I got a manic sewing attack on Memorial Day morning to make my girls new dresses for the afternoon's outing to the pool. For several months now I've wanted to try shirring with elastic bobbin thread and recently added some to my collection.
This dress idea is not an original, nor is this tutorial. In fact, I just googled elastic bobbin thread and came up with numerous shirring tutorials, but I thought I'd give my readers my impression of elastic bobbin thread: IT'S AWESOME! I can't wait to shirr everything in my wardrobe. I'm already planning a top or dress for myself out of my gorgeous new silks from my trip to the NYC garment district last week.
After talking to a few of my fellow sewists about elastic bobbin thread I was left with conflicting opinions whether to wind the elastic tightly or loosely around the bobbin. I first tried loosly, and while it shirred well, there was not enough gather to the stitch. After tightly winding the bobbin thread, stretching the elastic to nearly its full extent, I found the shirring much stretchier and more to my liking.
I started each dress with sewing a tube of fabric. The larger dress for my 4 yr old is approximately 40" in circumference. She wanted a long dress to make her feel more royal, so the length I used was also about 40", including the amount needed to accomodate a self-facing in the bodice.
While it's hard to tell with the print (above), I folded the tube down to the wrong side of the fabric about 1/3 of the length. The folded edge became the edge closest to the neckline.
After the bobbin was wound and loaded, I adjusted the stitch length on my machine to a basting length. I found a longer stitch length worked better for shirring. My first line of sewing was positioned approximately 1" from the folded edge, with two additional stitch lines: one 1/2" above the first and the second 1/2" below the first. The first stitch line provided a nice guide to the other two. I eyeballed my stitchlines and a slight wonkiness does not show in the finished dress.
After shirring the upper chest I realized I needed another seam to bring the dress in at the waist. At about 1/2" above the edge of where the facing ends I sewed another band of stitching around the circumference of the dress. *Note: sew on the right side of the fabric! I forgot to do this at first and was left with elastic thread visible on the front side. Dumb mistake, Carla!
Making the thin straps was a cinch using a technique I discovered long ago... using welting or another type of cording to pull the strap through to the right side.
If you don't already know how to do this, begin by sandwiching a piece of cording between the right sides of a fabric strip. Using a zipper foot for best results, sew along the top of the fabric strip to secure the cord sandwiched in the middle, then pivot and sew alongside the cord down the length of the strap.
Trim the seam allowances on the strip, then tug gently on the cord to pull the fabric through itself to the right side. Remove the stitches securing the cording to the strap (or cut the cord off if you have sufficient length in the strap) and press.
I made long straps so I could tie them at the shoulder. Position each of the four segments, two at the front and two at the back (on either side of that vertical seam). I moved the back straps a bit closer to the centerline of the dress so that they would be less likely to slide off those wee shoulders, but as you can see in the first photo above, I still fought that battle.
The girls LOVE their new dresses. Now how much longer can I dress them alike and get away with it....?