as shown below.
This is what the dress would look like so far:
Now we need to make the sleeves. I used the 2-6x22" pieces for sleeves. I finished one of the long ends with a serged edge an one with a narrow hem. (I did this to both) Then I switched to elastic bobbin thread and long stitches to do 2 shirred rows as seen below on the narrow hem edge, using the 5/8" marker as a guide. And just as you did before, when you get to the end of the first shirred row, put needle down, lift foot, turn, make 2 stitches and then turn again to make the second row. Always back stitching when you start and stop. (Sorry about the over exposure on the next pics!)
Then I used my ruffling foot again to gather the other side of the sleeve. I set it to one (or a lot of gathers!) and went down the side.
Now that you have the ruffles made, turn the ruffled edge over and top stitch as shown below.
Next you need to put the dress back on your model to see where you need to attach the sleeves to the dress, pin, then sew them to the dress keeping your stitches matching up with your shirred stitches.
I have included photos of 2 different dresses made this way. I did the sleeves different on each of them showing a couple of the different options you have for sleeves. (The first one I made I used the same size of sleeve strips and instead shirred rows all the way down leaving 5/8" in each side. And then attached them to the dress. As seen below.)
On this one, I am sewing the sleeve to the dress, notice I am following one of the shirred row stitches so as to put the new stitch right on top of the shirred stitch.
Here I am removing the excess length of sleeve with the serger.
And da, da, da, da, da, da, daaaaaa!!! Here it is all finished! Hope you have enjoyed these shirring tutorials, I "shir" love this technique. Hopefully you find them easy to follow and have made lots of cute things! Happy Monday from "Patch-A-Heaven!"


  1. This is absolutely so adorable. I have 4 boys, I so wish I had a girl to make it for I love it!

    1. Hi Emily. 4 boys?! Good for you,they are so much fun! I'm glad you enjoyed this tutorial. Thanks for dropping in.

  2. I'm going to try this. I'm a super beginner at sewing. So cute though, I have to try.

    1. Go for it Mrs. A!! You can do it! (If u need help just give me a shout out!) May the sewing force be with you! Loves, Kacey

  3. Hi Kacey - popped over to find this after you mentioned it at SNAP. So cute! I love the color.

    1. HI Melissa! Thanks for looking me up. Was fun to meet you at SNAP. (I'll be venturing over to your blog soon!) Glad you liked it! Have a great day!!

  4. Love this dress! Great job and thanks for sharing it.

    1. Hi Amy! Thanks for popping on over to my lil ol' blog. (It's an honor to have you here!) Glad you love the dress too. Loves, Kacey