It’s been 40 days of making masks. I have continued to create a fun project every week simply for my own sanity. Making dresses to me are like fun little puzzles that build my skills each time I mess up.

Last week I did a cool polynesian pattern that needed to be followed with great precision every step of the way.

This week, I really wanted to play. I started with a blank canvas. The idea I wanted something, bright, fun, bohemian and it needed to be something easy to throw on. Let’s call it the modern house dress.

I was gifted a beautiful yellow floral fabric from a sewing friend. A kind of crepe fabric, definitely light and airy, soft draping with great flow. The sleeve insets were from a trendy Forever 21 t-shirt.

I wanted to use a technique in the top called shirring. It’s where you use elastic thread in your bobbin to smock the top. If I did this the garment would not need to be fitted, nor have a closure. I cut my top out twice as big. I also cut a big circle for the skirt of the dress.

I knew the neck and hemline edges with shirring could not be lined, faced or finished with bias tape. I finished all hemlines with a rolled hemline on my serger. It’s clean, easy and no one would even look twice unless they also sew.

Making a rolled hemline with a serger is as easy as removing your stitch finger, removing your left top needle, tightening the upper and lower looper tension and go play! It’s perfect for thin fabrics.

Barely there! I love it and the skirt hemline will match!

The shirring – every project, every fabric, every machine does shirring differently. Even your stitch length will dictate the amount of gathering. It’s best to practice.

This project was not without “learning experiences.” The first bodice piece I started shirring at the bottom and worked my way up. When I got to the top it was a little uneven. I made this the back.

Also, when I started shirring in the very beginning, either my elastic thread was not wound right or it was old and did not pull in enough to the back correctly giving it two big love muffin puffs.

For the front I started from the top and worked my down. This was not without problems that I would not solve until after the dress was completely made.

I love the way the front really pulled in. If you look closely you can see my next, “learning experience” here. I did not notice it until the dress was finished.

The bottom of the front bodice was crooked from the shirring. I needed the dress fixed for a shoot with my friend in two days. I tried to take a short cut and sew straight across the seam that attached the bodice to the skirt front. This made my hemline crooked and there was still the problem of the back being goofy-poofy.

At this point I did the right thing and let it rest to solve those problems. I reminded myself that large reputable design companies test a garment design two-four times before it’s right.

Once I was clear minded I took the front bodice/skirt seam apart, cut the bodice straight and put it back together again. It was easy when I really took the time. For the back, instead of ripping out all the shirring, I added extra lines of shirring in-between the existing loose ones. This worked like a charm.

These professional photos where shot by the lovely Samantha Hughes. Sam owns Riley Street Photography. Everything she touches she makes beautiful, has a vast knowledge of vintage clothing eras, sells and collects vintage online and is an amazing crafter. You can see why I treasure our friendship.

Behind the scenes~

Suzy Goose got a new dress out of the scraps.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!

Tracy McElfresh
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