shirring for summer

Yesterday I printed out this tutorial and made a dress with some Henry Glass bicycle print fabric. I supplemented the tutorial with some reading from a few different sewing books: a Butterick book from the 1970s that Geoff's mother lent me, two different editions of Vogue Sewing, and the section on shirring from a fabulous book I found called The Yestermorrow Clothes Book (which is all about altering secondhand clothing and is a real treasure). Really, though, there isn't that much to it, but here are a few things I will keep in mind for the next time -- and there will most certainly be a next time, because this is so easy and so satisfying and I can't wait to wear my dress while drinking coffee on a cabin porch.

Cut the fabric on the bias. I think this is the most important thing, because as the dress is made of two rectangles with no shaping, and because I used cotton, the dress does not drape or hang as well as it could. I think the Vogue books said shirring on the bias produces the best results, as well. I should have followed this advice from the beginning as it has the weight of Vogue behind it. Ha.

Mark placement lines for shirring. Do not estimate. It is not worth rushing through.

Wind the elastic thread tightly, but not too tightly. If it's too tight the bobbin will dance around a lot and the top thread might get caught in it. And then you'll have to pull out all the thread from the line you were shirring and start over (this is the voice of experience talkin').

I spaced out my lines of shirring by placing three lines 1/4" apart, then another three lines 1" apart from those, etc. I think lines placed maybe 3/4" apart or even 1" apart would look better.

The only things I did differently from the tutorial were that I made a dress rather than a blouse (so the width of my fabric accounted for my hip measurement rather than my chest measurement), I made tubes for the straps, and I put the straps on at the end rather than at the beginning.

So satisfying.


  1. i am impressed! this type of sewing is not my strong point haha. i love the fabric you chose!

  2. That bike fabric is so good! I love it but I would feel like such a poser if I wore it, considering I haven't taken any of my bikes (I have 3 right now!)on a ride in over a year. I'm still jealous of your fabric.

    Oh yeah - Did you hear about the argument over search inequity for vintage and supply sellers on Etsy as a result of the default search change? There's a lengthy discussion going on in the forums.

  3. Thanks, Caitlin! That's kind of how I feel about knitting. I'll never get it!

    Seriously, Mia, this fabric is so good. It came in green and the green was even BETTER. I can't find it anymore, though, which makes me a bit sad; I think it's out of print. And whatever, I think that enjoying the idea of a bike is just as good as strapping on a helmet (if you're a dork like me -- but mine is a skateboarder helmet, ooh) and riding one!

    I've been looking at the forums too and I was actually surprised! I have a hard time believing that that many people found vintage and supplies purely by chance. I find searching to be a lot easier now, personally, and I use the "search all" a lot. I think Etsy will always be the kind of site where you have to dig to find something specific or you have to allow for chance. I really hope the vintage and suppliers sellers stay, because I love them so!

  4. I remember seeing someone wearing a shirt with a similar print but it looked vintage and I think it was jersey. Wouldn't it be great to print your own fabric?

    As far as the Etsy debate goes, I'm on the side of the complainants. I haven't been getting any views and it's discouraging, especially because I want the stuff out of my house. I blogged about it. I really hate the word "blogged."

  5. You know, I thought about this all day and I remembered some very important things about "usability" (ugh, buzzwords!) from a class I took last summer, and in the end I think the search is bad. So I have to revise what I said, and I have to agree with you (although I haven't been selling, so I haven't seen it myself -- I had low numbers of views when I did, though). Most people don't really know how to search! Or if they do, they know basic Google free language functions. If a search fails, they'll give up. Generally speaking, of course.

    I'm guessing they didn't test the search or they're trying to phase that out. Which sucks!

  6. Seems to me like they're trying to shift their focus back to handmade items which is fine with me, really. They're doing it in kind of a sneaky, passive aggressive way but it's just more encouragement for me to start an online shop elsewhere.

    The Etsy forums have turned into a schoolyard full of childish fights and insults so yeah, I'm over it.

  7. Have you looked into bigcartel.com? It seems as though a lot of people are using it...

  8. I actually have bigcartel bookmarked but I'm probably just going to open a stand-alone website (we've already purchased the name) or sell through eBay and link from the site.

    You'll see soon!

  9. Oooh, exciting! I can't wait to see!

  10. this is great, thanks for the tips... I LOVE that fabric, I have been so into bikes lately... thanks!

  11. Anonymous29.5.08

    where do you get elastic thread from? and what sort of needle do you use?

  12. Naomi, I forgot to respond. I don't know if you'll see this, but you can get elastic thread at any fabric store. It's usually with other notions and in its own package rather than next to thread displays. It's only a dollar or so. I think I used a regular (70?) needle. Match the needle to the fabric.