I'm a sewing enthusiast in Beacon, New York, with a love of all things retro. This site is all about tutorials, tips, inspiration, and lots of spirited discussion about sewing as it relates to fashion history, pop culture, body image, and gender. My first book, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, is now out from STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books! Also look for my line "Patterns by Gertie" from Butterick.
First, read part one to modify your pattern to make it wider. Now we're going to shirr!
To start with, you need to press the top of your dress backs. We're going to use a method that avoids getting the ruffled top look that you see on little girls' sundresses--a bit more elegant and vintage-inspired.
Press down 5/8" at the top and then fold the raw edge in to meet the fold.
Hand-wind a bobbin with elastic thread. This is the brand my notions store carries.
As you're winding, you'll need to stretch the thread a little so there's a bit of tension. I just give mine a little tug at the top of the "wind." I'd recommend winding a couple bobbins to start, since the elastic thread is fairly thick and not much fits on one bobbin.
Load the bobbin into your machine, pull it up, and treat it as your regular bobbin thread. Stitch as normal from here on. All stitching will be done from the right side of the fabric so that the elastic is in the inside of the dress. I used my usual length and tension, but I know some people lengthen their stitch and tighten their tension. Do a practice run to see what works for you.
Edgestitch about 1/8" away from the top.
Do another row of stitching at the bottom of the turned-under seam allowance, about another 1/8" away. It won't really get stretchy yet; it might just ripple a bit.
Now you begin shirring rest of the rows. Make the next line 1/4" away from the last, and then continue in rows 1/4" apart until the end.
The fabric will continue to tighten up as you go.
From the inside:
When you're done, give the piece a steam with your iron and it will shrink up!
I've done this technique on a Bernina and a Janome, and both worked really well (though the Janome made shirring that was a bit tighter). Many people mentioned having trouble shirring at all on a Brother machine. If you have one, definitely check out this video that will help you adjust your bobbin tension so it will work.
I made a couple videos showing the process, but the sound quality is bad enough that I decided not to post them here. (Last time I use my iPhone for this sort of thing.) You can watch them at your own risk here and here.
Tomorrow I'll show you how to sew the bodice back into your dress. You'll be using the elastic thread again so make sure you have a little left.