Shirred Sleeve Tulle Dress

4. Combining the Layers

Bias Binding: Cut a bias tape from the tulle fabric measuring 3cm in width and a length greater than the neckline length. 

Layer together the top, middle, and lining layers. All three layers should be facing right side out. Pin together around the neckline, making sure to line up the shoulder seams of all three layers. Sew a basting stitch with 0.3cm seam allowance around the neckline to secure.

Fold the binding in half widthwise with the wrong sides touching. Place the binding on top of the neckline with the raw edges lining up. Pin the binding to the neckline, beginning at one side of the back middle and ending at the opposite back middle seam. Trim off any excess binding. 

Sew the binding to the neckline using a 0.5cm seam allowance. You will be sewing through all three layers of the neckline.

Flip the dress so that the wrong side of the lining is facing out. Separate the top two tulle layers and the lining layer.

Fold the binding down towards the lining, wrapping it over the exposed seam. Pin the binding to the lining. Sew along the folded edge of the binding using 0.1cm seam allowance. Turn the dress right side out. The binding should not be visible from the right side.

5. Creating the Sleeves

Baste the three layers together at the armholes: Line up all the three layers at the shoulder seams and side seams, pin to secure and baste using 0.8cm seam allowance. Set aside.

About Shirring:

  • When shirring, you will wind the bobbin with elastic thread by hand. The top thread will be the same thread that you normally use. Do not pull the thread tightly as you wind the elastic around the bobbin. Then insert the bobbin into your machine as usual. 
  • If necessary, adjust your tension, the top thread should not be loosely holding the elastic thread, but it also should not be stretching it out tightly. Use scrap fabric to adjust to the desired tension.
  • You will sew with a straight stitch with a stitch length that is 1-2 higher than your usual stitch length. This will allow more stretch.
  • Typically, only one row of shirring will not gather in much, however 2-3 rows will.

Sew two shirring lines on the sleeve piece as marked in the pattern. Do not let the fabric gather up as you sew the second row of shirring, this will prevent them from gathering up at the end. Pull the fabric straight as you sew.

You can back stitch at the end of each row, or as I prefer, tie of the elastic by hand at the end of each row.  (Ironing can create tight shirring, as the hot blast of an iron will cause the elastic to shrink up. We didn’t need to use it for our sleeves but it is an option if you want your shirring to be tighter.)

Fold the sleeve in half with the right sides touching and pin together along the side seam. Sew together along the pinned seam.

Overlap the elastic ends by 1cm and sew to secure. You have now created a circle. Sew a gathering stitch 0.5cm from the bottom of the sleeve opening. Gather the raw edge of the sleeve to be slightly bigger than the size of the elastic. 

Sew the elastic on inside of the gathered sleeve on the gathering stitch, gently stretching the elastic as you sew to ease it into the sleeve.

Fold in the raw edge twice and either machine sew with 0.1cm seam allowance or hand stitch using hidden stitch as I did. 

Sew a gathering stitch all the way around the entire sleeve. Gather up the sleeve until it is roughly the same size as the armhole opening.

Place one sleeve into one bodice armhole with the right sides touching and the raw edges lining up. Match up the side seam of the sleeve with the side seam of the bodice and pin to secure. Sew along the pinned seam, adjusting the gathers as necessary. For a professional look, finish the seam with an overlocker.

Fold the overlocked edge of the sleeve towards the bodice and hand tacking in 2-3 places to secure it.

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