In my first post on this project, I forgot to mention, I first created a muslin version of the dress.
I originally hated the idea of doing everything twice, but as I'm just learning, having a test version is great. The pressure's off to be perfect and I can just play around with the pattern and experiment when I'm learning things like shirring for the first time.
For this sundress pattern, on the muslin version, I put the pockets in the wrong way and my shirring was really uneven. I practiced keeping the fabric stretched out while I'm sewing and played around with the spacing of the shirred rows.
Cutting out the dress and sewing it together was pretty straight forward. The shirring took a little practice, but was so much easier than I thought it would be.
As Heather mentions in her directions, wind the bobbin loosely with the elastic thread and sew on the right side of the fabric (so the elastic in the bobbin is sewn onto the wrong site of the dress). She also mentions wetting the fabric or washing for the shirring to really bunch together. My fabric is light, so the rows bunched up immediately.
I also recommend you also do a test to check the tension and very important, keep the fabric stretched-out as you sew. The elastic needs to be sewn over stretched-out fabric, not bunched up fabric. Also very important, the spacing of the rows. Don't miss Heather's direction about sewing the next row of shirring using the previous row as a guide, so the rows are evenly spaced (see photo below - line up right side of foot with previous row).
When you start, have at least six inches of elastic and top thread free so you have enough length to tie them off - to anchor the start of the shirring. The elastic thread is under a lot of tension when you stretch out the fabric, so you'll pull out the beginning stitches.
Soon after starting, I stopped and to tie off the starting threads hanging off. My method is to take the top thread, thread it through a needle, and push it through to the wrong side of the fabric. Then the elastic/bottom and the top threads are now both on the wrong/bottom side and you can knot them together, creating a strong anchor.
You just sew in one continuous circle, like a spiral, down the length of the dress. When I sewed all the way around the bodice, back to my starting place (one of the side seams), without letting up the needle, I steered the row down and started another - moving in a spiral pattern, down the bodice of the dress. I had to stop every 4-5 inches to stretch out the fabric. Carefully pull the section of fabric being sewn taut. I say careful as the elastic can break if it gets caught in a bunch and you pull too hard. It is pretty strong though and it only broke on me a couple times.
I you see it happen, stop and tie-off both ends of the broken section as mentioned above. You might have to pull out enough stitches to have enough thread to tie-off. If you don't tie these off, the tension of the elastic will pull out even more stitches.
I sewed 21 rows of shirring, tied-off the end, checked and fixed broken sections, and voila, all done.
I followed Heather's directions (now that I know the benefits of reading directions :). To draw out straight cutting lines, I used my straight edge and drew along the edge of it to make two straight cutting lines.
The final part was the hem. The front hem rides up higher than the back due to the fabric over the bust, so the hem will need to be thicker in the back. I pinned the hem to be even with the floor and the back hem at the very back needed to be taken up an extra inch. Note this inch was just at the very back, and sloped down from there toward the side seams.
I'm really happy with the finished product, my second dress project, and I plan to make a little matching zipper purse. As the placing of the straps ended up begin different on the back vs. the front, I created a little embroidered label out of muslin (which got frayed in the wash - so next time all make a stronger rectangular border). This was a really great, easy project. I learned a bunch. Thank you Heather Ross!!! I can't forget to order some of her fabric...just need the right project... http://www.heatherrossdesigns.com/.