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Shirred Summer Dress, with Tie-Back Bow

I recently found out about an incredible new fabric shop…..Modern Yardage.  They sell fabric by demand and only print it when someone orders it.  SO COOL!  There’s so much more freedom this way and the options are pretty endless.  And just think……..they never sell out of anything.  So you never have to worry about that super popular print not having enough yardage for your project.  (Grrrrr……have you ever had that happen?)  It’s brilliant!


One of their designers, Emilie Daly, is someone I have only met through email (working on a few different projects and such…).  We have talked back and forth several times……and let me tell you, she’s a serious treat! :)  Emilie recently told me about this new adventure she’s on……and that’s fabric designing.  What?!?!  Seriously, I just want to see how her little fabric designer brain works.  It baffles me!  Emilie recently sent me a bit of her fabric, once it was released……and I was so excited for her!  But even more excited for ME, and that I had some new fabric to play around with. :)


Right away, I knew I wanted to turn it into a summery dress for my little Coco.






A little bit of shirring…….and a nice floppy bow that cinches up and hangs down the back.





Like I mentioned above, Emilie Daly’s fabric is available through Modern Yardage.  They print it once it’s ordered and then your whole order is printed out on one piece of soft, high quality 100% cotton fabric.


So, if you wanted a 1/4 yard of a whole bunch of different fabrics, it would all come printed out on one piece.  No more crooked cuts or mis-measured fabric.  (Ahhhhh….that is always such a pain when the cutter makes a mistake.)






In the margins, there is fabric info, washing info, and little bits about the designer.  Such a unique concept!


The Fabric line of Emilie’s that I received, is called Personality in Carefree.  It’s bright, vibrant, and completely unique.







And she has many, many more colors and prints……all found here.






I’m sure the fabric I received would have made adorable curtains, darling pillows, or really great quilt squares…….but I have to say it made a really sweet summery dress! :)







This little chickie was so excited to try on her new dress.  I guess she’s just like her big sister and has a similar love for dresses and skirts.  I. Love. It.





The drape-y bow in the back loops through the top of the dress to keep it in place……..and is just plain fun.






And just think…… cute would this be as a little tunic top with some shorts or leggings.  I better get cutting up more fabric. :)






Truly Emilie, your fabric is gorgeous.  I couldn’t keep my hands off it until I finally whipped something up.  So, thank you!




 It’s summer.  You know you need one.  Or seven.  Truly, even if you’re a beginner, give this a try! :)



Here’s HOW:


Start by cutting a rectangle of fabric for the main portion of the dress.  The amount of fabric you use can vary……and the wider the rectangle of fabric, the more gathered and full the dress will be.  However, because you’re shirring the fabric, you don’t want too much fabric or it won’t pull in tight enough to hug your subject’s body.  So……I have found that cutting a piece of fabric that’s 1.5 – 2 times the chest measurement works best for this dress.  And then, as far as the length goes, measure from the highest point under the arms, down to the length you want it. 


For example, Chloe’s chest measures 19 inches and I wanted the dress to be 18 inches long.  So, I doubled the 19 inches to 38 inches.  As for the length, I added a half inch for the top hem and 1.5 inches for the bottom hem…….making the length 20 inches.  So, I cut a rectangle that was 38 x 20 inches.


After you have your rectangle piece cut, fold it in half lengthwise (with right sides together) and sew the two shorter ends together, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Then zig-zag (or serge) the raw edges together.



Then, fold over the upper edge a 1/4 inch, another 1/4 inch……and then sew in place.



Then, begin shirring.  Make your first shirred line directly on top of the row of stitches that you sewed in the last step……and then space every shirred line after that, about 1/8 of an inch (or more) apart.  (Need help with shirring?)  If you need another example of sewing rows of shirring, check out this Shirt with a Shirred Band tutorial.


Now, be sure to steam your rows of shirring, to help shrink the fabric in.



As for the shoulder straps, cut two strips of fabric that are 5 inches wide and however long you want the shoulder straps to hang down the back.  (For Chloe, who’s 2, I cut my two strips 5 x 36 inches.)  Fold the strip in half lengthwise and iron flat and then fold the two edges in towards that center fold and iron again……just like bias tape.



Then sew it closed.  Repeat with both longs strips of fabric.



Then, on one end of each of the strips, fold it under a 1/4 inch, then another 1/4 inch……then sew in place. 



Now, fold the other ends of each strap up, a half inch.  And then place 2 pins on the upper edge of the front of the dress where your two straps will attach to the dress.  (The vertical seam that you sewed when sewing the two ends of the rectangle fabric together, should go directly in the back of the dress.)  Then, pin both strips in place where those 2 pins are, to the inside of the upper edge of the front of the dress…..overlapping by 1 inch.



Now, cut a strip of fabric that is 2 x 10 inches.  Fold and iron it like bias tape, just like you did with the shoulder straps above.



Then, sew it closed.



Cut the strip in half, so that you have two 5 inch strips.  Then, grab one of the strips and fold in half.  Then fold each end under 1/2 inch.




Then, pin it to the inside of the upper edge of the back of the dress…..overlapping by a 1/2 inch.  Repeat with the other 5 inch strip.  


Be sure to line up these back loops with the inside edge of each of the front straps.




Sew the front straps in place, with 2 seams.



Sew the 2 back loops in place with 2 seams as well.  And add a little tag, if you have some.



Now, fold under the bottom hem a 1/2 inch and then another 1 inch……and sew in place.



Iron all seams flat.


Thread the two straps through the back loops and tie into a big floppy bow.



And that’s it.


Now, enjoy your creation…….and make a few more!






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  1. Monique says:

    Hi. I tried doing this and was wondering what do I do with the top thread on top of the fabric (Elastic is on bottom) when finishing? It looks like I have a bunch of thread strings just hanging there and I”m just a beginner so I’ don’t know if that’ normal. HELP!

  2. Jeannie says:

    Hi there,

    I have been making shirred top dresses for myself, so had no problem with the shirring. Never had a little girl, but wanted to try this.
    Only had a piece of pink plain fabric. Made as directed, but added machine embroidery in lilac to the top of the dress, the straps and the two little pockets. Gave to a friend for her little one and she thought I’d bought it !!

    Note for those having trouble with the shirring. I decided that once I had the bobbin tension set, it was a pain to keep adjusting back and forth, so I bought another bobbin holder ( only about five pounds ) and keep just for shirring. Saves a lot of adjusting. Keep the patterns coming.

  3. Sarah says:

    I made some dresses like this for my nieces and from friends’ girls (6 in all). I did buy some shirred fabric for some of them since it was on sale and I wanted to get them done by Christmas. I love the straps since they are adjustable and the dress can be worn longer than just one season.

  4. Juliet says:

    Thank you so much for this beautiful pattern. I used it to make an Easter dress for my niece. Here are some pictures of the results!

  5. Tina says:

    Wonderful! Loved this idea and jumped into making one for my 7 year old. Made it quite a bit longer and the fabric i used was a bit heavy for the shirring, but it came out really cute if i do say so myself :)

  6. Linda says:

    Sorry I don’t know if this already posted! I was wondering if there is any trick to attaching the straps. Do I sew on the shirred seems or in between? And should I pull the fabric flat or leave it scrunched up when attaching them?

  7. Linda says:

    Is there any trick to sewing on the straps? Should I sew on or between the shirred lines? And should I pull the fabric flat when attaching them or let it stay scrunched up? Novice sewer here!

  8. Amanda says:

    I made this for my granddaughter last night. We are potty training and I can’t keep clothing on her, this is working great. My son loves it too. Thanks….

  9. élisa says:

    Merci pour cette adorable robe ainsi que des explications claires !
    Je vais essayer de la faire pour ma petite fille !
    Tout aussi adorable la petite fille, mannequin en herbe, un vrai cœur !
    Bien cordialement.

  10. Tina Josiah says:

    AMAZING!!! Thank you so much for this tutorial. As a very beginner at sewing, your instructions were very easy to follow. I just made this dress for my 4 yr old and she loves it.

  11. Jackie Lee says:

    Love your blog! Just joined. Is there a way to pin your tutorials on Pinterest? I would love to have them all in one place!

  12. Jackie Lee says:

    Love your blog!!! Is there a way to Pin your tuts to Pinterest?

  13. Felie Hempfling says:

    Hi Ashley
    I just discovered your blog and you’ve got some great tutorials! I own a sewing machine but have always been more inclined to sewing pillow covers, curtains and even the occasional bed skirt, straight lines don’t scare me. It wasn’t until recently I decided I wanted to try my hand at sewing clothes for my daughter. Anyway needless to say it’s now 2:40 in the morning and I really want to go to Joann Fabrics so I can purchase some elastic thread and try my hand at shirring! I think I’m going to tackle and make this shirred summer dress first followed by that full skirt with tule sticking out. WIsh me luck!

  14. nesrine says:

    I love the idea, the colours & how much it is easy :) <3

  15. Allison Miller says:

    This is so adorable! I absolutely love this dress! You did such a great job Ashley, I’m going to have to make a few of these for my daughters with my recently acquired vintage fabric! So excited to make this!

  16. Brielle says:

    This is a super cute dress. I have been looking for an easy craft to pick up. I love the fact that you can get all the fabric you need on one sheet. I love the cute bow you put in her hair as well. I have been looking up information on how to make a bow for my daughters hair. Thanks so much for sharing this great information. I cannot wait to try it on my own.

  17. gin says:

    super cute little dress. I may try it out. and the fabric news is awesome.

  18. zineb says:

    hi this dress it’s so fantastic ad i like it

  19. Jaimee says:

    I pinned this tutorial and can’t wait to make one for my 3-year-old! Who knew shirring was so easy?

  20. Devon says:

    Any ideas of sizing measurements for newborn? Also, did you keep the elastic bobbin in when you put the straps and loops on? Thanks for the help! :)

    1. Ashley says:

      Hi Devon,
      Do you have newborn handy to measure? Ha! I’m guessing you don’t…..but the best way would be to ask your recipient to measure the newborn’s chest. My littlest one is 2 years old but I’m thinking a newborn is something like 13-16 inches. I know, that’s a pretty big gap, but babies come in all size. However, you can kinda guess with this project. I would go with maybe 14 inches and double that to 28 inches wide for the rectangle. As for the height dimension, hmmmm, I’m guessing here but maybe make the dress section about 10-11 inches long. (But then add another 2 inches for the top and bottom hems.)

      Hope that helps…..and good luck!

    2. Anonymous says:

      Thanks! I am having my 1st girl! I have 3 boys already, so am having fun making girl stuff. :) did you use the elastic bobbin while sewing on the loops and straps? :)

    3. Ashley says:

      Oh sorry about that…….no, you switch back to using regular thread in the bobbin to sew on the straps. :)


  21. Sheena says:

    That fabric is beautiful!! I will have to check out their site.

  22. Julie Snow says:

    Perf cute as always!

  23. Liz Farnsworth says:

    Chloe is adorable!!! I love the fabric too!

  24. dannyscotland says:

    That is such a cute dress! Chloe is adorable, I mean just adorable. But you know that, he he!

    1. Ashley says:

      Ha! I do know that! Some days, I could just squish her little cheeks to pieces! :)

      But thanks!

  25. fitri says:

    ooh, so cute .. !! thank you for the tutorial, this is a perfect project for weekend sewing – can’t wait to make for my little one. And the website idea is a brilliant – lovely concept …

  26. Peggy says:

    so sweet!!

  27. Kim says:

    LOVE the website! What a wonderful concept and creative designers! And love the dress you made for Chloe :) Thanks for sharing!

  28. Debbie C says:

    Wow, I love the Modern Yardage concept of printing all of what you need onto one sheet! Awesome, why did no one think of this before? Also, this is so off the subject…but the tree by your house has a very distinct “eye”. ;D

    1. Ashley says:

      Ha…..I never noticed the “eye” until you said that. How funny! Now I’m going to always see it watching us! :)

  29. SueSchneid22 says:

    I never knew you didn’t need special equipment to do this. Awesome! I hope I get time to try it someday. My granddaughter is 3.5, but she’ll be all grown up before I blink! BTW- your model (daughter?) is soo very adorable. She seems to love the camera as much as it loves her. Love the pic of her with her hands on her knees laughing. So sweet.

    Thanks for the great pattern and tips.

    1. Ashley says:

      Yes, it’s fantastic! You’ll fall in love with shirring, I’m sure! :)

      And thanks, I love that same picture. She cracks me right up!


  30. Leann says:

    Wow! What an inspiration, thank you for sending me to your FAQ page to find recommendations for a sewing machine. I found one! Now, if I could only sew like you do!

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh good! Keep at it…’ll surprise yourself with progress each time! :)

  31. Gina says:

    This is adorable! Even though my girls are older- it would still be so cute for them. Thinking I will be sewing this weekend.

    1. Ashley says:

      Yes, I’m making one for my older girl this weekend…..but I’m chopping it off shorter, into a little top that she can wear with shorts.

      Good luck!

  32. NATALIA says:

    Guauuuu!! you are an artist D; ♥♥♥♥¡¡Un besazo y feliiiiiiz fin de semana!!!♥♥♥♥

  33. Winter says:

    Darling, as always! I’m an accomplished seamstress but STILL haven’t figured out shirring. Even your fab tutorials haven’t helped. *sigh*

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh darn, that stinks. Have you tried adjusting how tight or loose you wind the elastic thread on the bobbin? How about adjusting your machine settings a bit? We’ve really got to get this working for you……because it really is so much fun! :)

  34. Rachelle says:

    This is adorable! But I’m curious how you scale patterns for your projects? This pattern literally seems like it was designed to be fit for a little girl. Are there any kind of rules you follow so the pattern doesn’t over (or under) whelm the project?

    1. Ashley says:

      Hmmmm, I’m not sure I understand. Are you talking about the pattern and process of making the dress or the pattern (the size and design) of the fabric? Fill me in…..and I’ll see if I can help you out a bit! :)

    2. Rachelle says:

      Sorry! I meant the size/scale of the patterned fabric. I love patterned fabrics, but never seem to pick the right scale for the project (i.e. choose something that has a small design when I should have used something with a bigger design).

    3. Ashley says:

      That’s okay….I just wanted to be sure I understood.

      But I think a good general rule is if you’re making something smaller, keep the print smaller. And with bigger, you can go bigger. However, I tend to break that rule all the time, so I’m not sure I ever really think it through. I just see a print, love it, and try it out. However, something that I do a lot, is hold it up to the person or location where I’m making something. For example, if I’m making curtains, I drape the fabric through the curtain rod and take a step back and look at the whole picture. This helps a ton, because many times, something I see online look so different once I get my hands on it. And most places are accepting fabric returns these days, as long as you haven’t cut the fabric. I love this feature…..because then, I can buy several and then return the ones I don’t want.

      Anyway, I hope that was at least a tiny bit helpful.

      Best of luck!

    4. Cindy Brown says:

      I just love this pattern and the material is gorgeous. I would really love to purchase material from the fabric place that you mentioned. How much do the prices run ? I would like to know how wide the material is ? 45 ” or smaller? I would hope its’ not smaller . I would like to make this dress for 3 girls, sizes 4 and 5 . I know how to shirr, and I just love it, it’s so much fun and shirred some straps for a dress I made, it came out so darn cute and the girls loved it too. Also, how long does it take to get to me. Iive in baton Rouge, and I don’t know where the fabric store is> Can you tell me how long did it take for you to get it your fabric?

  35. Andrea says:

    I love the dress. So cute! I’m thinking that fabric would be perfect for some pillows in my family room. I’ve got a beach color scheme but a huge red sectional to work around. This fabric would tie it all together!

    1. Ashley says:

      See? Perfect! :)

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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