Every year, Dresses for Haiti donates unique, handcrafted shirred dresses to victims of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. This tutorial is for those who would like to help our mission and make dresses for young girls in Haiti. While you make yourself or a loved one a gorgeous new dress, consider making one or a few for young girls in Haiti.
This fun, versatile tube-dress is extremely easy to make and can be styled in many different ways. Make a bold statement with bright polka dots, go girly with pink floral print, or stay classy-chic with some breezy white cotton.
We’d love for you to join our effort and follow us in this simple tutorial as you create a stunning, one-of-a-kind sundress for a Haitian girl!
You can also check out the tutorial on PDF HERE
Step 1: Materials
1) Fabric: Lightweight, non-stretch cotton
- Do not use stretch fabric!
- I don’t recommend silk, satin, brocade, or anything slippery unless you feel comfortable working with these fabrics.
- Use any print you would like.
- Keep in mind that matching seams can be difficult with certain prints (plaid, stripes, etc.) so take this into consideration when picking your fabric.
2) Sewing Machine
- All sewing machines are not created equal. Our settings simply serve as guidelines; please experiment with your own machine
3) Serger (optional)
If you do not have a serger, no problem! You will replace marrowed seams and edges with French seams (Figure A) and double folded hems (Figure B)
(Figure A) (Figure B)
4) Thread to match your fabric
5) Elastic Thread (Figure C)
6) Fabric Scissors
7) Seam gauge /ruler
8) Colored pencil/fabric marker
Step 2: Sizing
The following chart gives a rough guide for sizing and fabric needed. It’s okay if your measurements aren’t exact; we don’t know who we will be giving the dresses to yet so we will be able to utilize any sizes.
Ages 3 months to 36 months
|Recommended fabric length
|Recommended fabric width
Ages 2-6 years old
|Recommended fabric length
|Recommended fabric width
Ages 7-14 Years old
|U.S. Standard Girl Sizes (7-14 years)
||51 – 52
||53 – 54
||55 – 57
||58 – 59
||60 – 62
||63 – 64
|Recommended Fabric Length
|Recommended Fabric Width
If you want to make the dress for yourself, follow these guidelines:
Width: Measure your chest, just under your arms and multiply that number by 2.
Example: 30 inch bust…30 x 2 = 60 inch width
Length: Measure from the underarms down to the desired length, and then add 2 inches.
Example: Desired Length = 28 inches…28 + 2 = 30 inch length
Step 3: Lets Start Sewing!
1) Overcast or zigzag stitch around all four edges of the fabric. (Or use a serger.)
- On the sewing machine: set both your stitch length and zigzag width at about 4.
- Adjust this according to your machine and/or your preferred stitch widths and lengths
- If your machine cannot zigzag stitch and you do not have a serger, do a double folded hem on the raw edges. Now you can either do this hem on the the top and bottom only or you can do it on all four edges. Either way is fine just remember which one for step 5 (See figure B: How to do a double edge hem).
Step 4: Elastic Shirring
Now we are moving on the elastic shirring!
A) Begin to loosely hand-wind the bobbin with elastic thread. Depending on the machine you have, you may be able to machine wind the elastic thread, but some machines may not be able to feed stretched-out elastic thread through the plates. Experiment with your bobbins and the thread.
B) Load the bobbin normally. Make sure you do not stretch the elastic thread while winding/loading,
***IMPORTANT***For Brother Sewing Machines only: Brother sewing machines are notorious for NOT shirring with elastic thread. Keep in mind that not all machines have the same capabilities, and Brother is the one machine that really requires a deal of experimenting and tampering. (I use the longest stitch length along with a tension of 6.) After much searching, I found a great video on a neat trick for shirring that doesn’t require tampering with the machine. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcELEGN9Rrk
C) With the right side of your fabric facing up, begin measuring 5/8 inch down from the top end of the fabric. Take your pencil/washable marker and mark a line 5/8 inch down—parallel to the top edge of the fabric.
- Start from where your first line is drawn, and keep spacing lines 5/8 inches apart from each other all the way down. You can also use smaller or larger spacing or even a combination of spacing (ie 1.4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/2 etc) for style.
- I recommend drawing in at least 8 5/8-inch-wide lines, but you can use more/fewer depending on your size.
*If you feel comfortable sewing without the marker lines, feel free to skip that step. Proceed to the step D, with a 5/8 seam, using a 5/8 seam allowance.
D) Put the both the stitch length and machine tension on the settings that work best for your machine (usually medium tension and the longest stitch length.)
Important: Experiment on a scrap piece of fabric before beginning stitching on the dress!
E) With the right side of the fabric facing up, slowly stitch across each of the lines.
(This is how your elastic rows should look)
Step 5: Finishing up!
At this point, you should have a piece of fabric with finished edges and the desired amount of shirred rows. (See below)
* This is a one seam dress. Therefore, there are multiple ways to finish construction, depending on your sewing machine’s capabilities and supplies available.
IF YOU SERGED (ZIGZAG OR MARROW) OR DOUBLED HEMMED (All four sides)
1) Fold the fabric in half (along the width, hamburger style) with the right sides of your fabric together and the wrong side
facing you. (see figure on right)
2) Match the top, bottom, and shirring-lines together. Sew down from top to bottom with a 5/8 inch seam allowance.
3) Press the seam open with an iron.
IF YOU DID A DOUBLE FOLD HEM (top and bottom edges only): French Seam
1) Fold the fabric in half (along the width) with the wrong sides of your fabric together and the right side of the fabric facing you (opposite of figure on the right)
2) Sew a straight line from top to bottom, with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
3) Trim the seam allowance in half to 1/8 inch width.2) Sew a straight line from top to bottom, with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
4) Once the seam allowance is trimmed, you will once again fold the fabric along the seam and sew down
Step 6: Shoulder Straps
Shoulder Straps are optional, but they really help secure the dress in place. Here we have a few different ways that you can create the straps. Also, the straps can be made with different material. You also can use trims/ribbon instead of fabric.
Option 1: Halter Style
1) Cut 2 pieces of fabric with the following dimensions:
- Length of strips = length of dress
- Width of strip = 2.5 inches
- Example: Length of dress = 24 inches…cut two 24 in. X 2.5 in. strips
2) Hem the short sides of the strips with a 1/4 inch hem.
- Note: Zigzag stitching and/or double hemming is not necessary.
3) Fold the strips in half, right sides together. Stitch along the long side with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Turn the tubes inside out.
4) Measure the front top edge of the dress, and divide this number by 3. Divide the dress vertically into thirds, and mark the edge.
- Example: Width = 15…draw a dot on the top edge of the fabric at the 5-in. mark and the 10-in. mark.
- These dots indicate where the straps will go. Hand stitch them in place.
Option 2: Spaghetti Straps
1) Follow steps 1-3 in Option 1.
- However, your straps will be half the length of the dress.
- Example: Length = 24…cut two pieces of 12 in. X 2.5 in. fabric
2) Follow Step 4 in Option 1. Repeat this step with the back of the dress.
Option 3: Shoulder Ties
1) Follow steps 1-3 in Option 1.
- However, you will need four pieces of fabric instead of two. Your dimensions will remain the same.
- Example: Length = 24…cut four pieces of 12 in. X 2.5 in. fabric
2) Follow Step 4 in Option 2. Sew a strap at each of the four dots.
Step 7: You’re Finished!
- If desired, add your own trims, embellishments, fringes, or shoulder straps.
- Go to dresses-for-haiti.tumblr.com and submit a picture of the dress you made – we will be featuring some of your amazing outfits on our Tumblr!
- If you would like to donate the dresses you just sewed to a young girl in Haiti, send an email to email@example.com detailing how many dresses you will be donating. We will email you some information, regarding the next steps.
Congratulations! You’ve just completed your Shirred Summer Sundress. Stay tuned for more tutorials. Email
firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!