Sewing A Shirred Bakerloo Dress with Sharlene

Hi everyone! It's Sharlene and I have an exciting tutorial for you this weekend- how to add shirring to a bodice, and for this example I have used the Nina Lee Bakerloo Dress

This make is inspired by a dress that Steph shared with me. It was a floral print fabric, with a shirred bodice, statement collar and big sleeves. The Bakerloo pattern was the perfect starting point and the Delicate Flowers Viscose Crepe was the perfect fabric! This fabric is light enough for the shirring to work, and the crepe texture will work well for getting a crisp press of the collar. The fabric features a small ditsy floral print with lilac, pink and yellow blossoms. 

I have made a kids shirred sundress before, so had a rough idea of the measurements/calculations needed to adjust the bodice. For a shirred sundress, you need to multiply your bust measurement by 1.75 and divide this by 2 to get the width of your 2 rectangles. When multiplying my bust and waist measurement by 1.75, I worked out that I needed to split the front and back bodice piece into 5 sections and add 3.5cm in between each section. This brought the width of the bodice to the same size as the skirt piece, which eliminated the need to gather the skirt when attaching it, it could just be sewn to the end of the bodice and the shirring would gather it in. I also removed the bust darts when I split the pattern pieces as they would not be needed. 

When making these adjustments to the pattern make sure to remove the seam allowance first and don't include this in your measurements. I usually just mark the seam allowance on my pattern. Once everything has been spread out you need to ‘true’ all the curves, or smooth them out. 

A key point to remember here is that the finished bodice will be stretchy, so if your measurements or calculations are a little off, or you round up or down a little to make things easier you will not notice it in the end garment. 

I started the shirring 2.5cm from the bottom of the bodice pieces, leaving 1.5cm seam allowance and extra 1cm above the waist seam. When using shirring elastic you have 2 options for winding it onto the bobbin. You can either wind it by hand, applying a little tension while doing so but not over stretching it, or you can wind it by machine. I have always preferred winding by hand, but everyone (and every sewing machine) is different so try both ways and see what works best for you. I also like to fill a few bobbins at the start as you will go through it quicker than normal thread, and it will save time when you are in the ‘shirring zone’. I used 5 bobbins in total for this project.

When you insert the bobbin into your machine you may need to play about with the tension of the bobbin case a bit. Sometimes it needs loosened to allow the thicker elastic to move through it. Check your manual if you are not sure how to do this, as all machines are different. Just remember to revert back to the original tension settings when you are finished with the shirring elastic. 

You will want to use a longer stitch length when shirring, around 3.5. Backstitch at the beginning of the line of shirring and stretch the fabric out as you are going to distribute the tension in the elastic thread evenly. I used my quilting guide to space the shirring lines by 2cm. Once you have finished shirring hold your iron over the fabric and apply some steam if it is looking a little loose.

The key to shirring is getting the tension right and using a lightweight fabric. A heavier fabric will not pull in as much as a viscose or satin and you will not have the same effect. Take your time at the start to make sure everything is right as it will save you time in the long run. 

After I had shirred the bodice I constructed the garment as instructed. I added a lace trim to the collar instead of a fabric ruffle to break up the fabric, otherwise I think the collar would have been lost. I love the contrast of the plain collar, lace trim and shirred bodice, it is a nice play with textures. I left out the sleeve facing and elastic and shirred the cuffs of the sleeves as I felt this tied in with the garment. I finished the hem with a rolled edge on my new overlocker and love the effect on this lightweight fabric. 

A concern I had when planning this make was how I would attach the shirred bodice to the sleeves and collar. I had fusible bias tape on had in case I needed to use it to stabilise these area's however I did not use it in the end. When the sleeve and collar were pinned in place it provided enough support for the stretchy bodice. 

I lengthened the skirt pattern piece by 25cm to have a longer midi length, I feel it suits the style of dress better. And I love it paired with a pair of black boots, and have already braved bare legs in it. 

The only area I am not completely happy with is the back opening. I couldn’t eliminate this closure as I needed the room to get it over my head, but the shirring elastic pulls it into a circle shape. I think adding a few more buttons and stabilising the seam with interfacing could get rid of this issue, although it is at the back and my hair covers it, so I don't usually see it!

I am super happy with this dress though, it's a classic style that I will be able to dress up or down and pull out year after year. The shirred bodice makes it extremely comfortable too. 

I hope you have enjoyed this blog. If you have any questions please reach out to me on my Instagram @sosewdressmaking

Happy sewing,

Sharlene xx

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