Tutorial: Summer Dress with Elastic Thread (Shirring)

Edited on July 17th:  Click here for more pictures of the dress featured in this tutorial!

top of dress

When I was a little kid growing up in the early-1980s  I remember wearing a dress or romper with shirring on the top almost everyday.  Many would be made out of cotton, but my favorites were terry cloth.  Some had straps, some didn’t.  I remember they were so comfortable and easy to take on and off–a big deal for a four year old who liked to dress herself and spent everyday at the pool.

Imagine my delight when I saw that elastic thread was making a come back this year–just in time for MM to get to wear it like her mom did!

elastic thread

Elastic thread is so easy to sew with. All you do is have your normal sewing thread in the top of your machine and then you wind your bobbin was the elastic thread. {Some people choose to hand wind it, but since I have a drop-in bobbin I let my machine auto-wind it.}  The black thread is the elastic thread, but it comes in other colors.

regular thread on top, elastic thread in the bobbin

When you decide what you’re going to sew–in this case we’re sewing a short dress for MM–you need to double the width because the elastic thread will shrink the fabric. I used one of MM’s dresses that fits and then doubled the fabric for this dress.

you'll need to double the fabric for each side

Then mark lines either 1/2″ or 1″ apart {I did 1/2″ here} with a water soluble fabric marker. This will help you sew in a straight line. I did five of these lines.

make lines to sew with the elastic thread

Sew along these lines (make sure you backstitch at the beginning and end of each line). I use normal thread length and tension.

sewing the rows of elastic thread

I did this for both pieces {the front and the back pieces}.Then I matched the pieces up, right sides together, pinning to make sure the lines match up all the way around perfectly.

matching up the front and back

Then I added extra-wide double bias tape to the top and bottom of the dress {one pack did just fine on this dress} so I wouldn’t have to hem or finish edges…what can I say, I’m lazy!

sewing on the bias tape

I added ribbon straps because…well, because it was 4pm on a Friday and I was getting lazy…oh, yeah, I already admitted I’m lazy.  Oops. You definitely could do some cute fabric straps…or make it a halter!

The very last step is to spray the elastic thread areas with a water bottle and then press with an iron. Don’t move the iron around like regular ironing–nope, just pick it up and put it down, over and over. It will cause the elastic to shrink even more.And here’s Miss MM modeling her little dress.

the dress

8 Responses to Tutorial: Summer Dress with Elastic Thread (Shirring)

  1. Renee July 16, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    I found your blog from Allison Dawson’s a while ago…and I have been lurking here for a while.

    I LOVE this dress and am going to have to try it out myself. How cute!!!!!!

  2. BlueEyedYonder July 16, 2010 at 10:53 pm #

    I am in love with this dress. We need to have a sewing play date. Such fun!

  3. Mimi July 17, 2010 at 6:01 am #

    You are talented in so many ways! I am so proud of you.
    Love you

  4. Lisa July 17, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    Nat, does the elastic thread mess with the tensions of your machine?

  5. Lisa Escamilla July 17, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    What a fun idea. I am surprised it is so simple to do. You are amazing girl, thanks for always sharing your talent with us.

  6. Ann July 17, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    Found you from a comment on another blog and was intrigued as I love old southern homes- being from Louisiana and all. This is an adorable little dress. I’ve got the elastic thread but have yet to try it. I’m inspired to do it. MM is a cutie!

  7. Kimberly July 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    I was wondering about the elastic thread also and the tension. I’m much older than you, I had several tops in the ’70’s, made from the ready made by the yard stuff at the fabric store- I never thought of creating it myself back then! I’m new to your blog too. What type of machine do you have? I might try and make one for our youth pastor’s little one year old-


  1. Our Old Southern House » Blog Archive » Shirred Dress Encore - July 17, 2010

    […] realized after I posted last night that I didn’t get good shots of the actual dress I made with the […]

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