Adding Shirring to Tops or Dresses

Zara top with DIY Shirring Added to the Hem

Close-up of Zara top with DIY Shirring Added to Hem

Zara blouse with three rows of shirring added to the waistline. The shirring was formed with elastic thread with the rows spaced 0.5″ (13 mm) apart.

 

Tops and dresses that are full or boxy, lack a defined waist, or just need a slight change can be quickly altered with some shirring or smocking. To try this out yourself, you’ll need elastic sewing thread.

Hand-wind the elastic thread on your bobbin and use regular thread on top. Be sure to sew with the right side of the garment facing up so the elastic thread will be on the wrong side. If you’re sewing around the circumference of the garment, start and stop at one of the side seams (or both, especially if you think you may have to adjust the tightness of shirring). As you start and stop each row or each section of shirring, leave long thread ends and don’t backstitch. After you have finished shirring, and adjusted the fit if necessary, tie all the loose thread ends.

If you haven’t sewn with elastic thread before, practice sewing with it on some scrap fabric first to see how tightly you should wind it on the bobbin or if you need to adjust the tension on your machine. Keep in mind that the smocking will get tighter as additional rows are added.

Here are some ways to try this technique:

Add shirring at the bottom of the shirt (i.e., drop waist) for a blouson effect like I did with the Zara shirt and like these at Topshop and Urban Outfitters.

Add shirring at the natural waist or the empire waist of a dress or top like on this fine gauge sweater at Anthropologie, this Theory dress, and this C&C California tunic.

Add shirring to short flutter sleeves to turn them into puff sleeves like on this Urban Outfitters blouse.

Add a bit of shirring to the center front of a dress just under the bust like on this Vince sweater dress.

Built By Wendy 3835 for the Fall Season

Built By Wendy pattern 3835

This Built By Wendy pattern (Simplicity 3835) has been very popular this spring and summer, as you can see at Soulemama and Shim + Sons. Most people seem to think it’s cute and comfortable, well-drafted, and easy to make. It’s also a very spot-on style for the season–just look at this similar Puella dress that Kate Hudson is wearing. Judging by some new fall tops and dresses with the same silhouette, like these from Milly, Mint, Twelfth St. by Cynthia Vincent, and Anthropologie, the pattern should be perfect for your fall wardrobe as well.

Free Patterns: Belle Epoque Tank Top Tutorial

Belle Epoque Top-Front
Belle Epoque Top-Back

Cotton jersey knit tank top based on belle epoque’s tutorial. The straps are made from self-fabric, each one cut lengthwise in a 2" (5 cm) wide strip with the raw edges left to curl up.

I found a tie top tank tutorial at belle epoque (via Craft) a couple of weeks ago and tried it out for myself. My version seems to be a much drearier take on it than the summery printed ones I saw in the belle epoque tutorial Flickr group, but I figure it’s a great addition to the basic tank either way. Thanks, belle epoque!

Retail Roundup: Smocked Tube Tops

Smocked Tube Top - Front

Links to Retail Examples of the DIY Smocked Tube Top

Lux Kyoto tube top, 21.5" long in printed jersey.
BCBG knit tube top, 19.5" long, also in printed jersey.
Juicy Couture smocked gauze babydoll top, 21" long in printed gauze with spaghetti straps and a bottom ruffle.
Hard Tail ruched peasant top, 26.5" long in voile with thick straps.

How to Make a Smocked Tube Top

Smocked Tube Top-Front
Smocked Tube Top-Back

Jersey knit tube top smocked at the bust with multiple rows of elastic thread. The circumference of the top (unshirred) is 8-9" (20-23 cm) larger than the bust measurement. The finished top is 21" (53 cm) long, including 4.5" (11 cm) of smocking at the bust, and hits below the hip.

Materials

  • Jersey knit or lightweight woven fabric
  • Elastic sewing thread

Instructions

Measuring and Cutting

    Cut 2 rectangles from your fabric as shown in Diagram 1. For the length, measure from above your bust down to your desired hemline, and add 1.5" (38 mm) for seam allowances. For example, I used a length of 22.5" (57 cm) for a tunic-length top; a regular shirt length would be about 17" (43 cm).

    Diagram 1

    Diagram 1

Sewing

  1. With right sides together, sew the side seams.
  2. Overcast or zig zag stitch the raw top edge (optional for jersey knits).
  3. Fold and pin the top edge 0.875" (22 mm) to the wrong side.
  4. Replace the thread on your bobbin with elastic sewing thread (you’ll have to hand-wind it on the bobbin). With the right side of the tube top facing up and starting at one of the side seams, sew 0.25" (6 mm) from the top folded edge around the circumference of the tube top, making sure to sew through both layers of fabric. See Diagram 2. When you start and stop the row of smocking, leave long thread ends and don’t backstitch.
  5. Tip: If you haven’t sewn with elastic thread before, practice sewing with it on some scrap fabric first to see how tightly you should wind the elastic thread on the bobbin. Keep in mind that the smocking will get tighter as additional rows are added.

     

    Diagram 2

    Diagram 2
  6. Start smocking the second row 0.5" (13 mm) below the first row of smocking, making sure to sew through both layers of fabric again.
  7. Continue sewing additional rows of smocking every 0.5" (13 mm). Start with about 10 rows, or about 4.5" (11 cm), of smocking and then try on the tube top to see if you want additional rows.
  8. If you need to adjust the fit after you have completed smocking, you can adjust the elastic thread ends for tightness (it can be difficult to do). After you have the fit right, tie the loose thread ends for each row of smocking.
  9. Hem the top (optional for jersey knits) by folding the hem edge 0.25" (6 mm) to the wrong side twice. See Diagram 3. Sew along the upper edge of the hem.
  10. Diagram 3

    Diagram 3

How to Make an Empire Waist Tube Top

Empire Waist Tube Top-Front
Empire Waist Tube Top-Back

Double-layered, crinkled cotton gauze tube top with 0.25" (6 mm) elastic above the bust and at the empire waist. The circumference of the finished bodice is 4-5" (10-13 cm) larger than the bust measurement and the circumference of the finished midriff is 6-7" (15-18 cm) larger than the hip measurement. The finished midriff is 13.5" (34 cm) long and hits below the hip.

Materials

  • Lightweight woven fabric, like cotton gauze or voile (You could also try silk or jersey knit)
  • 0.25" (6 mm) elastic for bust and waistband
  • Safety pin to thread elastic

Instructions

Measuring and Cutting

  • Bodice: Cut 2 rectangles from your fabric as shown in Diagram 1.
  • Note: If you are lining the top, cut an additional 2 rectangles from the same fabric or from a lining fabric if more appropriate.

  • Midriff: Cut 2 rectangles from your fabric as shown in Diagram 1. To determine midriff length, measure from your empire waistline down to your desired hemline, and add 1.5" (38 mm) for seam allowances.
    For example, I cut the midriff 15" (38 cm) long, which resulted in a finished midriff length of 13.5" (34 cm).

    Note: If you are lining the top, cut an additional 2 rectangles from the same fabric or from a lining fabric if more appropriate.

  • Diagram 1

    Diagram 1

Sewing the Bodice

  1. With right sides together, sew the side seams of the bodice.
  2. Note: If you are lining the top, sew the side seams of the bodice lining also. Place the lining inside the bodice and pin the layers together with wrong sides facing and side seams aligned. For the remaining instructions, treat the lined bodice as a single layer.

  3. Line up the side seams of the bodice so that the bodice is folded at center front (CF) and center back (CB). See Diagram 2. Pin all layers together. Mark the side seam 1" (25 mm) down from the top edge of the bodice. Mark CB 1.5" (38 mm) down from the top edge of the bodice. Using Diagram 2 as a guide, draw a smooth curved line connecting the top edge of the bodice at CF, the mark at the side seam, and the mark at CB. Cut through all layers along the curved line.
  4. Diagram 2

    Diagram 2
  5. Create a tunnel for elastic at the top of the bodice by folding the top (curved) edge 0.375" (10 mm) to the wrong side twice. See Diagram 3. Sew along the lower edge of the tunnel, leaving an opening to insert the elastic.
  6. Diagram 3

    Diagram 3

Sewing the Midriff

  1. With right sides together, sew the side seams of the midriff.
  2. Note: If you are lining the top, sew the side seams of the midriff lining also. Place the lining inside the midriff and pin the layers together with wrong sides facing and side seams aligned. Treat the lined midriff as a single layer until you are ready to hem the midriff.

  3. Sew a gathering stitch (i.e., a long, straight stitch with the tension loosened) 0.75" (19 mm) from the top edge of the midriff, starting and stopping at each side seam and leaving long thread ends. Pull the thread ends to gather the midriff to the width of the bodice, distributing the excess width evenly across the front and back of the midriff.

Sewing the Empire Waistband

  1. Pin the top edge of the midriff to the bottom edge of the bodice, with right sides together and side seams aligned. With the midriff on top, sew the top edge of the midriff to the bottom edge of the bodice leaving a 1" (25 mm) seam allowance. Press both seam allowances towards the bodice.
  2. Create a waistband tunnel by sewing the seam allowances to the bodice 0.375" (10 mm) above the waist seamline, as shown in Diagram 4. Leave an opening to insert the waistband elastic.
  3. Diagram 4

    Diagram 4

Finishing Up

  1. Elastic at the Bust: Thread elastic through the tunnel above the bust with a safety pin and adjust to desired tightness. Cut elastic, making sure to include an additional 1" (25 mm) of length for seam allowances. Overlap the elastic edges by 0.5" (13 mm) and sew them together to secure. Slip the elastic back inside the tunnel and sew the tunnel closed.
  2. Elastic at the Empire Waist: Thread elastic through the waistband tunnel with a safety pin and adjust to desired tightness. Cut elastic, making sure to include an additional 1" (25 mm) of length for seam allowances. Overlap the elastic edges by 0.5" (13 mm) and sew them together to secure. Slip the elastic back inside the tunnel and sew the tunnel closed.
  3. Hem the midriff (optional for jersey knits) by folding the hem edge 0.25" (6 mm) to the wrong side twice. See Diagram 5. Sew along the upper edge of the hem.
  4. Note: If you are lining the top, separately hem the midriff lining about 1" (25 mm) shorter than the midriff.

    Diagram 5

    Diagram 5