Hey everyone, it’s Holly! Is everyone enjoying Floreat as pattern of the month? It is such a versatile pattern! And I recently came up with a version that I am SO in love with. Like, completely obsessed. And I’m going to share the how-to with you today!
Has anyone noticed the shirring trend in the sewing world lately? Have you tried the technique yourself? Do you know what shirring is? If you don’t know, shirring is when you use elastic thread in your bobbin to create gathers that stretch. It’s so fun and SO much easier than you might think! Seriously, you just add some elastic thread, and your machine and thread basically does the rest. So I thought – why not try it out on a Floreat dress? It’s a nice loose fit, perfect for adding some shirring. And if you like adding the included sash pattern piece to cinch in the loose silhouette, this is a fun alternative to create that definition!
Ok, so yes – as you can see, I created this version to work with my baby bump. Did you see the recent post about using Floreat as maternity wear? This hack is SO good for maternity! BUT – the shirring is just as cute and practical with no baby bump. For example, I created my shirring right under my bust to accommodate the bump, but I also like the empire waist/baby doll look. So I would probably stick with this placement even without the bump. But you could also add your rows of shirring at your natural waist for a slightly different look. That’s more like where the sash belt would sit, so if you like that, add your shirring there!
I also created a new sleeve length (which I’ll also show you), but you can also do long sleeves with the shirring at the wrist!
I’m going to show the basics of shirring. So use this tutorial to create a dress just like this, or as inspiration and a jumping point to create a look all your own!
We won’t need to adjust the body of the Floreat pattern, but we will be making adjustments to the sleeves, so gather the supplies you need for that. You’ll also need:
- fabric marking of some kind (water-soluble pen, tailor’s chalk, etc)
- elastic thread
- matching top thread to your fabric
Ok, let’s just jump in!
Sleeve Pattern Adjustment
As I said, I’m going to show you how I created the sleeve length above. But use these steps to create any sleeve length you’d like.
For my sleeve length, I drew a parallel line 4″ (10cm) down from the ‘short sleeve’ cut line.
And then cut along that line.
Now we need to create more width in the sleeve so that the shirring will create that fullness.
Mark 6-7 equal sections along the bottom edge of the sleeve (I went with 6 equal sections)
Use these markings and extend parallel lines straight up to the top of the sleeve pattern.
Cut along these lines. Start cutting at the bottom edge up towards the top edge. Important – cut to, but not through, the top. This leaves a “hinge” to move each section around.
Place a large piece of paper underneath. Spread each section an equal amount, taping down as you go to hold in place. How much you spread each section will determine how full your sleeve is…
For mine, I spread each section about 1 1/2″ (3.8cm) but feel free to play with the width you add. The more you spread each section, the more full and billowy your sleeve will be.
Tape everything in place, connect and redraw the bottom edge, and cut out.
Here is my new sleeve pattern!
If you want long sleeves with shirring at the wrist, use the same technique. I found that 7 equal sections worked better for the longer sleeve, and spreading each section more – about 2″ (5cm) each.
Your pattern pieces are now ready, and you can cut everything out of your fabric – front dress, back dress, sleeves, and facing.
Prepping The Fabric for Shirring
Ok, so now we need to prep our shirring guidelines on our dress. We need to make these markings on the right side of the fabric, so make sure you use a marking tool that will come off easily when you are all done.
Note – the measurements I use here are for my specific placement. Even if you want a similar empire waist/under bust shirring placement, your measurement may be different. Or if you want your placement at the waist, your measurement will definitely be different. To find where I wanted to place the first row of shirring, I literally just held the fabric up to my body, making sure to remember the seam allowance at the shoulder so I had the placement on my body right, and marking the placement I wanted. That’s it.
So for me, that measurement was 4″ (10cm) from the underarm. I measured that down on each side seam and connected straight across. This is where the very first line of shirring will be.
Now draw more parallel lines 1/2″ (1.2cm) apart.
5-6 lines work well. I wouldn’t do less than 5. You can also try to do even more lines. Again – the final look is up to you! If you’re not sure how many lines you want, you can always draw more, but stop sewing the shirring rows when you reach the look you want and then just clean off the excess lines.
Here is my front fabric all ready.
Ok, so for the back. I definitely recommend sewing the back slit option. You could probably make it work with a back zipper, but it will be a lot easier with the slit option. So that is what I’m going to show you.
Sew your two back pieces together up until the slit notch. If you need help, check out this post in the sewalong.
Now we need to draw the same guidelines on the back dress piece. Again – on the right side of the fabric.
Measure down the side seams the same length you did on the front, and draw the same amount of parallel lines 1/2″ (1.2cm) apart. So that it matches up perfectly with the front.
For the sleeve, we actually need to hem the bottom edge first. A small hem works best. So turn under 1/4″ (6mm), and then another 1/4″ (6mm), and stitch close to the folded edge.
Turn back over to the right side of the fabric, and draw your rows of shirring guidelines near the hem. I did my first guideline 1/2″ (1.2mm) from the hem. And each additional guideline 1/2″ (1.2cm) apart. Again, I went with 5 lines.
Prepping Your Machine
Now we need to prep our machine and threads!
For your top thread, just use a regular, matching thread colour.
Bobbin time! Ok, so you’ll actually need to wind the elastic thread onto your bobbin by hand. Don’t worry about it though – it actually doesn’t take that long and it doesn’t need to be perfect.
Insert your elastic thread through one of the holes in the bobbin…
… and start winding the elastic thread around the bobbin.
Now, this may take some trial and error. I’ve found that most machines want your elastic bobbin to be taught on the bobbin, but not stretched at all as you wind it. That’s why we don’t machine wind it. BUT, to be honest, all machines are different, so maybe your machine handles it better if it is really tightly wound on your machine. If this is your first time shirring, it may be frustrating finding the right way to do this/ right bobbin tension. But I promise once you figure it out, you’ll breeze through the actual sewing.
So wind that bobbin until its full. Again, as you can see by mine, it doesn’t have to look perfect. It will still work!
Trim off that little tail.
Place your bobbin in your machine, and make sure you pull the elastic thread up through the machine. Even if you have a drop-in bobbin where the bobbin thread doesn’t usually have to be pulled up, pull it up through anyway.
Set your machine to a straight stitch with a longer stitch length. I find that somewhere between 4-5 stitch length works on my machine, but again your machine may be slightly different. But that’s it! That’s the only setting you should need to adjust!
Once your threads and settings are set, please test everything out on scrap fabric. Multiple times. Like I mentioned, you may like to adjust the winding of your bobbin. Or adjust the stitch length. If it is your first time shirring, you may need to take some time to find the perfect settings for your own machine. But once you do find your machine’s perfect settings, the actual sewing will be a breeze.
I’m going to move right into showing you the shirring on the actual dress, after testing on scrap fabric…
Sewing Your Shirring
Sewing with the right side of the fabric facing up, stitch straight down that first guideline that you drew.
As you can see, as you sew, the shirring gathering just magically happens!
Here is just the first line of shirring done.
Don’t worry if yours doesn’t look as gathered/elasticized as it should with only the first line. As you sew each additional line, it will shrink up more.
Continue stitching down each guideline, pulling on and stretching the previous stitches ever so slightly so that you don’t catch any folds in the gathered fabric in your new stitch line.
And here is all 5 lines stitched!
I happened to find the perfect setting/elastic thread/fabric combo, and the shirring was perfect straight off the machine. But if yours doesn’t look quite as gathered as you’d like, try hitting it with some steam from your iron. The steam will make that elastic thread shrink up more.
Look at that stretch!
Repeat the same process on the back…
… and also on each sleeve. Follow the guidelines that you drew.
Note: Make sure to watch your bobbin as you go. You don’t want your elastic thread bobbin to run out in the middle of a stitch line. SO watch it closely before it runs out, and you can re-wind it.
Now you can move with the rest of your dress construction as instructed in the booklet or sewalong posts (mostly) – sew the shoulder seams and sew in the facing.
Also, sew in the pockets (if you are adding those).
Turn your dress inside out so that the front and back of the dress is together with right sides of the fabric together, and line up the side seams. We will be sewing the sleeve seam and side seam all in one stitch.
Make sure you match up the underarm seam, the waist shirring lines, and the sleeve shirring lines. Pin in place well so they stay lined up.
Sew from the sleeve edge, around the underarm, and down the side seam, all in one continuous stitch. If you are adding the pockets, make sure you go around them too as shown in the instructions.
Repeat for the other side seam.
And that’s it! Hem your dress and you are aaaaaall done!
What do you think? Do you love the shirring technique? If you try it out on Floreat, we would love to see!
// LOOKING FOR MORE FLOREAT POSTS? //
Here’s the full list of Floreat posts and tutorials:
- Pattern tester round-up
- Inspiration + Ideas
- Waist tie and separate belt
- Center back: zipper and slit options
- Pockets and seams (sleeved dress and blouse versions)
- Neckline facing (sleeved versions)
- Sleeveless version: facing and seams
- Bonus: Knit version
- Inspiration: Floreat as maternity
Don’t have the Floreat sewing pattern yet?! Order Floreat today ! We absolutely love seeing what you make, so don’t forget to tag your creations with #MNfloreat and @megannielsenpatterns when sharing on social media, and check out what everyone else is up to!