Updated: Apr 2, 2020
A tutorial on how to sew your own shirred blouse (yup, with sleeves and all!). Free patterns are available for sizes up to 160 cm bust. This tutorial also explains how you can draw your own pattern to fit your exact measurements, or in case you intend to hack the pattern for something uniquely you!
I had been hunting for a shirred garment pattern or tutorial, but all I could find were shirred tube dresses, shirred dresses with sling straps or off-shoulder sleeves, and shirred dresses with sleeves that barely hide bra straps. These were not appealing to me.
Call me conservative, but I prefer something that hangs securely on my body without having to worry about wardrobe malfunction.
So I embarked on a mission to draft my own shirred blouse (or dress, or tunic) pattern. I'm so happy the resulting blouse turned out really nice! So naturally, I just had to draft multiple sizes of the sewing pattern and share it with other ladies out there who love the shirred look but dislike exposing so much shoulders and arms. The pattern is actually really simple to draw (a bunch of straight symmetrical lines and one curve). But I know some people abhor drafting patterns from scratch, no matter how simple. To such ladies out there, this blog post is a treat for you!
Notes on Shirring: This tutorial does not teach you how to shirr. There are really good tutorials out there for this. I find this one by Sewing Bee Fabrics really comprehensive and easy to understand - it's also a shirred dress tutorial!
STEP 1: Print or Draw Patterns
Option 1: Print Patterns
If you prefer to use my pre-drafted patterns, click on your bust measurement (circumference) below to download the PDF patterns for your size (bodice only). The sleeves do not require any pattern - they are just rectangles! See illustration under Option 2 below to learn how to draw your sleeve pieces.
If you are between sizes, choose the smaller size for a snugger fit, or the larger size for a roomier fit. Either way, you won't go wrong due to the very accommodating nature of shirred fabrics.
Option 2: Draw Patterns
If you wish to draw your own patterns, refer to the illustration below that shows the shapes and measurements of the pattern pieces.
For reference, the blouse I made (photographed) had A = 40 cm and G = 56 cm
Pattern Modification Tips (Optional):
If you wish to make a shirred dress or tunic instead, simply increase measurement D to your desired length.
If you prefer a fuller look, increase measurement B.
If you prefer a larger region of shirring on the bodice, increase measurement C and adjust your measurement D to suit your overall desired length of the blouse/dress/tunic. You could also stick to the existing measurement C and just continue shirring below the shirring boundary line. The difference in results between these two methods will be hardly noticeable.
For longer or shorter sleeves, lengthen or shorten measurement F. If you are going to make sleeves that extend below your elbow, you will have to start tapering the sleeve pattern (i.e. it will not longer be a rectangle) as measurement G becomes smaller down the arm.
Experiment with different shapes of bottom hem, such as the asymmetrical or irregular hem.
Some Notes on Seam Allowances:
Whether you choose to draw your own patterns or print the PDF pattern from my download links, there is no need to add seam allowances. They are all included. Seam allowances for hemming is mentioned in each hemming step below. For sewing pieces of fabrics together, the seam allowance is 1 cm.
The tutorial steps below do not describe finishing the seam allowances. To finish the raw edges of the seam allowances, you could use your preferred method as long as it doesn't result in bulky seams. With the 1 cm seam allowance in my pattern, I have simply trimmed them with pinking shears, press them to one side, and top stitch them down (on the wrong side of the fabric, of course). You could stop at trimming the seam allowance with pinking shears, but an additional line of stitching will strengthen the seam.
One Way to Finish Seam Allowances. This Photo was Taken after Two Washes.
Once you have your patterns printed/drawn, combined and cut out, you should have the following pieces:
STEP 2: Hem Centre Pieces' Neckline
Hem the top edges of both the Center Pieces by folding 0.5 cm into the wrong side of the fabrics twice, and stitch them down in place.
STEP 3: Sew Bodice Pieces Together
Sew, with right sides together, the bodice pieces to form the front bodice and back bodice.
STEP 4: Shirr Bust Regions
Shirr the bust regions on both the front and back bodice by running horizontal parallel lines of shirring 1 cm apart. The bust region is demarcated by the horizontal lines labeled "Shirring Boundary" in the pattern illustration under Step 1 above. These horizontal lines are also visible in the PDF patterns. Don't worry if your shirring lines do not end exactly on the boundary line. It can go over the boundary line by a shirring line or two without adverse effects.
Set the shirred bodice pieces aside.
STEP 5: Process Sleeves
STEP 5.1: Hem the sides of the sleeves rectangles with measurement G in the illustration in Step 1, by folding 0.5 cm twice into the wrong side of the fabrics and sew. Then, fold each sleeve rectangle in half, into the wrong side, as shown below.
STEP 5.2: Take either the front or back bodice (they are identical!) from Step 4 and place it against the folded sleeve rectangles as shown in the illustration below. One hemmed edge of each folded sleeve rectangle must align with the vertical seam that joined the bodice pieces together (red dotted lines in the illustration in Step 3), and the sleeves' raw edges must meet the underarm edge of the bodice. Trace the curves of the bodice onto the folded sleeves rectangles and trim along the traced curves. Unfold the sleeve pieces.
STEP 6: Sew Sleeves onto Bodice
Sew, with right sides together, the sleeve pieces to the front and back bodice pieces following the curved profiles of the sleeves and bodice pieces (red dotted lines below).
STEP 7: Sew Side Seams
STEP 7.1: Fold the unfinished blouse from Step 6 right sides together, as shown below.
STEP 7.2: Sew side seams by running continuous stitches from sleeves' cuffs, along the underarm edges, and down the sides of the bodice. Hem around the bottom edge of the bodice by folding 1.5 cm twice into the wrong side of the fabric and sew. Then, turn the whole blouse inside out to reveal the right side of the fabrics.
STEP 8: Shirr Shoulders and Sleeves Cuffs
Shirr the shoulder regions by running 3 to 4 vertical lines of shirring, not more than 1 cm apart, from the seam where the sleeve meets the front bodice to the seam where the sleeve meets the back bodice.
Also shirr around the cuffs of the sleeves by running 3 to 4 lines of shirring parallel to the sleeves' ends, not more than 1 cm apart.