Fluffy Ruffles Sundress
Shirring with Elastic Thread
created and written by Susan Stewart
This is a great tutorial written by Susan Stewart of www.SusanStewartDesigns.com. We love using our "Ruffles and Ridges" Fabric with elastic bobbin. There are so many fun, easy things you can do. We have made both women's and children's skirts and swim cover-ups with this same method. Thank you, Susan!
This sweet little dress is easily made with Ruffle Fabric and elastic thread! No pattern is required, just the desired dress length. The stretchy bodice makes the fit very adaptable, so the dress can work as a tunic long after it is too short for a dress. The dress shown was made from Ruffles and Ridges fabric, but Mini Ruffles will work, too. You will need the length of the dress plus ¼ yard.
You will also need polyester sewing thread to match your fabric, a stretch or ballpoint sewing machine needle in size 75 or 80, and a spool of elastic thread. You can probably find this thread displayed with other elastic, not threads. It is usually wound on a long narrow tube. You want elastic thread, not elastic cord, which is much heavier.
GETTING STARTED AND TEST STITCHING
1. The elastic thread is wound on the bobbin, not threaded through the needle of the machine; it is too heavy for that. And it must be wound by hand, which really doesn’t take as long as you might think. Wind the elastic thread on the bobbin with just enough tension so the thread lies smoothly in the bobbin. Because you will need more than one bobbin of elastic thread, you may want to wind several to start.
2. Check your machine manual, it may have instructions for using elastic thread or other heavy threads in the bobbin.
3. Insert the stretch needle in the machine, and thread the machine with the matching poly thread. Position the bobbin in the bobbin case of the machine as usual. Pull up the elastic thread, and leave a tail of a couple of inches.
4. Do some test stitching on samples of the same fabric you will be using for your dress. Each machine will be different, so I can't give any absolute settings. Start with a stitch length of 4mm. Straight stitch on the right side of the fabric, so the elastic thread is on the wrong side. For testing, stitch at least half an inch from the edge of the fabric, in the middle of the fabric under a ruffle, and stitch at least 4 or 5 inches. The stitched fabric should gather up, yet still allow for the fabric to stretch to its full width when the elastic is stretched.
a. If the needle thread forms loops on the wrong side of the fabric, increase the needle tension.
b. If the elastic thread is loopy on the wrong side, slightly increase the bobbin tension.
c. If the fabric doesn’t gather at all, or very little, slightly increase the bobbin tension or increase the stitch length.
d. If the elastic is very tight, with tight gathers that will not stretch out, decrease the bobbin tension.
Note: To change the bobbin tension, consult your machine manual. Bobbin cases usually have a little screw that turns “lefty loosey, righty tighty.” Before changing the bobbin tension, use a fine-tip permanent marker to mark the position of the tension screw, so it will be easier to return to the regular bobbin tension when you return to regular sewing. Tighten or loosen the screw in small increments, no more than one-eighth turn at a time. Some people like to buy a separate bobbin case just for bobbin work, so their main bobbin never gets altered. Changing the tension on drop-in bobbins will vary by machine; check your manual. Some machines have special bobbins for bobbin work. On other machines, it may work best to completely avoid the bobbin tension mechanism. Test, test, test, and use the settings that work best for you and the particular fabric you are using.
e. Leave tails of several inches at the ends of the stitched row. After stitching the first row satisfactorily, stitch consecutive rows, stitching in the middle of the fabric under each ruffle. Stretch out previous rows as you are stitching, so you are always stitching on flat fabric. Be careful not to catch the ruffles in the stitching.
f. If you run out of bobbin elastic (and you will – the bobbins don’t hold enough to finish a project), leave tails of both elastic and thread about 2 or 3 inches long. Pull the thread to the wrong side. Insert a new, filled bobbin and continue stitching so just a couple of stitches overlap. Make sure the tails don’t get caught in the stitching. Pull the thread from the new stitching to the wrong side. Securely tie together the elastic thread ends; likewise tie together the thread ends. Cut off elastic and threads, leaving at least ¼ inch tails.
g. After the stitching is completed, steam the shirred section. If one or more rows are not pulled up as much as the others, gently pull up the elastic thread, as if it were a regular gathering thread, and distribute the extra gathers, so that all rows are consistently taut. This is what it should look like on the wrong side:
SEWING THE DRESS
1. Lay out Ruffles and Ridges fabric right side up, with ruffles lying flat. For dress upper edge, cut between the first (uppermost) and second ruffle of a “Ruffles” segment.
1. Measure down desired length, and cut lower edge between ruffles. No hem is required! If in doubt about length, cut fabric a little longer. The dress can always be shortened after it is finished, simply by cutting off a few ruffles!
2. Stitch rows of elastic thread, as directed above, on the fabric between the top two ruffles.
3. Stitch subsequent rows of elastic thread between the other ruffles in this top “Ruffles” section.
4. In the “Ridges” segment, stitch right on the little knit-in ridges (perfect – no marking required!) Because this part of the fabric is a little heavier than the fabric between the ruffles, you may need to increase the stitch length a bit, or tighten the bobbin tension a little, to make the shirring consistent.
5. Stitch as many rows of elastic thread as desired for bodice of dress.
6. Steam the shirred section of fabric.
7. Now it’s time to stitch the center back seam. You need to hold the ruffles in place while you stitch, so they don’t get bunched up or flipped up in the seams. I have “tamed” the ruffles in these different ways:
a. Simply pin, pin, pin, and pin some more!
b. Serge or zigzag along the edge of the fabric before seaming to hold the ruffles in place. Stitch from top to bottom, in the direction the ruffles lay.
c. Near the seamline, use a tiny bit of water-soluble glue stick under each ruffle to hold it in place. After gluing, press lightly with a warm iron and press cloth to dry the glue so it won’t gum up your sewing machine needle.Use blue painter’s tape about ¼ inch from the seamline to hold the ruffles in place.
1. Fold the fabric right sides together, matching rows of ruffles in the skirt, and pin.
2. While seams can be serged, I usually prefer to simply zigzag them. Why? Because if a ruffle is caught in a zigzagged seam, it’s easy to open a few stitches, release the ruffle, and re-stitch. If it is caught in a serged seam, it may be cut off! Zigzag (approx. W = 2.0, L = 2.0) on the seamline, and again about ¼ inch from the first stitching, within the seam allowance. Trim seam allowance close to second stitching.
3. To help prevent the elastic thread from pulling out, press or simply fold the seam allowance to one side, and zigzag topstitch from the right side, through the bodice and seam allowances. This stitching does not extend into the skirt, only on the elasticized bodice.
4. Now it’s time to do the shoulder straps! Cut a strip of Ruffles, cutting the upper edge as you did for the top of the dress, and the bottom edge below the lowermost ruffle in a strip (the cut strip will include 7 ruffles from the Ruffles and Ridges fabric. If you are using mini Ruffles, cut a strip 2 to 3 inches wide.) Stitch elastic thread between each row of ruffles, as you did for the dress. Steam.
5. Cut shoulder straps about 7 inches long for baby and toddler sized dresses, 8 inches for little girl sizes, and 9 to 10 inches for big girl sizes. Remember, this stuff is very stretchy, so precise measurements are not necessary!
6. Fold under about ½ inch on each cut end, then securely hand stitch straps to upper edge of bodice at desired locations, catching folded-under ends in stitching. Hand stitching gives a much nicer look than machine stitching, and takes only a few minutes.
7. Have a little girl try this on, and watch her twirl!
If you like these instructions, check out my Ruffles Idea Booklet, available on my website www.SusanStewartDesigns.com