Shirred Dress Tutorial

{Lydia and her doll "Hannah"}


For my daughter's 8th birthday, I made matching shirred dresses for her and her doll.  This dress is very simple to make, but the results are adorable!  Shirring, done with elastic thread, results in a “smocked” look, but without all the work!

Shirred Dress Tutorial

Materials needed:
-matching thread
-elastic thread

Part 1: Sewing the Body of the Dress   

How much fabric?

1.  Width = Your child’s chest measurement times x two
2.  Length = Measure from the underarms to the desired length, plus 2 inches. 
(I used one yard of fabric for my daughter’s dress.) 

Step 1:  With right sides together, sew your material to make one long tube.  You can either serge the edges or finish it with a zig-zag stitch to help prevent fraying.

Step 2:  To hem the top and bottom of the dress, fold over raw edges 1 inch and press.

Step 3:  Fold raw edge up and under so it measures 1/2” and press again.  Pin as you go.

IMG_3344Step 4: Sew your hem with a 3/8” seam allowance, removing pins as you go.

Part 2: Shirring

Shirring is achieved by sewing repeated rows, with your machine set on a zig-zag stich and your bobbin filled with elastic thread.  As you sew, it with scrunch up your material to give it that “smocked” look.

IMG_3362Step 1:  Wind elastic thread by hand loosely around your bobbin. 



Step 2:  Set your machine to a zig-zig stitch.  Keep your tension at a normal setting, but adjust your stitch length to the longest setting.  You will also need to adjust your width. 

  Step 3:  Beginning at your back seam, align your presser foot with the stitching of your top seam.  This will be your guide for making a straight row of shirring.


Step 4:  Sew your first row of shirring. Slow and steady is best!  Keep going until you reach your back seam where you began.  Be sure to back-stitch to secure your threads!!


Step 5:  For the second row and following, beginning again at the back seam of the dress, align your presser foot to the left edge of the row you just did.



While sewing, you will need to stretch the fabric out so it will feed correctly into your machine.  Just go slowly, being carefully to stretch your fabric and keep your stitches straight and even.

Repeat rows of shirring until you reach the desired look.  I did 12 rows for my daughter's dress.

*After every couple of rows, check your bobbin to make sure you are not running out.  You don’t want to run out in the middle of a row!  (Trust me!!) 

Part 3: Sewing the Straps

Step 1:  Put the dress on your daughter and then measure from the top of the dress, up and around her shoulders to the back of the dress to see how long the straps need to be.  (I had to just guess since this dress was a surprise and they were too long!)

Step 2:  Cut two straps 2 inches wide x length desired + 3 inches. (You need extra length for finishing the end and sewing it on.)


Step 3:  With right sides together, sew each strap.


Step 4:  Turn straps inside out. (I put a safety pin on one end and then thread it back through.)

Step 5:  Center the seam and press flat.

IMG_3407 Step 6:  Fold the strap ends over 1” and press.  Fold the raw edge up and under to make the fold 1/2”.  Press again and pin.  (If you have a serger, you could elminate this step by just serging the end to keep fabric from fraying.)

Step 7:  Try the dress on your daughter again, find desired strap placement, and pin in line with the bottom edge of the top seam.


Step 8:  To sew straps in place, align your needle and presser foot with the stitching on your top seam.  Although you are sewing from the front, be sure to catch the folded ends of your straps in the stitching.

Congratulations, you just made a dress!


To make a doll dress, just follow the same steps to customize for any size doll. 

For an 18” doll like I used, your fabric measurements will be:
dress: 18" wide x 10" long
straps: 2 straps 1” wide x 6 “ long


I hope you enjoy making this dress for a special little girl, and one for her favorite doll too….she will LOVE it!

Linking up to:
Creation Corner
Under the Table and Dreaming
The Shabby Nest
Fingerprints on the Fridge
Momma's Kinda Crafty
Homemaker in Heels
The Shabby Creek Cottage

1 comment:

  1. I love this! I've been too scared to try this before. Thanks for the step-by-step!


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