How to make a shirred sundress

Updated April 17, 2017

Shirred fabric has been drawn together with elastic. It's frequently found on dresses or tops that have a fitted, elasticated bust. Shirred fabric can be used on tube tops, sundresses, belts or any other kind of garment that benefits from that particular look. Making a shirred sundress is a sewing project that many beginning crafters can do. It is relatively easy to complete, even if you're not an expert with a sewing machine.

Flatten the pillowcase out so there is no extra wrinkles or gaps in the fabric. Measure 1 inch from the bottom of the pillowcase. Mark your fabric, and pin across the width.

Cut the bottom of the pillowcase directly across, turning your fabric into a tube with the hemmed side of the pillowcase now at the bottom and the side you just cut at the top.

Wind your sewing machine's bobbin with the elastic thread. It should be wound fairly tightly, but not tight enough to stretch out the elastic. Switch your stitch length to the largest setting. You do not want small, tight stitches.

Turn the fabric around so the wrong side is facing out. All marking and stitching for the shirred part of the bodice will be done on this side. Then mark your fabric, measuring each shirred line roughly half an inch from one another.

Turn your fabric so you are sewing over the manufactured hem of the pillowcase. If there is not a side hem, begin where the side of the dress will be.

Sew carefully, making sure the middle of your machine's sewing foot is aligned with the mark you drew onto the fabric. Sew forward for about a half an inch, then backstitch over the same spot so your elastic does not unravel. Sew slowly so you do not veer off the line. If your lines are not straight, rip the thread and begin again.

Backstitch the ends of the shirred line, cut the thread, and begin again on the next mark. There should be no more than five or six shirred lines for the bust of the dress.

Exchange the elastic thread for regular thread. Sew where you pinned the fabric earlier. Sew a double stitch, twice across the pinned area, leaving both ends open. Do this for both sides of the pillowcase. Cut, tie off and remove any loose thread.

Remove the dress from the sewing machine. Turn it so the right side of the fabric is facing out.

Insert the ribbon into the two holes you made. This can be easily adaptable for ribbon ties to keep the dress up or can be tied around the neck, halter-style.

Spray down the shirred fabric with a spray bottle filled with water. Iron until the elastic shrinks, collapsing in on itself to give the tight, shirred look.


These directions work best for a child's sundress.

Things You'll Need

  • Patterned pillowcase or skirt
  • Tape measure
  • Fabric chalk
  • Straight pins
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Elastic thread
  • Regular thread
  • Spray bottle
  • Iron
  • Ribbon
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About the Author

Jessica White has been teaching English and reading to high school students since 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. White has written several articles, recaps and reviews for and has been writing semi-professionally since 2006.