By Nicole Vasbinder
You can make this dress in about an hour using elastic thread to create shirring (soft gathers), which adds shaping. Elastic thread is super easy to work with but does take a little practice to get right. Definitely practice on some scrap fabric to get the hang of it.
Spool of elastic thread in either black or white
Spool of regular thread
Serger (optional) to finish seam allowances
Step 1: First, figure out how long you want the dress to be and cut 2 lengths of fabric that length. Stitch them together along 1 side to make 1 big, wide piece of fabric that is your length and 88″ wide (for 45″-wide quilting cotton). Go ahead and finish this seam by either serging, pinking, or zigzagging. Now hem the top and bottom edges. You can do a rolled hem on a regular sewing machine, a rolled hem on a serger, or any sort of small hem you want. (You just don’t want to lose very much length.)
Step 2: Now on to the elastic thread! Elastic thread only comes in white or black, but that’s OK because you only use it in the bobbin, so you’ll never see it anyway. You have to hand-wind the elastic thread onto your bobbin and you want to wind it with a bit of tension. How tight you wind it will determine how much it gathers your fabric. So if you wind it really tight you’ll have really gathered or shirred fabric.
Step 3: Lengthen your stitch length to about 3mm and adjust your tension to 5 (but play around this a bit on your scrap). Load your bobbin and stitch some practice rows. The fabric should start gathering up as you stitch. If it’s not, then the thread either got wound too loose, your top tension is too loose, or your bobbin tension is too loose. If it gathers too much, then tension is too tight.
Step 4: When everything looks good, you are ready to move on to your dress. You want to stitch 2 to 3 parallel rows of shirring stitches across the top edge of your dress. Make the rows about 1/2″ apart and start them a 1/2″ from the top edge. It’s helpful to mark your rows on the fabric with tailor’s chalk or an air-soluble fabric marker.
Step 5: Now hold the dress up to and figure out where your natural waist is. Now do 4-6 rows of gathered stitches at the waist that are each 1/2″ apart. Your dress should be fitted above and below the bust creating an hourglass shape.
Step 6: Finally, you are going to stitch the other side seam and finish the seam the same way you finished the first side seam. Voila! You’re done!
About the Author:
Nicole Vasbinder has designed the accessory line Queen Puff Puff since 2003 and sells her retro-flavored handbags and accessories throughout the United States and beyond. Nicole also owns StitchCraft, a hip sewing and craft studio in Petaluma, Calif., and co-produces the popular Petaluma Downtown Craft Mart. As a sideline, she recently started making and selling journals made from recycled record albums under the label Vinyl Frontier.