Shirring Tutorial – The Amelia Tea Dress

Hilary Pullen Dressmaking Tutorials, Pattern Review, Shirring, Tutorial 0 Comments


Simple Sew Amelia Dress

Welcome to my take on the Amelia tea dress! As I grow in my sewing journey I am starting to feel more confident trying new techniques, both in fitting and hacking as well as new ways to use my machine.

Shirring is one of those techniques which I had admired for a while but not built myself up to try just yet. I love the effect which is made using elastic thread on the bottom bobbin. The fabric is brought together or “shirred” by the elastic. This makes the fabric stretchy and therefore both comfortable to wear and easy to fit in a garment.

Shirring is definitely having a moment in the sewing world and you might have seen some patterns out there that use it to great effect. You will find lots of bohemian shirred summer dresses on the high street right now which are perfect for picnics and days out.


shirring tutorial
Credit: Tu Sainsbury’s

However I wasn’t sure I wanted a fully shirred bodice as my first project and therefore was really excited to try the Amelia, which has just the one shirred panel at the waist of the bodice. It has shaping via the darts at the back to nip in the waist, something I always look for in patterns.

Based on my measurements (38-32-42) and after looking at the finished measurement chart as well, I chose a size 14. The Amelia dress works in a range of fabrics but for the shirring to have the desired effect it should be quite lightweight, so I went for a lovely paisley viscose from Kriateif, a store here in the Netherlands. I love the range of vibrant colours in this print that I thought would both take well to shirring and give the drape that suits the half circle skirt in the pattern. Many of the colours in the print are also in the “soft autumn” colour scheme I try to stick to as well so I knew the garment would see me through multiple seasons!

amelia tea dress

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

I first made a toile in a similar fabric which is routine for me when trying a new pattern. I was happy with the fit of the bodice in general, but the neckline felt too high. I marked a point 4cm below the original point of the V, and redrew the neckline from the shoulder. I then traced a new facing using pattern tracing paper.

shirring amelia tea dress

It was clear from the toile that thanks to the shirred panel, the zip wasn’t necessary in my case and I could pull the dress over my head. I really dislike sewing zips so I was happy to remove the seam allowance from the back bodice and facing and cut them on the fold instead.

The toile was a good opportunity to test the shirring, which turned out to be MUCH easier than I’d anticipated! Using elastic bought from my local haberdashery, I wound it around the bobbin by hand, stretching it very slightly as it went. I kept my tension on the machine at around 3, and the stitch length was at 4.

shirring amelia tea dress

The fabric bunched up very quickly but it was easy to sew by flattening the fabric with my hands as it went through the machine. By lining up the machine foot with each line of stitching, this kept the shirring neat and even and I was really satisfied with the outcome.

It was quickly time to sew with the “good fabric” and I realised I wanted a longer sleeve. To do this I lengthened the sleeve piece by around 15cm and retraced it on the pattern paper. Before sewing the sleeve, I first did a baby hem on the piece before stitching 3 rows of shirring starting around 7cm from the hem. I then constructed the sleeve as per the instructions and this created a very romantic effect with a voluminous sleeve brought in at the elbow!

shirring amelia tea dress

Combined with the lower neckline, I think this dress has turned out a real winner. It was a test of my hacking skills but I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out, as well as newfound confidence in the new-to-me technique of shirring!

Head over to the shop if you would like to purchase The Simple Sew Amelia Tea dress

Find out more about Sally head over to her blog Modista Sewing

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