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Summer dress for mum: sewing patterns

Dress, Sewing  |  August 26th 2011  |  0 Comment

Making a Shirred-Back Dress, Part Three: Stitching the Bodice and Skirt

Summer dress for mum:

sewing patterns

 home stretch! (Home shirr?) If you missed them, go back and read part one and part two.

This part is important because if your back bodice stretches, you want the back waistline seam to stretch too. If it doesn’t stretch, your shirring won’t be able to stretch at the waistline and that’s no good! So it’s just a simple process of elasticizing the seam.

First, gather your back skirt waistband by sewing a line of stitching with elastic thread still in the bobbin with a 1/2″ seam allowance. This will help ease the skirt into the shirred bodice. (Note: I’m sewing shorts into my bodice below, but it’s the same idea.) It doesn’t matter which side the bobbin thread is on, since it will be hidden in the seam allowances. Steam it to shrink it up a bit more if needed.

Next, pin your back bodice to your skirt right sides together. Pin at one end and then stretch the bodice so you can pin it at the other end. Distribute evenly and pin throughout.

Sew by stretching the pieces to fit each other. You still have elastic thread in the bobbin.

Press the seam allowances as usual. Now you have a stretchy seam!

Note: You can also do this by sewing the bodice and skirt together the tradtional way–in the round–you just have to switch from regular to elastic thread in the bobbin once you get to the back.

Note: For this romper, I used a side zipper, which didn’t work very well since it rippled along the side seam . If you followed the instructions from part one, you’ll have a center back zipper like the dress in the first photo. So attach each side of the skirt to the two back pieces separately, using the technique to elasticize the seam, and then insert the zipper using a centered application. Hand picking works well with the smocking.

First, read part one to modify your pattern to make it wider. Now we’re going to shirr!

To start with, you need to press the top of your dress backs. We’re going to use a method that avoids getting the ruffled top look that you see on little girls’ sundresses–a bit more elegant and vintage-inspired.

Press down 5/8″ at the top and then fold the raw edge in to meet the fold.

Hand-wind a bobbin with elastic thread. This is the brand my notions store carries.

As you’re winding, you’ll need to stretch the thread a little so there’s a bit of tension. I just give mine a little tug at the top of the “wind.” I’d recommend winding a couple bobbins to start, since the elastic thread is fairly thick and not much fits on one bobbin.

Load the bobbin into your machine, pull it up, and treat it as your regular bobbin thread. Stitch as normal from here on. All stitching will be done from the right side of the fabric so that the elastic is in the inside of the dress. I used my usual length and tension, but I know some people lengthen their stitch and tighten their tension. Do a practice run to see what works for you.

Edgestitch about 1/8″ away from the top.

Do another row of stitching at the bottom of the turned-under seam allowance, about another 1/8″ away. It won’t really get stretchy yet; it might just ripple a bit.

Now you begin shirring rest of the rows. Make the next line 1/4″ away from the last, and then continue in rows 1/4″ apart until the end.

The fabric will continue to tighten up as you go.

From the inside:

When you’re done, give the piece a steam with your iron and it will shrink up!

As promised! This technique isn’t difficult, but it has a few parts, so I’m going to break it up into three posts. Part one is modifying a dress back pattern so it’s the right size to be shirred with elastic thread. We’re going to be talking about strappy and strapless patterns, so no full-coverage dress backs. (Note: there is a way to shirr a full coverage dress back, and that’s to change the style lines so you have side panels underneath the arms, and then shirr those.) Note: the only special supply you’ll need for the whole tutorial is elastic thread. It’s widely available and made by a variety of brands, including Gutermann, Stretch Rite, Dritz and Designer’s Choice. It generally only comes in black and white, so choose the best color for your fabric.

You can modify a basic dress back bodice like so. The green is your new style line. (Note: CB is center back and SS is side seam.) Pretend these sketches are good and they weren’t done on an envelope, okay?

Important: don’t forget to add a seam allowance at the top of the new back pattern piece.

If you’re using a basic sloper or simple dress pattern, you’ll also want to change the front. You can do sweetheart:

Or a simple straight front:

Isn’t patternmaking fun? No matter which shape you do, make sure your front and back side seams are the same height so they match up when you sew them together. They should form a smooth line, rather than dipping down into a v-shape. Also, always do a test run of the front, even if it’s just a tissue fitting.

We’ll be shirring the whole back, rather than side back panels, which is often what you’ll see on vintage sarong dress and rompers. This just keeps it simpler, but you can certainly break up your back into panels and shirr only the side panels.

With a fitted-waist skirt like a circle skirt or pencil skirt (or even fitted shorts for a romper), you’ll still need a zipper. But we WILL be adding elastic shirring to the top of the back skirt, so it will stretch with the back bodice. More to come on that. (If you make a gathered skirt and elasticize it, you won’t need a zipper, but I’m not focusing on that technique here.) I highly recommend doing your zipper center back. (This is the sleekest, flattest zipper application for this kind of dress. A lapped side zipper gets kind of ruffly and adds width to your side. ) This means you’ll have seam allowances at the center back for the zipper. Add them if your pattern doesn’t have them already.

Now, close up the back darts and trace the pattern. It’s now dart-less, which is what we want.

Now you need to figure out how much extra width to add to accommodate the shirring. It’s a process of trial and error, really. Shirring reduces the pattern piece width by half. But you can’t just double the pattern width, because you want the elastic to be snug on you, so it stretches a bit and conforms to your body. Make sense? The first pattern I did this with, I slashed and spread to add a bunch of inches to the middle of the piece. It was way too big. (Which isn’t a big deal, I just made big seam allowances in the back and then trimmed them down.)

The next one I did, I took a simpler approach: adding just an inch to each side of the pattern piece. Make sure you don’t make the piece taller in the process, since it still needs to fit in to the front pattern piece at the side seams. The green shading below is the extra width.

This approach worked really well, though it is very snug. It’s bombshell-fitted, which is exactly what I was going for in the Shaheen-style dress I was making. If you want your dress to be a little looser, add 1-1/2″ inches at each side of the back pattern piece.

Source: blogforbettersewing.com