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Shirred Sun Top In Floaty, Flirty Voile

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We cautioned you about "shirr madness" and then we fell for it ouselves! In our shirring tutorial, we warned that once you learned how to do it, there would be all kinds of projects crying out for this pretty, rumply, stretchy touch of texture. While browsing the bolts at our local fabric retailer, we spotted a beautiful piece of Amy Butler voile, and the next thing we knew... this pretty little top was on the Editorial to-do list. Ours is designed to be flirty and floaty, hitting right at the waistband of your favorite summer shorts. Wear it by itself or layer it with a sheer cotton tank. You can whip it up in an afternoon.

Make sure you review our adorable little girl's shirred sundress, as well as our full shirring tutorial. Because of the great step-by-step photos in both of these articles, this tutorial is photo-lite, and has 50% fewer calories too :-)! We also Re-imagined and Rennovated this top into a dress. Here is that tutorial

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Notes on sizing

Our sample top was made for small to average adult woman – about a size 6 - 8. We started with a 36" bust measurement, however, for a nice snug fit across the bust, we suggest subtracting about 3" - 4" from your starting bust measurement.

Our fabric was 54" wide and a very lightweight voile. The rule of thumb in shirring is to start with about two to two and a half times the finished measurement.

This simple design has two side seams, which means it requires two shirred panels. The width equation for each panel of our sample would be: 36" - 4" = 32" ÷ 2 = 16. Add 1" for seam allowances, and it means a finished shirred panel size of 17" and a starting panel size of 34" to 42". We started with 37".

The finished length of the top is figured by measuring from the top of the bust to just below the belt line. This was 18" in our sample. To this measurement, add 1" for top and bottom hems. In our sample, the equation was: 18" + 1" = 19".

Each of our panels would need to 19" high x 37" wide.

We've mentioned this before but thought we'd touch on it again. One of the most comment requests we get is for specific re-sizing of our projects, which unfortunately is something we are unable to do. It's a challenge to change dimensions long-distance, especially without access to the item and/or person for whom the project is being adjusted. We would feel awful if we gave you inaccurate advice that caused your finished project to turn out less than successful. Our standard recommendation is to measure your item and/or person and compare those measurements to our original dimensions and/or equations. We also try to be as detailed and specific as possible with both. Do the math to make adjustments and scale the original dimensions up or down. Then use these new measurements to make a prototype out of a muslin or another inexpensive fabric you have on hand. This is often exactly how we determine our own patterns and instructions. This technique is not only a good way to re-engineer a project, making a prototype is also a great practice run-through of the construction steps.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • 1¼ yards of 44"+ wide lightweight cotton, voile or batiste
    NOTE: Check our notes above on sizing to make sure this yardage will be enough/too much for your particular panels, then adjust as needed.
  • 1 spool of elastic thread to best match your fabric; we used Gutermann in white
  • 1½ yards of ½" - ¾" wide satin ribbon for shoulder ties
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • See-through ruler
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Seam sealant, such as Fray Checkoptional, to seal the ends of the ribbon ties

Getting Started

  1. See the introduction above for notes on how we determined our cuts.
  2. From the fabric, cut TWO 19" high x 37" wide rectangles.
  3. Cut the ribbon into FOUR 18" lengths.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board


  1. All of the following steps should be done on both of the panels.
  2. The top of the bodice is finished with a simple ¼" double turn hem. To start, simply PRESS the hem into position to form creases. You won't stitch the hem in place until later.
  3. Along the top raw edge (one 37" edge), fold back the edge ¼" and press. Fold back an additional ¼" and press again.
    NOTE: When doing a narrow hem on such a long edge, it is sometimes easier to first fold the edge back ½", then tuck the raw edge under to meet the crease.
  4. If you are new to hemming, see our introductory tutorial.
  5. With the hem pressed well, unfold it so the crease lines are visible.
  6. Place the fabric right side up and flat on your work surface.
  7. Starting ½" down from the innermost crease line, use a clear ruler and a fabric pencil or pen to mark the lines for shirring.
    NOTE: You are marking on the right side of the fabric; make sure your tool is one that will easily wipe away or vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron. 
  8. The amount of shirring you do is totally your choice. We measured across the arc of the bust and decided on a shirring depth of 7". For this depth, we marked 14 parallel shirring guide lines ½" apart. Our ruler wasn't long enough to do this in one pass, so we marked one side, then flipped the ruler and continued the lines to the opposite side.
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  9. Wind a bobbin with elastic thread, insert, and stitch along the guide lines to shirr the bodice. Thread the top of the machine with regular thread to best match your fabric. 
  10. If you are new to this technique, see our step-by-step shirring tutorial.
  11. When your shirring is complete, take the fabric to your ironing board. Mist the entire shirred area and then run your iron over the stitching. This will shrink up the shirring a bit more.
  12. Shorten your stitch length.
  13. With the fabric facing right side up, along the left raw edge, stitch across the ends of the shirring rows at a 90˚ angle. In other words, run a vertical seam from the top down through the shirred rows to lock the shirring.
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  14. Lay the fabric flat on your work surface.
  15. Measure from the left edge (the edge you just locked in place with the first vertical seam) across the fabric the finished width you figured above - without stretching. In our sample, we measured from the raw edge 17" across. Measure at several points, then connect the dots to create a vertical line from the very top to the very bottom (all the way to the bottom of the fabric - not just the bottom of the shirring).
  16. With the same shortened stitch length, stitch along this right vertical line through the shirring to lock this side of the shirring in place.
  17. Staying just to the right (about ¼") of this second vertical line, cut away the excess fabric.
    NOTE: You can use your scissors to cut from top to bottom. Or, cut through the shirred portion, then make a small clip into the flat fabric and tear the rest of the way. Lightweight woven fabric tears in a nice straight line; you may have seen cutters do this in the fabric store.

Side seams and bottom hem

  1. Place the two shirred panels right sides together, aligning the raw edges. Pin in place.
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both side seams.
  3. Press the seam open and finish the seam allowance edges. We used a serger; you could use a zig zag stitch or another machine sewn finish.
  4. Along the bottom edge, make a simple ¼" double turn hem. We are using a narrow hem because we are working with the super lightweight voile; the lighter the weight, the narrower the hem. This allows the bottom edge to "float and flirt" as promised in the title.
  5. To make this type of hem, fold back the raw edge ¼" and press. Fold back an additional ¼" and press again.
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  6. Stitch in place, all the way around, staying close to the inside folded edge.

Marking and placing the straps, and finishing the top edge

  1. Find the four 18" lengths of ribbon.
  2. From each side seam measure 6" in towards the center front and 6" in towards the center back. Mark each measurement with a pin.
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  3. You should now have four pins in place. These are four points where the ribbons will be inserted.
  4. Using your original top crease lines, fold the top hem back into position (a ¼" double turn hem) at each of these points. Pin lightly to hold in place.
  5. Take one ribbon at a time and insert the raw end under the folded hem.
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  6. Then bring the strap up so it crosses over the hem. Pin the strap in this "up" position. Repeat to insert and fold up a strap at each pin point.
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  7. Re-fold the top hem in between the ribbon straps so you have a nice, clean finished edge all the way around.
    NOTE: The voile easily ravels, so it gets a bit "messy" around the top. You might find it easier to tack the straps in place with needle and thread to insure the ribbons stay right where you want them.
  8. Edgestitch the top hem in place all the way around, securing not only the hem, but all the straps as well. Gently pull the fabric to flatten it as you sew.
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  9. We finished the opposite ends of our ribbon straps with seam sealant. You could also make a teeny tiny hem.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas and Liz Johnson   
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild


Comments (7)

bytesprite said:
I found the fabric I want to use to make this. Now I just need to find the elastic thread. Love this look.
tsetsgee said:
tsetsgee's picture
How cute. I like this fabric color. Thank you for your postsmilies/smiley.gif
patricia 1965 said:
patricia 1965's picture
this will be just right for me to make because I'am taking the dressmakeing class and we just started on shirring i been sewing since 10th grade and Iam 47 now and it really a good class and this is a very cute top! thank!!smilies/cheesy.gif
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ mpistey - Yes, a rolled hem at the top is certainly an option -- either a sewing machine or serger version. One thing I haven't tried is shirring across a seam, so I can't say for sure that doing one long panel would work. My guess is that it might be similar to ruffling. Sometimes when I've ruffled a really long strip with seams along the way, the ruffles never look as nice where they cross those seams. I guess my fear would be the same might happen with the shirring. As we often do, I'd recommend testing it on scraps first. Seam together a couple small rectangles and shirr across the seam.
pinkpixie said:
pinkpixie's picture
Wow really cute! I see a new summer top!! Thanks
mpistey said:
mpistey's picture
You are so right, shirring is addictive! So pretty in the print! Another option for the top raw edge is to do a rolled hem. Also, can you sew one side together and just sew the rows on one long piece?
crescentcity1 said:
crescentcity1's picture
I think I am going to try this one!..I've never attempted shirring, but love the look of it..I seem to be intimidated when it comes to something new in sewing, like breaking out my new serger and trying to use it. I've had it since Christmas!! Another great tutorial..Thanks!

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