Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom


Simple Shirred Sundress Tutorial

(Looking for more free patterns? Be sure to check out my free patterns and tutorials page here.)

My favorite type of sewing project is something that I can sew quickly and then sit back and enjoy.  I have sewn a few larger, more intricate projects that have turned great.  (Like my family room curtains or this Rainbow Princess dress.) But in these larger projects, I find that I start to loose interest and they become almost a chore to finish.  (And who need one more chore?  One of my sewing goals is to make a quilt, but I promise, it is going to be a very simple design.)  That is why most projects you will find on my blog are quick and easy and can be finished in a day or two with just a little sewing here and there.

I have a new dress tutorial to share today and, no surprise, it is a very Simple Shirred Sundress Tutorial.

This dress is all about minimum effort with maximum results!  It does include some shirring.  If you haven't had a chance to try this technique out, this sundress is a perfect project to give it a try.

simple shirred sundress

Materials needed to make your own shirred sundress:
  • Bodice Pattern* (print here or visit my tiered dress tutorial for instructions to draw your own.)
  • 1 yard of fabric
  • 90 inches of bias tape (store bought or homemade)
  • Coordinating thread
  • Disappearing ink fabric marker
  • Elastic thread
  • Scissors
  • Steam Iron
*Quick note on the bodice pattern.  This is the same pattern I use for my tiered pillowcase dress.  The shape is very simple and because of the shirring it fits a variety of sizes.  As is, the dress should fit a 3 to small 7 year old.  To modify it for a larger child, just add an inch or 2 as needed at the fold (by sliding the pattern over) and raising the top of the bodice by adding an inch or so.  (My  5yr old's chest is 22  inches.)  There is a lot of stretch in the bodice.

You can also customize the fit a little by adjusting how close together your shirring lines are.  For a more snug fit, space your lines of shirring closer (1/4 inch).  For a looser fit space them wider (1/2 inch).


Step 1:  Measure your child from armpit to the length you want the dress to be.

Step 2:  Print or draw out your bodice pattern.

 *** Important pattern printing tip***  When printing the patterns, do not print directly from Google docs.  Download the pattern to your computer and open it in your adobe acrobat reader.  Choose actual size and the landscape option.  (I just printed a pattern directly off Google docs and notice it printed slightly smaller.)

Step 3:   Fold out your fabric as shown and place bodice pattern on fold. (Hard to see, but I laid the fabric out flat and folded the selvage edges to the middle of the fabric, so I had 2 equal folded pieces to draw my pattern on.)  With your ruler or measuring tape, measure from the armpit of the bodice pattern to the desired length and mark the measurement with your fabric marker.

Step 4:  Draw a line from the middle of the bodice down to the mark you made.  Your line should gently flare out, like an A, all the way to the edge of the fabric.  (My purple disapearing ink is knid of hard to see...)

Step 5:  Do the same thing on the other side of the folded fabric and cut out both pieces.

Step 6:  To hem the tops of the dress pieces,  fold over the top edge 1/4 inch and press.  Then fold over another 1/4 inch, press again and sew along the folded edge.

Step 7:  Place the two dress pieces right sides together and sew along both sides of the dress.  Finish the seams with pinking shears, serger or zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.

Step 8:  With your ruler, measure down 1/4 inch from the seam of the top hem.  Draw a line from armhole edge to arm hole edge.  Measure down 3/8 inch from that line and draw another.  Keep drawing lines 3/8 inches apart until you reach the bottom of the arm hole.  Do this on the front and back of the dress.

Step 9:  To shirr the bodice, we will use elastic thread in the bobbin and regular thread on top.  For best results, hand wind your bobbin with the elastic thread, without stretching out the elastic thread too much.

Next, drop your bobbin in place and thread your machine like normal.  Increase your stitch length and loosen the tension by a notch or two. (At this point, I recommend practicing a few rows of shirring on a scrap piece of fabric.)  I

Sew with a  regular straight stitch, (with the loosened tension and increased stitch length) along the lines you drew.  When you get to the side edge of the bodice, pull the fabric away from the machine to pull the threads out a little, then flip the fabric around and keep sewing in the other direction.

As you sew your shirring stitches, hold the fabric as flat as possible. (It will start to gather up a little bit as you sew more rows.)

Step 10:  Once you have shirred both sides of the sundress, heat up your steam iron and apply steam to the elastic thread.  Watch it shrink up!  (Just let the steam flow over the elastic thread.  You don't want to press the iron onto the elastic.)

I never get tired of this!
Step 11:  Cut your bias tape into two 45 inch pieces.  Fold the 1st piece in half to find the middle.  Open up the bias tape and line up the middle with the side seam in the middle of the armhole.  "Sandwich" the armhole edge with the bias tape.  Tuck in any of the extra threads hanging out and pin securely.  Do this for both sides.

For the end of the bias tape, open it up and tuck the edge in.  Fold it back up and pin.

Step 12:  Starting at one end of the bias tape, sew across the end, and all the way down the strap, across the armhole and to the other end.  Do the same for the other side.

Step 13:  To hem the bottom edge, just fold over the bottom edge 1/4 inch, press, fold over another 1/4 inch, press again and sew along the folded edge.

And you are done!  Find someone to try it on and admire the lovely dress you just made!

If you like this project and want to see more, consider following my blog! That way you wont miss anything and I would love to have you!  You can subscribe using the Google Friend Connect widget, through a reader, or signing up via email.  Just click on one of the icons below:
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  1. So THAT's how it's done. I always wondered.
    Thank you so much for the lesson!

  2. This totally makes me want to learn how to sew. Adorable!

  3. Excellent tutorial! Pinned! Making a couple of these for my granddaughters! Thanks!

  4. Great Tutorial! I have never shirred anything before but your tutorial makes it soo easy to learn! :) Add to my faves list for sure!

  5. I like this one. It's both cute and simple to make. Good step-by-step instructions too. Thanks.

  6. Very pretty, and great tutorial! I'll be making one of these for my little Robug :)

  7. REally adorable dress and super cute girl!

  8. Super cute!! Great fabric! I love the headband too!

  9. So sweet! Great idea, and nice tutorial!

  10. What a beautiful dress! You are very talented. Megan

  11. What a sweet dress! The matching headband is so adorable too.

  12. Another awesome tutorial..waoo..
    Thanks for sharing dear!!

  13. Oh my goodness this is GREAT!!! SO CUTE and I think even I could do this!! Thanks for posting! I look forward to coming back to this blog often! I'm your newest follower. :)

  14. I just bought elastic thread to try this out--your tutorial is perfect, Thank you!!


  15. What a cute dress and a great tutorial! I would love for you to link up to my What I Learned Wednesday link party! Hope to see you there!

  16. this dress is so pretty and I really like the fabric choice!

  17. I love the dress...I need to make one for my sweet grandbaby!

  18. This is an adorable dress! I am pinning this so I can try and make it for my daughter.

  19. This is awesome. Do you happen to have an Etsy shop? Or what would I need to do to get you to make me one? Email me if you're interested-I'm actually serious :). Thanks for sharing at Handmade Tuesdays.

  20. This is so simple and cute! I would love for you to link this up to my "I Made This" party at Grits & Giggles!

  21. This is adorable! And I love the fabric. I would love for you to share this at my link party

  22. The fabric you used is so pretty, what a beautiful dress!

    Make the Scene Monday @ Alderberry Hill

  23. This is adorable! If I had a little girl, this would definitely go on my to-do list. :)


  24. Love this! We just posted our Kitchen Fun and Crafty Friday link party and would love for you to share this!

  25. I have never shirred anything I learned something new today I am going to look for elastic thread the next time I go to the fab store...I don't know what I'll shirr... maybe an apron...Thanks for the info and for linking up your site...

  26. I have plans to make a dress like this for my daughter! The fabric is sitting on my sewing table but I haven't gotten around to it yet! I wanted to let you know I featured this today! You can check it out here:

  27. What a sweet dress! Beautiful job! Thank you so much for sharing your creativity in the DIY Project Parade. I haven't had my sewing machine out in a while. Great inspiration! ;)

  28. Absolutely the most beautiful dress ever!!! PLUS you are kind enough to share it with a tutorial!!!! THANK YOU!! Oh and the fabric is beautiful!

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

  29. Another fabulous dress and tutorial! Thanks for sharing at Sew & Tell Saturday!

  30. That is just delicious!
    Love it!
    Thanks for linking up to the Creative Inspirations Party at Embracing Change!
    So happy you were here!

  31. I'm new to sewing, and this tutorial looks so simple to follow! Great pictures!

  32. I love this little dress and I had no idea that elastic thread would do that. Thanks for the tip!!!

  33. I love it!! Will definitely have to give this one a try for this summer. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!! I hope you are having a fabulous week!

  34. I love how that turned out. I recently made a dress like this, but I didn't know how to make the bodice larger to account for the shrinking from the elastic thread. But it didn't seem like you enlarged it any more than you would for a dress that you weren't shirring since you used a pattern from a dress not shirred. Hmmm... Kinda confusing! ANyway, I just made a tube and shirred the top, and added shoulder ties. That way I didn't have armholes, unfortunately, but it still turned out cute. Maybe I'll try it again and put in armholes if I can figure out the measurement part! Your dress turned out beautiful!

  35. So glad I found your blog! Thank you so much for these wonderful tutorials. I am a newbie at sewing and you've saved me so much time and frustration!!

  36. Wow! Thank you so much for the tutorial. I want to try shirred sleeves and dresses now!

  37. RE; Step 10: Once you have shirred both sides of the sundress, - See more at:
    I've not shirred before so I am confused about the 'both side'! front and back? all the purple lines?
    I am having a duh moment LOL

  38. Yes, you need to shirr the front pattern piece of the sundress and the back ,side as well. The purple lines are to help keep the lines straight. If you are good at eyeballing the lines and keeping them straight, you can skip drawing the lines.

  39. Thank you Jamie. I was thinking that I had to do the front (the right side) and the back being (the wrong side) Oh my goodness I scare myself LOL


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