Creative articles about sewing

Shirred dress sewing tutorial

The shirred dress

The days are slowly getting brighter and longer and Im getting in the mood for creating some new summer dresses, one of my favourite easy summer sewing go too is the shirred dress.

When it comes to summery style, there’s no faster way to put together a stunning look than with this shirred dress! Easy enough for beginners and completed in minutes – this charming sundress is the ideal addition to your wardrobe.

A shirred dress is the perfect balance for flattering all body types, easily styled, super comfy and floaty for hot days.

I decided on just a straight skirt and to add some shoulder ties to prevent any embarrassing slips!!

What is shirring

shirring (present participle)
gather (an area of fabric or part of a garment) by means of drawn or elasticised threads in parallel rows:
“I shirred the waist and the back panel”
Shirring is a sewing technique that is used to gather the fabric into a smaller area, creating a stretchy, elastic effect. It’s also a great way to add texture and interest to your dress.
Shirring can be done by hand or machine (typically with a sewing machine since hand sewing can be very time-consuming).
I will be using my machine!! All you need is a standard sewing machine, some shirring elastic and some fabric.

You will need to hand wind the bobbin with the shirred elastic, wrapping it around with an even tension, thread the needle with a normal plain thread, set the tension a little loose and stitch length to around 3! 

Shirring elastic


Fabric Choice

The best fabric for shirred dresses is medium to lightweight woven. This will allow the dress to move with you, while also providing plenty of give in the areas where you need it most. ( a jersey fabric can also be used, but I personally prefer a woven fabric )

I received a beautiful piece of printed woven fabric from a company in Holland called @verhees. Woven fabrics are perfect for this and the lighter the fabric the more of an effect you will create. 

My Viscose fabric choice

How to Shirr fabric

When making this shirred dress pattern I’ve shirred about 22 rows using elastic thread so my dress is shirred the entire bodice down to the waistline. You can sew as many rows as you like to make your dress feel comfortable and fit your own body. For larger chest areas you may need to add more rows than on small chest areas. Also the closer the shirred rows the tighter the dress.

I used my sewing machine foot as a spacing guide between the elasticated rows.

Measurement and fabric usage

For the bust measurement, measure around your entire bust and multiply by 1.5. This is the width of your fabric (front and back).

For the length of the dress I used 1,1 Mt in the length

For the shoulder Ties I cut 4 x 5cm strips with a length of 40 cm.


Sewing your shirred dress

The Bodice

  • Firstly cut out your main dress piece and shoulder straps.
  • Overlock the top of the fabric ( the width ) fold the top of the fabric to the wrong side by 2cm, press and pin. ( this is the top edge of the dress)
  • Thread your machine and hand wind your bobbin with the shirred elastic

Hand wind the bobbin with the shirred elastic

  • Sew along the the width of the fabric, 1,5cm down from the pressed edge. Remember to anchor the first few stitches, by sewing back and forth. This will stop the stitches from unravelling.
  • Continue sewing rows, using your sewing machine foot width as a guide. ( alternatively you can draw guidelines with Chalk.)

Using my sewing machine foot a width guide between the rows

Soon you will see the fabric puckering and becoming more elasticated. Take your time, checking that you have enough elastic on the bobbin to continue sewing a whole row.

  • Sew 22 rows, and try the bodice on. If your would like the bodice to sit lower down then simply add more rows.

The more rows you sew the more elasticated the fabric is becoming.

  • Once you are satisfied with the fit and depth of your bodice, lay the fabric in half with the right sides facing and line up the shirred rows along the edge. Pin and sew from the top of the dress to the hem using straight stitch. Making sure to catch the ends of each shirred row.

Pinned side edge of the dress

  • Neaten of the edge of the seam with an overlock or a zig zag seam.

The straps

  • Now we will move on to the straps. The ties can be made to any width you are happy with, I like mine fairly skinny, so I cut 4 strips of fabric 5 cm wide and around 40cm long.

  • Fold the shoulder straps in half length ways, right sides together and sew along the top edge and along the longest side of all 4 straps, and trim away the excess

Sewing my straps

Cutting away the corners to create a neat point

Trimming away all the excess fabric.


  • Using a Turner, turn all the straps to the correct way, press them and position them roughly 8cm away from the side seam, at the front and back.
  • Pin them initially to the top of the dress and try the dress on, to make sure everything fits and the straps are in the correct positions.

Using a turner, turn all the straps to the correct-sides

Position the ties and try the dress on before sewing for the best fit

Fold the end of the straps over before sewing to prevent the ends from fraying.

  • lastly, finish of the hem edge of the fabric with an over lock or zig zag, press up by 3cm and sew into place.
  • Tie your ties into beautiful bows and voila… a new summer dress

And there you have it,  quick easy summer dress…

I hope you have enjoyed my tutorial, please tune into next month, for more reasons to keep sewing!!



Free sewing instructions: Shirred dress

Related content you may be interested in

Comments of this post

2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Required fields are marked *

  • Lyn Fedden EditEditing comments on the BERNINA blog is only possible after logging in with a blog user account. Sign up now or create a user account if you do not have one yet.

    Do you have to use a different bobbin case to adjust the bobbin tension?  

    • Katie Kluth EditEditing comments on the BERNINA blog is only possible after logging in with a blog user account. Sign up now or create a user account if you do not have one yet.

      No, it’s exactly the same, but it’s important that you hand wind the bobbin with a little tension on the elastic ..

Dear BERNINA Blog readers,

if you want to publish pictures via the comment function, please log in to the blog first. Click here to sign in.

You haven't registered for the BERNINA blog yet? Click here to create your free account.

Thank you very much

Your BERNINA Blog Team