shirred back dress

i made this dress mid-summer and it feels kinda mean and cruel posting such a summery dress just as we’re moving into cooler weather… but hey, i’m right on time for southern hemisphere folks, yeah? i wanted this dress to be light, casual, and free of fussy details. i decided on a princess seamed bodice, thin adjustable straps, shirred back, and a lightly gathered skirt.

i fell in love with this fabric at my local fabric store, initially to make a dramatic maxi dress. i thought it would be perfect to swoosh around in on our summer Texas vacay, but i’m glad i ran out of time for that. it would have been fabulous, but highly impractical for much of anything else.

for my dress, i went back to an old pattern that features the princess seamed bodice i wanted (i’d go track down the pattern number, but it’s nothing special and i wouldn’t really recommend that specific pattern). i had already fit this pattern before (i’m so not linking to that old post, however i wore it during MMM), but i really didn’t trust past me’s fitting techniques so i started from scratch. one muslin was enough (yay!) so i threw out my old tracings and replaced them with my fresh fitting. so happy that past me traced to begin with! this pattern includs crazy amounts of ease, so this time i knew enough to pick a size based on the finished measurements instead of the size chart.

once i fit the bodice, i took the back panel and added a few inches since i would be shirring it. i also moved the zip to the side because i don’t like zips to run through the middle of shirring. to keep the upper edge of the bodice and the waist seam of the shirred panel stable, i use 1/4″ elastic to give me a nice clean edge. so, the first row of stitching from the top of the panel is done in regular thread, but allowing enough width to insert elastic between the shell and lining. from that row on, i shirr each row using elastic thread. then i leave enough space at the bottom of the panel so that once i attach the skirt, i can top stitch the waist SA towards the bodice, (creating a channel) and insert elastic later. i secure the elastic by stitching in the ditch between the back bodice pieces.

since my skirt is only lightly gathered, the bottom edge of the bodice where the skirt attaches is pretty much sewn without gathering (on the shirred part only)—the gathering comes once you insert elastic at the waist seam. clear as mud? sorry… if you have specific questions feel free to ask. 🙂

i waffled a bit about how to go about lining and/or underlining the rest of the bodice. in the end, i decided to underline the rest of the bodice pieces, and draft a facing to finish the upper edge. this worked out well and kept the bodice nice and lightweight. as i mentioned before, the skirt is only lightly gathered. i had plenty of fabric to work with, but i had to resist the urge to make a super full skirt. i tend to wear dresses with simpler skirts more often, plus it reduces the amount of bulk at the waist.


i decided to make adjustable straps since i always have a hard time deciding exactly how long to make them. i tend to fiddle with them forever and well—that’s annoying! this is also perfect if you have one shoulder higher than the other. much as i’d like to think i’m symmetrical, i’m sure i’m not! thin straps are far more likely to want to slip off the shoulders, so this is a great way of dealing with that.

long story short… i love how this dress came out and i managed to wear it several times this summer. actually i’m hoping to sneak in a few more wears since it looks really great with a jean jacket. word has it we may hit the low 80’s F over the weekend… fingers crossed!

—lisa g.

maybe i’ll say something interesting

no doubt you’ve seen the blog hop going around talking about why we bother with this whole writing and blogging thing. Heather from Handmade by Heather B passed the baton along to moi and so, like a good sport, i joined in! i don’t remember exactly when i came across Heather’s blog, but i’ve been thoroughly entertained ever since. she regales us with funny stories and frog adventures all the while claiming that the writing is often a struggle. however, i think she’s just saying that to make the rest of us feel better about our own inadequacies… yeah? oh, and let’s not forget her mad sewing skills. this fine lady is single handedly raising the style bar for moms everywhere. i think the world would definitely be a better place if more of us wore tiki dresses to the grocery store, doncha think?

why do i write?

i think it’s true for a lot of sewists that our overwhelming need to chat about the nitty gritty of sewing is not shared by most of the adults encountered in daily life. finding the right fabric, how should i apply this binding, should i machine hem or hand stitch, what sort of interfacing should i use, and how the hell do i insert this zip?!?! are not typical conversations when chatting up the cashier at the grocery store or the moms in the waiting room of the dance studio. but you guys—you get it! after reading sewing blogs for a while i found myself wanting to get into the conversation and add my own (meager) knowledge to the pool instead of just correcting people in the comment section… ahem.

as a side benefit, this blog helps me keep up the practice of writing. i graduated from college with english and history degrees, so yeah. i spent a LOT of time writing research papers and poetry analysis. then, after college, i never embarked on a “real” career and ended up being a stay at home mom. that wasn’t exactly my intention, it’s just how life panned out. now i don’t expect my blog writing will ever land me a job in the future, but simply the practice of writing gives me the confidence that i can write. like any skill—if you don’t use it, you loose it.

how does my writing process work?

so you might come away from the “why” question thinking that this whole writing thing comes naturally to me. not exactly. just because i have a lot to say in my head, doesn’t always mean those thoughts translate into coherent sentences. i’m not a chatty person by nature, so it takes me a long time, hours even, to put together a simple post. if i’m really having trouble, i make a simple list of everything i want to say, then expand on each individual idea (kind of like those topic outlines you probably hated making in high school). my initial rough drafts are indeed rough, peppered with cute phrases like SAY SOMETHING INTERESTING HERE. eventually i smooth out the edges and hit “publish” when i’m about 75% happy. then, i pray that no one makes fun of me and hope that maybe i said something  interesting.

how does it differ from others of it’s genre?

this is a tough one for me… i think what i do, or what i strive to do, is pick out the technical aspects of sewing that can take your sewing from eh to what… you made that?! i don’t have any formal training, but i do spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to construct garments to get professional, long-lasting results. my attitude is that if i can do this, so can you. broadly speaking, my goal is to build an interesting, long wearing, and wearable wardrobe and if i figure out a great technique, i try to pass it on to you guys. i can’t really claim any of that sets me apart from other sewing bloggers, there are just so many talented people out there! the fact that anyone reads this blog is a constant source of surprise, to be honest. (thanks guys, you’re the best!)

what am i working on?

i don’t have a WIP at the moment, but i just finished up a new archer (SHOCKING). also if you check out my IG feed you’ll discover that i have a serious backlog of unblogged projects… really trying to fix that. oh wait, i have one WIP… it’s sitting around half finished, and i have every intention of getting back to it soon! ugh i seriously hate WIPs… i was stalled in the spring by zip ordering complications, making design changes, etc. whatever. i’m determined to finish it!


ah, on to the fun part… so with greatest humility, i would like to nominate Morgan from crab & bee, and Melanie from poppykettle. both of these ladies you are, no doubt, familiar with. Morgan always inspires me with her ability to make everyday wearable clothes interesting, and her focus on sustainable fibers is truly the way of the future. and Melanie… her impeccable sewing, tailoring, and incorporation of couture techniques is nothing short of awe-inspiring. i mean, THAT WEDDING DRESS. truly, it belongs in a museum. swoon… (and ladies, if you don’t have time to write up a post, please don’t feel obliged!)

thanks again for the nod, Heather—it was fun to explore and really think about my own writing process!

—lisa g.