I’d been admiring the amazing prints from StorrsLondon.com when they approached me and asked if I wanted some of their fabric and obviously I jumped at the chance. Just to note that they didn’t ask me to blog or share anything, I just chose to because I genuinely think their fabric is great. I chose the Chelsea Garden print in red because it was the one that jumped out at me the most but they really have so many lovely ones.
When it arrived I was so impressed with the quality, and there are little things that make it extra special. Firstly it’s sumptuously soft, the print is so crisp and because it’s screen printed it shows on both sides, which means no horrible white patches on the inside when you catch a glimpse of the lining. It also has next to no selvedge and the fabric is wide so you can really get the most out of it.
As for the project, I knew I wanted to make a Flora with wide straps, and I’d been lusting after some Ganni dresses with shirred straps, so decided to experiment. I started by cutting the Flora bodice and straps out, taking the neckline down 2 inches and the back down 1 inch above the armhole – I thought if I was going to make a feature of the straps then they should be a bit longer and it would be nice to have that detail mainly on the back.
I then cut the straps about twice as long as they needed to be, to allow for the shirring but I didn’t get too mathematical here because I wanted to see how much the shirring gathered them by. So I waited to decide on the length after I stitched the shirred straps to the front bodice.
For the shirred straps, I sewed them in half length ways and turned out, with the seam running down the middle on the inside. Once I’d turned them the right way round and pressed, I sewed three lines of shirring length ways to gather them up.
I had a few questions on shirring on my Instagram so here are the tips that I have gathered from watching various tutorials and from trial and many errors.
1. The elastic: Firstly, make sure you hand wind the elastic onto the bobbin and that it’s not too tight, then don’t cut off the elastic when you put it in the machine, leave a few inches tailed off at the end.
2. The stitch length: I’ve found 3.5 to be the best result but obviously varying the stitch length and number of rows will impact how gathered it goes, so practicing this before on a scrap of fabric I think is the best approach.
3. Sewing it: when you’re doing multiple lines of shirring make sure you stretch out the shirring you’ve already sewn otherwise the lines you sew later won’t be elasticated enough.
4. Steam: it’s like magic. Once you’ve shirred to your heart’s content then either use a steamer or hold your iron over the shirring (but don’t press it), the elastic will shrink back and you get a lovely even finish.
So after I finished shirring the straps, I attached them to the front bodice, pinned to the back bodice and then pinned myself in to decide on the strap length. You can always just baste them to the back bodice to check before you commit to sewing it.
I used the Nina Lee London Kew skirt cut on the fold and about 30cm shorter, with two back pieces and no dip in the back hem. I normally just make these changes by folding the pattern pieces up and folding over the button placket when I cut it out.
I then used the By Hand London Eloise frill which I added after I’d sewn the skirt on and invisible zip in. I was going to hem it a lot shorter but I tried it on and swooshed around and decided it’s just the best thing to wear in my flat right now. Maybe in the future when we wear shoes again I will edit it.
Once I’d sewn the dress in its entirety, the elastic in the straps was stretching a lot when it was on the hanger. I could have added some ribbons to the armpits just so I could hang it up but I thought to stabilise it and make sure I could move around I’d sew in some bias binding.
I sewed it by hand starting at the front of the strap on the inside without stretching the elastic, then when I got to about two inches above the end of the strap at the back I stretched the shirring out a little so that the straps still have a little bit of stretch to them. I think in hindsight I could have got a similar look from doing a channel of elastic through the strap but there is a really nice close up detail to the shirring that I think makes it worthwhile.
And there she is, the dancing lady emoji dress. At least if I ever get invited to an emoji fancy dress party I’m prepared and I can still be classy. Until then it’ll be for G&Ts on the balcony.