Sewing

Make a No Pattern Sundress with Pre Shirred Fabric in about 20 Minutes!

Got 20 minutes?  Then you NEED to make yourself (or the lil missy in your life) a fabulous summer sundress out of pre shirred fabric. The good news is you don’t need a pattern to make this great little sundress.

How to make a no pattern sundress with pre shirred fabric

I mentioned last week that I came home from Joann’s with all sorts of craft goodies.

One of those “goodies” was this gorgeous pre shirred rayon fabric. While we were shopping, my little missy took one look at this pretty floral fabric and insisted I make her a long flowy summer sundress with the fabric.  

I was more than happy to comply as this type of no pattern sundress is a “breeze” to make and luckily, I had a 50% off coupon I could use on a cut of non-sale fabric.

How to make a no pattern sundress with pre shirred fabric

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How to Make a Sundress Without a Pattern

One of the pluses of working with this type of pre shirred fabric is that you can create a gorgeous dress in just a few minutes without a pattern.

Since the top edge of the fabric is shirred (or smocked – sometimes these phrases are used interchangeably, but the two techniques aren’t actually the same thing.) You can create a tube top type sundress with only one seam down the back of the dress.  No pattern is needed, all you need is a bust measurement, hip measurement and possibly a length measurement.

What’s the difference between Smocking and Shirring

Traditionally, smocking was a technique, done by hand, to gather fabric so that it would stretch. There are ways to get the traditional smocked look with a sewing machine. (You would gather several rows of fabric and then use your sewing machine’s decorative smocking stitches.) That’s a lot of work!

Shirring, on the other hand, uses elastic thread to gather the fabric and give you a smocked look in a very short amount of time.

pre shirred fabric

Where can you buy pre shirred or smocked fabric?

This pre smocked fabric can be found seasonally at many of the big box craft stores like Joann’s and Hobby Lobby.  You can also find it online on Etsy and seasonally at a few other online retailers.

Tips for using pre shirred fabric in a sundress.

I’ve used this pre shirred fabric on more than one occasion. I’ve discovered that the shirred fabric made using stiffer cotton fabric is great for kids, but is not the best choice for a women’s dress.  I recommend looking for a rayon-based pre shirred fabric (The shirred fabric I am using today is rayon and flows beautifully.)

Can you see how much more gathered the yellow rayon fabric is than the cotton pineapple fabric?

pre smocked fabric

The reason I recommend the rayon pre shirred fabric is because the rayon fabric is thinner, it gathers more.  Which in turn creates a tighter fit around the bust, but still provides plenty of fabric for the skirt area (since it is a tighter gather), so the dress will flow prettily around your hip area.  

So while the less gathered fabric will be fine for children (with a strap) I would not be able to use it on a dress for myself. It would not allow enough ease in the hip area for me to be comfortable.

How much fabric is needed for a no pattern sundress with pre shirred fabric

Subtract 3 inches from the bust measurement.  That is the amount of fabric needed for the dress. (Although it never hurts to purchase an additional inch or 2 in case of an error or miscut on the fabric cutters side or your side.)

Before purchasing the fabric, measure the bottom (un-shirred side) and compare to the hip measurement.  You want to make sure to have at least 3.5 inches of ease (extra fabric) so the dress will flow over the hip area.

Additional Options for this Shirred Sundress

Ready to make a sundress?

Materials Needed:

  • Shirred Fabric
  • basic sewing supplies (ruler, scissors, iron, thread, pins)
  • optional: tube turner, rotary cutter and cutting mat

How to Make a No Pattern Sundress with Pre Shirred Fabric

Instructions

Step 1: Determine the amount of fabric needed.

Subtract 3 inches from the bust measurement.  That is the amount of fabric needed for the dress. (I recommend adding an additional quarter yard to the amount of fabric needed to account for cutting errors and will give you extra fabric if you choose to add straps.)

Before purchasing the fabric, measure the bottom (un-shirred side) and compare to the hip measurement.  You want to make sure to have at least 3.5 inches of ease (extra fabric) so the dress will flow over the hip area.

Step 2: Cut fabric and test fit.

Cut the width of fabric to the bust measurement, minus 3 inches. Take care to follow the lengthwise grainline as this fabric can be difficult to cut straight.

Cut length if needed. (I wanted to keep the border, so I cut it off first, shortened the fabric and then added the border back on.)

Pin the shirred edges together and test fit the dress bodice.  Make any fit adjustments needed.

Don’t have your little one nearby to measure?  Here is a generic child’s measurement chart:

 

Step 3: Sew dress together.

Line the cut fabric up, right sides together and sew, using a .25 inch seam allowance.  Finish this seam edge with your preferred method (pinking shears, zig zag stitch, serger)

Note: If you want to add a split to the bottom/back of your dress, skip down to the bottom of this tutorial where I give some instructions on various options for this dress.

how to make a no pattern sundress

Step 4: Hem the dress.

Fold the bottom edge over .25 inches and press.  Fold it up another 3/8 inches and press again.  Sew along the bottom edge.

That is it, the basic dress is done!

Options for your Sundress:

Adding a halter tie and back tie tab for extra supportmake a sundress with pre shirred fabric How to make a no pattern sundress with pre shirred fabric

Adding a halter tie, step 1:

Back tab:

Cut a strip of fabric 7 inches by 1.5 inches

Fold fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together and sew .25 inches from the edge.

Turn the fabric tube right side out and finish the edges using your preferred edge finishing method.

Fold the fabric in half to make a loop.  Pin loop to back center of dress and tack in place.

Adding a Halter tie, step 2:

Halter tie:

Cut another strip of fabric, 51 inches long by 1 inch wide.

Fold strip lengthwise, right sides together and sew a scant 1/4 inch from the edge.  Trim seam allowance to 1/8 inch.

Using a tube turner, flip halter tie right side out.

Tie a tiny knot at the end of the tie and add a bit of fray check to help seal the ends.

Pin the center of the tie to the top center of the dress and sew securely in place.

no pattern sundress

 

Adding a Split to the Skirt:

If making a maxi dress, you may wish to add a split to the bottom of the skirt.  Here is how to do that.

Adding a split, step 1:

Decide how high up you want your slit.  Mark the spot with a pin.  Sew a straight stitch 1.5 inches past the mark.  Finish the edges of the side seam to the mark with your favorite seam finishing techniques.

Adding a split, step 2:

Fold the raw edges of the split over 1/8 inch, press. Fold over another 1/8 inch press again and sew down the folded edge.  Repeat on the other side of the split.

Adding a split, step 3:

Flip the dress over and reinforce the top of the split with a couple of stitches.  Trim your threads and secure with a bit of fray check.

 

Adding Basic Shoulder Straps

Follow the instructions in this tutorial

Cutting Armholes and adding bias tape ties

How darling is this little shirred sundress with the cutout armholes?  You can achieve the same look with pre shirred fabric! 

I recommend adding an inch or 2 to the bust measurement and then sew the dress as instructed above.  Then use the template in this tutorial to cut out the armholes and then follow the instructions to add the bias tape.  The template should fit up to a size 8, but for larger sizes, you can do a fit test and lover the armhole cut out as needed.

Yield: 1 sun dress

Make a No Pattern Sundress with Pre Shirred Fabric in about 20 Minutes!

no pattern sundress
Active Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Difficulty easy

Materials

  • Pre Shirred Fabric
  • Basic sewing supplies

Instructions

Step 1: Determine the amount of fabric needed.

  1. Measure around high bust
  2. Measure hips
  3. Subtract 3 inches from the bust measurement. That is the amount of fabric needed for the dress. (I recommend adding an additional quarter yard to the amount of fabric needed to account for cutting errors and will give you extra fabric if you choose to add straps.)
  4. Before purchasing the fabric, measure the bottom (un-shirred side) and compare to the hip measurement. You want to make sure to have at least 3.5 inches of ease (extra fabric) so the dress will flow over the hip area.

Step 2: Cut fabric and test fit.

  1. Cut width of fabric to the bust measurement, minus 3 inches. Take care to follow the lengthwise grainline as this fabric can be difficult to cut straight.
  2. Cut length if needed. (I wanted to keep the border, so I cut it off first, shortened the fabric and then added the border back on.)
  3. Pin the shirred edges together and test fit the dress bodice. Make any fit adjustments needed.
  4. Don't have your little one nearby to measure? Here is a generic child's measurement chart:
  5.  

Step 3: Sew dress together.

  1. Line the cut fabric up, right sides together and sew, using a .25 inch seam allowance. Finish this seam edge with your preferred method (pinking shears, zig zag stitch, serger)
  2. Note: If you want to add a split to the bottom/back of your dress, skip down to the bottom of this tutorial where I give some instructions on various options for this dress.

Step 4: Hem the dress.

  1. Fold the bottom edge over .25 inches and press. Fold it up another 3/8 inches and press again. Sew along the bottom edge.
  2. That is it, the basic dress is done!

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17 Comments

  1. Kathleen Perez says:

    I’m hoping you can help me find this fabric. Joanna and Hobby lobby do not have it. I’ve looked online and have a hard time finding it by the yard do you have any ideas please help!
    Thank you ❤️

    1. I have not been able to find it this year either. So strange. (and so disappointing!)

  2. Terri Tafoya says:

    Love these dress instructions! Now, my question is where can I get pre-smocked fabric online. This COVID situation has put a damper on me going and enjoying looking at a fabric store. Jamie, where do you get your fabric?

    1. Wow, I just did a few searches online and looks like it is hard to find this year. I bought mine in-store at Joann’s last year. I have not been in recently to see if they are carrying it again. I could not find it on line.

  3. I would love to make a skirt instead of a dress. I’ve had two I’ve worn out. But the width of most smocking in presmocked fabric is too wide. 3” is about the right width. How would one cut and finish the smocked edge?

    1. I think it would be easiest if you had a serger that way you could just do a narrow rolled edge right along the top and the machine will cut it at the same time period without a serger it will be much harder. You could try shirring your own fabric. I did make an adorable shirt skirt for my little missy that way

  4. Autumn Doolittle says:

    Ran across this surching for pre-shirred fabric for myself. I am wonder if the armhole style would be able to be used for a maternity dress and acomidate for growing belly. My daughter is expecting and loves the sundress I did for my cusion.

    1. I don’t see why not, you will want to make sure there is enough fabric to go around her belly!

  5. Charlene King says:

    I love making these dresses. My grandaughters love them too.
    Recently I ran into a problem after making a dress.
    The elastic after cutting came loose the whole one side of dress.
    I’m thinking the side that was already cut.
    Next dress I’m going to cut an inch larger and baste stitch. Then sew together to make sure they stay put.

  6. Jaimie Sander says:

    Great tutorial! I just started one of these with fabric from Joanne’s! I still need to hem the bottom,and add straps,so this is very handy!
    PS-our name is almost the same,lol! People always try and add an “S” to mine.

  7. Ilona Ahl says:

    Thanks Jamie, I made this dress years ago, so comfy, will make again?

  8. Heather R. says:

    This is so cute! My machine is in the shop being cleaned and now I want it back to do this dress for my daughters. Thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Machine in the shop is the worst! It’s when you see all the best projects lol.

  9. Hey Jamie, I could not get the instructions to th pillowcase dress. Help! By th ay I am enjoying you newsletter,