How to Make a Shirred Dress

Summertime is just around the corner and Spring is in full bloom.  And my 5 year olds wardrobe is a bit lacking in the warm weather clothes.  Which would be fine but she spends so much time outside and needs clothes that won't end up striped off in the middle of the yard.  (Yes, this does happen.)

When she was tiny I made her this adorable shirred dress along with some leggings.  (Check out the free leggings pattern here.)  I loved this dress but had forgotten it after several years.  But it's back!  I'm super excited to share it with you all again.  Not only that, but it looks super comfy and it is a lot less expensive than purchasing the pre-shirred fabric at your local fabric store.

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If you want to learn to make my own shirred fabric, it is actually a lot easier than you'd think.  My favorite part about shirring your own fabric is you get to choose whatever pattern, color or print you want.  You aren't limited to what is already in the store.  

So what does that mean to shirr something?  

Shirring is gathering fabric using an elastic thread.  Your top thread is regular thread but the thread inside your bobbin is elastic thread.  You stitch several rows this way and than take the iron and steam your seams.  The elastic shrinks and you have gorgeous shirred seams.  

Like I said, much easier than it looks!  Let's get you shirring.

Materials Needed
Cotton woven fabric 
Regular thread

Step 1
Measure your "model".  You'll want to know their chest and waist measurement.  You'll also want to measure for length.  How long are you going to want the tunic or dress?  

Cut your fabric into a rectangle.  You'll want the top to be about double the width of your models chest.  So my daughter has a 19" chest, so my fabric needs to be 38" wide.  Length is dependent on how long you'd like it.

Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Step 2
Hem the top edge by folding over a 1/4 inch and another 1/4".  Hem the bottom edge by folding over 1/4" and than 3/4".

Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Step 3

Wind your elastic thread.  To do this you'll want to wind it by hand.  Running it through the machine will make it to tight and it won't work.  It takes a little bit of time, but that is the best method I've found for getting it on the bobbin.  Then place the bobbin in your machine.  Place it in your machine.

If you are worried about it working, test it out on a scrap piece of fabric first.

  Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Step 4

Sew like you normally would with regular thread on top and elastic thread in the bobbin.  Once you finish one row, start the next and continue until you have the amount of shirred rows you want.  I usually do between 10-15 rows.  But this will vary depending on the size of the dress.  Babies won't need as many rows as say a 12 year old.

Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Step 5

Steam the heck out of your new shirred fabric.  This is what will cause it to bunch up and make it tighter.  This was the fun part!  I know that is weird, but it shows you that your hard work sewing paid off.
 Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress
Notice how it all bunched up.  Look at the few pictures before and then this one!  It went from 38 inches wide to like 28 inches.  Nice!!!

Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Step 6

With right sides together, stitch your side seams together.  Now is the time to check the fit on your model.  Make sure the dress is snug enough it won't fall off, but also has room to move.

Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Step 7
Cut out some straps (which is optional, but a good idea when you have small people).  

Measure 2 straps 2 1/2 inches by 12 inches.  Add interfacing so they have some strength.

 Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dressStep by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Step 8

Fold it in half, sew it together and then flip it right side out.  Repeat with opposite strap.

Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Step 9
Pin on your straps and sew them down.

 Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress  Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Tada!  All done.  Isn't it adorable?!  Think of all the fun things you can now make.  You could make a dress, a shirt, a skirt, a cover-up for a bathing suit!  Anything you want.  You just need to know how much shirring to go around and then length you want.  No pattern needed.

Step by Step tutorial to making a shirred dress

Step by step tutorial on making a shirred summer dress for inexpensive


  1. Cool blog! I just found you on gingerly made & subscribed:)

  2. Cute! This would be the perfect gift for a little baby I know ;)
    I would like to try smocking some day too!

  3. I should win because i just found out I'm having a girl due in July.

  4. I follow on Pinterest.

  5. I LOVE cute stuff that is easy to do!! I also love your ironing board cover :) We are starting a link up party on Thursdays (today:), and we would love for you to join us with this post and/or any others you would like to include. We are at Hope to see you there!!

  6. I would love to win for my new niece due in june!! Thanks!


  7. Adorable dress (and even cuter model!) great fabric choice. -Jen

  8. So adorable! I would love for you to share this or any of your great ideas at the link party going on now (and every Saturday through Tuesday) at 'Or so she says ...' Hope to see you there!

  9. That is so super sweet! I've never shirred before because I assumed it would be too difficult. Thank you for taking the intimidation factor out of it!

    Thank you for partying with the Wildly Original Crowd.
    <3 Christina at I Gotta Create!

  10. Oh my goodness! How adorable is this?!? I am pregnant with my second child right now and it is a girl! I am so excited but so intimidated as far as making cute clothes for her. This is absolutely adorable and I would love to be entered to win it!



  11. I follow your blog as Jessie and on Pinterest as Jessica Hornibrook.