How to make an adult elastic bust shirred dress – free pattern DIY sewing tutorial by Linda Forager

How to make an adult elastic bust shirred dress – free pattern DIY sewing tutorial by Linda Forager


Hi I’m Linda from Sewing Bee Fabrics. I want to
show you how to make a dress just like this one. So first up, we’re gonna want a
few measurements. We’re gonna make this dress in two parts there’s gonna be a
dress shape and then there’s gonna be a sleeve shape. So for the dress shape,
you’re going to want to know from around armpit level or slightly higher –
whatever height you want your dress to come up to. You’re going to need to know
from there down to your waist and then you’re gonna need to know from your
waist to whatever length you want your skirt to be. So the height of your dress
piece is going to be those two combined plus a hem at the top, plus a hem at the
bottom. To do the width for the bodice you’re going to want to know the widest
part that your bodice is going around and then you’re going to make the bodice
part twice that width then you’re going to curve out and make the bottom of the
skirt one and a half times whatever your body’s part is. For the strap you’re just
going to want to know from front to back so where it comes up to the dress and
then you’re going to want to double that for the length and for the width
whatever width you want your strap to be plus enough for a hem each side. To
spread the flare of the skirt out more evenly we’re going to divide the dress
into five separate pieces, all of them the same. We’re just going to cut it out five
times. So where you took your width you’re going to divide that so you only
want 1/5 of that measurement so that was twice around the bust and now you want a
fifth of that as the width of your pattern. The height obviously will stay
exactly the same which is making it a lot wider so that when you do your shirring it is going to have that lovely flare that kicks out. It’s up to you whether you
choose to add a side seam allowance to your dress piece. If you choose to add
one you’ll have a little bit more movement. If you choose not to then it’s
going to hold a little bit tighter. For your straps you’re going to want to cut
two of them. Although we’re going to hem the top and bottom as well you’re going
to want a slightly tighter fit with your shirring so there’s no seam
allowance needed for those just for the side hems. In total you’re going to
want somewhere between two and a half to three and a half
meters of cotton fabric and the fabric that I’ve been using has been quilting
weight. To start up constructing the dress we’re gonna put two pieces so that
they are pattern side together lined up and we’re going to sew all the way down the
side. We’re going to repeat that so that we’re sewing another piece down to the
other side until you’ve got a loop with all five pieces joined together so pick
whatever seam allowance you chose when you were cutting out and then you’re
just going to sew down the side. So now you’ve sewn all your side seams
you should have something that looks like a big giant loop that is far bigger
than you’ll ever fit into. That’s how it should be looking now. What we’re going
to do is to finish off the seams because we’re using cotton. Cotton tends to
unravel so we want to make sure that doesn’t happen so I’m gonna use an
overcast foot and I’m gonna zigzag over the edge of the fabric and if you
haven’t got an overcast foot you can just do a zig zag right near the edge
and obviously if you’ve got an overlocker (serger) then you’re more than welcome
to use that. So we’re just going to have a go at sealing in these edges so that
they’re not fraying and then just repeat on the others. Now
you’ve done the side seams we want to sew across the top so you take your
narrow end of your tube and then you’re just going to turn it and then turn it
again. If you’re a little bit nervous about doing this sort of thing then
you’re more than welcome to either iron it or pin it so it stays in place. I
just turned to wing it a little bit so we’re just gonna pop it underneath here,
bring the needle down to make sure that you’re near the edge then we’re just
gonna sew our top hem. Okay, finally we’ve got to the end. What
we’re going to do is to use shirring to gather up the whole of the bodice. Now
the quality and thickness of your elastic thread will have some influence
on what your gathering is like but on the whole it tends to shrink to half the
size. Most sewing machines prefer to have the elastic thread hand wound around the
bobbin and to wind it around so that you have no real tension to it. However, there
are always exceptions to the rule. There are a few sewing machines that do prefer
to have their bobbins wound under tension either be that by hand or slowly
on the machine, so because every sewing machine acts slightly differently with
tensioning you will want to have a little play just with a bit of scrap
fabric and see what works best for you. Now I have a front-loading bobbin so
when I’m putting my bobbin in I’m going to want to do it exactly the same as the
way that I put any normal bobbin in. Now if you have a top-loading bobbin
what you might find is that normally where you’ll get away with not putting
your thread through the tensioning loop because it automatically will pull it up
through it won’t always do that with elastic thread so you might have to be a
little bit more careful as to how you’re threading with a top-loading bobbin. The
other thing to bear in mind is that you might need to adjust your bobbin tension.
so on my front loading one I have a tiny screw here. On the top loading types
you might have to take your machine apart a little bit more to do it. You’ll
know if you need to change your bobbin tension because as you’re sewing you’ll
find that the elastic thread starts forming a bit of a zig zag across the
top. You won’t have a nice smooth straight line. So if when you’re sewing
it doesn’t look like it’s really gathering up much and not and shirring
up to a smaller amount, and when you turn it over its got a zig zag then that’s
the screw that you want to adjust ever so slightly. So again do slight
adjustments and have a go and stitch it out and see how it comes out because you’ll
find that a small turn on bobbin tension goes a long way. So I’m just gonna bring
my elastic thread up as per normal by bringing my needle down and then
scooping it up. Now what you might find is if you have a top loading machine
you may need to leave the needle plate area in front off while you’re bringing
it up because it might affect the position that the elastic thread gets
pushed into. You’ll find you get a tighter gather if you set your stitch length
longer so on my machine I tend to set it somewhere between three and four. The
longer you do it the more space it’s got for the elastic to be able to gather up.
Now when you’re sewing if you’ve done your little test strip, if the threads
looks like it’s just looping around the elastic and not really holding it down
firmly tight to your fabric you’ll need to adjust your upper thread tension a little bit so my machine prefers my tension turning up to four so you might need to adjust it
or you might need to leave it depending on what it’s like. If it’s not
gathering and it’s looking like it’s loose elastic at the back its the bobbin
tension, if it looks like it’s loose threads at the back
it’s the thread tension that you need to change instead and then lastly the other
thing that I tend to change on my sewing machine to make it easier to do shirring
is to swap my sewing machine feet. My preference is for a stitch guide foot.
Now the way I use this foot is as you can see it has lots of markings along
the front; I line these markings up with the elastic and so instead of having to
spend ages drawing lots of rows in chalk or in fabric marker pens I can just use
these marks on here to be able to line my previous row up with and to be able
to sew perfect lines each time. Now because there’s lots of little markings
I find I go a little bit cross-eyed if I’m trying to concentrate on which one
I’m doing so I use a tiny bit of lipstick to mark the one that I want, then I
can wipe it off again at the end and then that way I know just to look for
the red spot and to line it up with that. So at the moment it doesn’t look like
there’s a great deal of difference between the bodice and then the skirt
part of the dress so when you’re shirring this is going to get even more difficult
to look for. What we’re going to do to make it easier is we’re just gonna mark
the point where the dress starts to kink out. As you can see it goes straight
down to here and then it starts to flare out from that point so we’re just going
to pop a clip on here just to show you where it is. Now I prefer to use Clips
just because when you’re doing rows and rows
of shirring and it’s going to take an awful lot of fabric to get around, the
last thing you want is to be jabbed by a hundred pins on your way through so
clips tend to make it much easier – hair clips if you haven’t got any quilting
clips will also do. When coming to do the next ones just make sure that you’re
lining them up and that you’re getting the same point on each seam and just
mark all five like that. You want your first line of shirring to line up so
you’re effectively stitching in the ditch stitching over the line that you
did for your hem. Make sure that it’s pattern side up because you want your
elastic to end up underneath and hidden. Don’t try and be tempted to sew
things the other way up. We’re just going to sew as per normal but with the
adjusted settings on the sewing machine. Now you can see already there’s a slight
gather happening behind. Don’t be too worried if it isn’t a big gather, don’t
be too worried if your stitching doesn’t sit directly over the previous layer if
you’re slightly wiggly nobody’s gonna notice apart from you. Now when you get back round to the seam
that you started on, simply stitch a little bit, reverse a little bit, and then
you’re just going to lift it and move it along so that the stitch here lines up
with your little red dot. I tend to prefer to bring my needle down manually
to make sure that it sits in that seam so that you won’t notice that little
tail of the thread that’s going to come down and follow along the seam. It’s
going to do that all the way down the entire side of your bodice so you don’t
need to snip in between you just need to line it up with that little part of the
seam so again you’re going to do a couple of stitches reversing back and
forward just to secure that elastic in place and then off you go, again this
time trying to keep this red dot lined up roughly with where these are. So we’re just skipping forwards to the
end of the second row because otherwise it will be quite boring to watch. Again back forward backwards and then
skip, line it up with your red dot. Place it down manually, bring the needle down
to try and get it so it lines up in that seam, forwards and backwards and then off
you go again and you’re just going to keep doing a few of those and I’ll just
show you a few different points so you can see how well it gathers. I’m just coming up to my marker now so a couple of hours later the bodice should be looking something like this. so you
should have nice even lines, your elastic should be looking straight, your thread
should be sitting nice and close so the elastic shouldn’t be gaping away and it
should be gathering really nicely. I’ve just got to move it one more line
so I’m going to take out my marker clip and then I know when I finish this last
line then that’s my bodice done. If when you get to the point where your bodice
is done but it’s not quite crinkling up as much as mine, what you might want to
do is turn it this way up, hold a steam iron just lightly over the top so I’m
not actually pressing down on it just hovering over. Let the steam go over it
and that will help to shrink it up a little bit further. So we’re just going
to sew the last little bit now… The bodice is finished. You can see now that there’s a big
difference between the bodice part and the skirt part. You can see there’s a
lovely stretch on the bodice so that’s going to fit really nicely without any
zippers or buttons or closures of any kind. You might want to try it on at this
point make sure that you’re definitely happy with the length before you hem it.
So we’re going to sew the bottom of the dress now – the hem at the bottom. Before
we do that make sure that you’ve adjusted your sewing machine settings
back to what they were before especially if you’ve adjusted your bobbin tension
otherwise you’ll wonder what’s going on. You want to do a very narrow hem so I
only fold to about here and round again. If you try doing a hem that’s an awful
lot wider than that, what will happen is that because you’ve used a diagonal
shape for your skirt at the base it means that this long edge right at the
end is going to be slightly longer than the edge for where you’re folding up to
and so what that means for you is as you get round you’re going to find that it
wants to twist on itself like that and that’s not going to look as neat so just
make sure that you’ve got quite a narrow hem and then you’re good to go. So it
should look something like this when you’re sewing. And then just keep on going until you
reach all the way around – I won’t bore you with making you watch the rest. Once
you’ve finished your ham should look like this going all the way around the
bottom and then as we’re in the mood for hemming we’re going to do the straps
next. What you’re going to do is sew a hem around every single side. Sew all the
way down the long sides and also along the short sides as well so we’ll have a
look at that as soon as that’s done. Once you’ve finished your hems this is
what your fabrics should now be looking like so there should be nice neat narrow
hems going all the way down the sides all the way down the ends and don’t
worry too much if you haven’t got your corners too straight too far on because
they’re not going to be seen anyway so don’t don’t get yourself concerned if
that’s happened. I’ve got the elastic bobbin back into the bobbin case. Don’t
forget to adjust your thread tension and stitch length and bobbin tension if you
need to and we’re just going to follow the same line of stitching down on the
outside as we did when we started off the top of the dress. Then we’re
going to turn when we get to the end so I’ll quickly show you how to do that. If we stop the thread and work our way
back and cut the threads you’re far more likely to end up with the elastic
popping loose somewhere and your strap failing effectively. So what we’re
going to do is we’re just going to turn it and go back round the other way. Now I
haven’t used a stitch guide foot because the direction of fabric is going to keep
changing so sometimes your shirring is going to be on the left sometimes it’s
going to be on the right so it’s not going to be as effective. Now what we’re
going to do is to lift the needle up and then we’re just going to eyeball it so
that it’s roughly across here. Obviously if you want to have it exact then feel
free to mark your fabric I’m just going to line it up roughly we’re just outside
of that foot. So you should be noticing once you’re a few lines in it’s already
shrinking in size and already gathering up really nicely so just keep on going. Once you start getting near the end just
be aware that when you’re spacing your last couple of rows that you need to
make them even because the last thing you want is just to space this one close
and then have a big gap before you come up to do the opposite side so that
you’re matching your stitching from the hem so just make sure that if I’m
looking at this I’m going to want two lines in between just to split that evenly so
that you haven’t got one big gather coming up on the bottom part. Once you’ve
finished all your shirring your two straps should look something like this.
What I would do next is try on your dress and have a look at whereabouts you want your
straps to sit. What I would recommend is because you’ve got five panels for your
dress, is you make sure that you have one panel sitting centrally at the front so
that you don’t have a seam that looks off-center because that won’t look quite
right when you try it on after. I’m sure if you wanted to you could machine sew
the strap onto the bodice but I prefer to hand sew it. The reason I prefer to
hand sew it is that once you’ve sewn across here it tends to flap up and
that’s gonna look a little bit scruffy. it’s gonna push it out at the front. Also
if I’m hand sewing it you can make sure that you’re leaving these ruffles so
that it looks in keeping with the rest of the bodice you can
also give it a little bit more give so that you’re gonna still keep a little
bit more of your stretch. The way that I tend to hand sew it on is just a
tie my little knot here to start me off and then I’m just going to stitch down
just below where I’ve got the top hem just above where I’ve got this hem. I’m going to do a longer stitch on the back, shorter stitch coming through to
the front so there isn’t much stitch showing but it still got quite a long
stitch length overall. We’re just going to sew across here So you can see now that if I left it as
just stitching across there this bit tends to stick up and that’s going to
fold up and it’s going to look a little bit scruffy so what we’re going to do is
just to stitch up to here and then we’re going to fix it down around the edges
all the way back and through And then we’re just going to sew a
knot at the end just to hold it all together and you can see how that’s now
sitting much nicer and neater there’s no bits that are sticking up
around the outside so it’s gonna sit a lot flatter. If we look inside you’ve
maintained your ruffle at the front so it’s still going to be in keeping with
the rest of the bodice and all you need to do now is just to finish off doing
the other three and it’s ready to wear. And here it is all finished So if you
enjoyed that don’t forget to hit like and subscribe
and we’ll bring you more sewing tutorials soon. Don’t forget you can also
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33 Replies to “How to make an adult elastic bust shirred dress – free pattern DIY sewing tutorial by Linda Forager”

  1. Top job! Very clear voice and visuals. It's uncanny, as this week I also found a pattern for a patchwork shirred top dress. This youtube gives very practical advise on working with shirring elastic, as I've never done it before, I found it very useful. Here's hoping the sun comes out lots this year, so we can wear our dresses!

  2. Great tutorial! I have been thinking about having a go at making a couple of these to take on holiday but was a bit unsure of shirring. You have made it look so easy. I am definitely going to now. Thank you

  3. What a fantastic tutorial! All very clear and you've given loads of great tips on shirring. I've never had a dress like this, and now I really want to make one! Thank you! 🙂 Lisa
    p.s. your line "nobody will notice…except you" made me laugh out loud!

  4. I would like to make a ShirredMermaid or formfitting dress how much Fabric will love me and how do I measure that out

  5. I like how clear the instructions are. I like every thing about this video, except one tiny thing: I wish that every time you show the finished product that you would take your long hair off the dress. You've done this twice already. It's pretty annoying. I'd like to see the whole dress and how the straps are sitting on the dress. I understand if you're self- conscious but would you please hang it up in a mannequin or a hanger, please? Thank you kindly. Keep up the good work. You're a wonderful teacher.

  6. Brilliant tutorial and the dress shape is gorgeous. I spent £60 with a rotten sewing tutor who didn't show me half of what you've shared, thank you for sharing your skills👍

  7. Thank you so much for this amazing tutorial but when i tried to make this dress at first two lines the elastic was perfect but then the elastic didn't extend .it was like thread not elastic .

  8. I watched a dozen tutorials, but my stitches weren't gathering. Thank you for suggesting some machines require tension on the bobbin;apparently mine is one!

  9. Fantastic video Linda!!  And yes…just like Cucicucicoo …I too laughed out loud at the "nobody will notice…except you"…too true…we're our own worst critic!!

  10. Hi, please correct me if i am wrong…let say, my bust is 39"..so 39×2=78"..and then, 78/5= 15.6"…so, 15.6" in the drawing pattern right?..thanks in advanced..please reply me.

  11. hi, thank you for a good tutorial. never did shirring. I thought you have to use elastic thread on the top and the bottom 🙂

  12. But what if you did all the shirring and you are finished but it is not at all fitting you because it didnt shir in enough to your size? Because I can imagine that it doesnt always shir in exactly twice.

  13. Who knew that $70 shirred dress was so easy to make. Yep, definitely gonna give it a go. Will start small with kiddies dress first.

  14. I just made this dress. I doubled the largest part of my bust as instructed, and it did shear in double the amount (after steaming): however, it was way to big in the upper chest and waist. I had to take it in and cut off about 20" total!! Measurements full bust 54", upper bust (underarm) 46", so I cut it 108" total width. Luckily, I only cut two 54" pieces so I only had to deal with 2 seams to take in. I zig zagged and straight stitched multiple times at my "cut line" to hold the elastic before cutting off the excess. In the future, I will use my upper bust measurement (underarm) x 2.

  15. What an excellent tutorial – thank you! Your tips on adjusting the tension were especially helpful. Now I think my two granddaughters each need a shirred dress.

  16. Great video. I love it. My shirred dress just fell apart so this is just what I needed.
    I like to "wing it" and "eyeball" too. A woman after my owns heart!

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