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Do you fancy making one of these? My daughter loved the voile one so much that she requested another, so I thought I’d write it up as a tutorial and share. Shirring may be a bit of a 70’s throwback but it’s easy to wear and ideal for little girls’ sundresses or summer tops.

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Requirements:

  • Approximately half a metre of lightweight cotton or voile
  • Thread and shirring elastic
  • Stabiliser may be required if doing the embroidery on voile

Step 1: The number crunching

Measure your child around the chest. Now multiply that figure by 1.5-2. This gives you the size of unshirred tube required – you may want to experiment first on scraps to see how tight your machine shirrs if you’ve never tried it before. Divide this figure by 2. Now measure your child from just under the armpits to where you want the top to finish. Here are the scrawlings for my model…

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Step 2: Making the tube

Cut out 2 panels of fabric the width of the figure you came to in step 1 by the desired length. Remember to add a couple of centimetres to the width for seam allowance and top and bottom for hemming.

Place fabric panels right sides together and sew up the side seams. Finish the edges with a zigzag stitch. Hem the top of the tube but leave the bottom edge raw if you’re planning on finishing with a scallop stitch.

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Step 3: Shirring

This is my favourite bit! If you’ve not shirred before then I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and describe it all again, there are so many tutorials out there as to how to do this. Assuming you either know what you’re doing, or you’ve gone and read a good tutorial, you should have your machine loaded with regular thread in the top and elastic thread in your lower bobbin.

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Sewing on the right side of your fabric, start from the top edge and shirr all the way around your tube. Do about 10-12 lines, 1cm apart, to achieve a good stretchy panel. If your fabric is sheer you may want to do a few extra lines to hide the chest area.

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Before ironing…

Once you’ve finished shirring, stop and go pop it on your ironing board and press with a medium steam iron and watch as it shrinks up even more (love that bit!).

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After ironing – it’s magic!

Step 4: Straps

Next you need to decide what kind of straps you want to add. Spaghetti tie straps, solid shoulder straps or halter-neck… all are possible. I make my straps like bias tape, only I don’t cut on the bias because I’m a lazy seamstress and it uses lots of fabric!

So for my halter-neck tie I cut 2 strips of fabric 10cm wide by 50cm long. Press them in half, then turn in both sides and press to the middle fold. When folded over and stitched down the straps will be about 2.5cm wide.

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Fold in half, tucking in the raw ends, and iron well, then take it all back to your machine and topstitch on all sides. Sew the straps on to your top and you’re almost done.

Step 5: The bottom hem

If you don’t want to make the scalloped edge then simply hem or add a bit of lace or trim as you desire. If you want to try the scallop hem then here’s what to do: first set your machine to the right stitch and alter your stitch length/width according to your machine’s recommendations. Grab a scrap of your fabric and test the stitch on it. If your fabric is very thin then you may need to pin some stabiliser to the back – I used some thick tissue paper when I did this on voile, but on regular cotton it didn’t need it. Once you’ve got the stitch right for your fabric you may need to mark a guide line on your project (use chalk or a wash out pen) or fix a quilting bar on your machine to keep a regular line for the embroidery.

Start sewing with your embroidery stitch on the right side of the fabric using a thread colour that compliments your fabric.

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Once you have sewn all the way around your top you need to use a pair of very small sharp scissors and start to trim just below your line of stitching. Be very careful not to cut through your stitches. If you have used a stabilser on the reverse then you’ll need to pull this away carefully too.

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Now pop your top on your model and send them out to play in the sunshine!

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