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Simple Shirred Sundress Tutorial

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I have a new dress tutorial to share today!  How to make a Simple Shirred Sundress.

Sew this super easy shirred sundress for your little one! (includes a printable bodice pattern)

(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 be sewn quickly, then I can sit back and enjoy it!

I’ve sewn a few larger, more intricate projects that have turned wonderfully, and I’m definitely glad I did them. (Like my family room curtains or this Rainbow Princess dress.)

But with these larger projects, I often find I start to lose interest, and they become almost a chore to finish. (And who needs one more chore?) That’s 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 bit of sewing here and there.

This simple shirred sundress is all about minimum effort with maximum results!  

It does include some shirring, so if you haven’t had a chance to try this technique, this sundress is a perfect project to do so.

Materials needed to make your own shirred sundress:

a Few tips 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.
  • You can customize the fit a little more 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).
  • For sizes 7 and larger, I recommend using the pattern for the polished pillowcase dress (it has a longer armscye) and placing your shirring 1/2 inch apart.


Step 1:  Measure your child from the 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 noticed it printed slightly smaller.)

Step 3: Fold out your fabric as shown and place the bodice pattern on the fold. (It’s 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 disappearing ink is a bit 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.)

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!

Pin the project here  ==>>  

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  1. lupe lepu says:

    Great!!! I've always wanted to know how to shirr. Thanks!!

  2. Sew Darn Neat says:

    Hi Jamie, is there a reason not to back stitch at the beginning and end of each row of shirring and cut then start the next?


    1. Of course you can end your rows of shirring which ever way works best for you, but I prefer this method (when possible) for 2 reasons. 1. It's quicker. 2. I have had the edges of shirring come loose in garments and the elastic thread works it's way out towards the center and the edges are no longer shirred.
      Good luck,

    2. Sew Darn Neat says:

      If I did each row and back stitched at beginning and end It won't unravel towards the centre will it? Isn't this because back stitching secures the stitching in place?

  3. Sara Chance says:

    Hi Jamie, I'm sorry if this message sends multiple times. I just need quick advice as I work on this dress (shirred sundress). The bias tape I bought is single fold, .5 in. It's looking skinny to me compared to yours. Would you advise a wider size (quilting size or other?). I've never done bias tape before. Appreciate you so much! My knot dress and modern peasant have both turned out adorably!

    1. Hi Sara, I used the extra wide double fold bias tape. (This one: http://amzn.to/1EnNdgx.) Good luck and I'll add this info to the post above.