Sewing Tutorial: Shirred Peasant Sleeves

I love showing you how to get more out of your Tie Dye Diva patterns! This tutorial was inspired by this amazing photo by Jeannine of Kinder Couture Clothing.

How could one not be inspired by that gorgeous set, happy girl and stunning photo? Jeannine used the Tie Dye Diva Peasant Top for Girls pattern and without altering the pattern at all, added some shirring to the sleeve and left the sleeve hem ungathered. The shirring causes the top of the sleeve to balloon into gorgeous little puffs and shortens the length. (More about Jeannine's outfit shown can be found on the Kinder Couture blog.) Thanks to this inspirational set, I bring you:

You can use this tutorial for the Peasant Blouse for Girls pattern and Belle Tiered Twirl Dress for Girls pattern.

I love the shorter sleeve length naturally formed by this method, but if you wanted to keep the sleeve at full length after shirring, you can to lengthen the sleeve pattern by 1" to 2" before you cut the fabric (I lengthened by 2", it was a bit more than needed). To do this, cut across the pattern below the "peak" at the bottom of the armhole. The natural break in the printed pages is a fine place! Separate the top and bottom of the sleeve by the amount you want to lengthen the sleeve. Be sure to keep the vertical centers of both pieces aligned.

Slip some paper beneath and tape into place. Redraw the under arm seam by blending the lines through the new portion.

Cut around the new pattern piece.

Hem the sleeve as in step 1 of the peasant blouse pattern instructions. Then, instead of following Step 2, leave the sleeve hem ungathered. Next, draw shirring lines. First draw a line parallel to the sleeve hem 2" beneath the peak at the bottom of the back (double-notched) armhole (on the right of my photo).

Then draw two more lines, each 2" apart.

[If you want to create sleeves with this style for one of the baby-sized patterns (Peasant Top for Baby or Belle for Baby) in size 6 months or smaller you will need to reduce the proportions for the shorter sleeve; try beginning 1.5" from the back armhole peak and subsequent lines 1" apart; you will not get as much 'puff' between the shirring lines).]

Shirr along these lines on the right side of the fabric with a top thread that matches your fabric and elastic thread in the bobbin.  Shirring isn't scary. It's as simple as hand-winding your bobbin with elastic thread and sewing straight lines. I'll go over the basics here; or you can find dozens of tutorials online, and I offer a more thorough shirring tutorial including troubleshooting in my PDF pattern for the Belle Tiered Twirl dress in either size range. If you really don't want to try, I suppose you could get a similar look by following the general method in this tutorial but stitching bias tape casing to the wrong side of the sleeve instead of shirring and threading elastic through. You could also stretch 1/4" elastic and zig-zag stitch it directly to the wrong side of the fabric if you did not mind elastic against the skin.

The first step in shirring is hand-winding an empty bobbin. First feed one end of the elastic through the hole in your bobbin, from the underside. I find it really helpful to use a long thin object with a handle for this next step; for example, my small sewing machine screwdrivers work perfectly. Place the bobbin on your tool. With your non-dominant hand, hold the loose end of the thread down, and also hold the bobbin firmly against the handle of the tool. With your other hand, wind the elastic thread on the bobbin. Keep only the slightest bit of even tension on the elastic, trying not to stretch
it. When the bobbin is fully wound, clip the end of the thread coming through the hole.

Load the bobbin into your machine and draw the elastic thread up through your throat plate as usual, pulling both threads behind the presser foot. Using your longest stitch length and regular tension, sew along the marked lines from the right side of the fabric.

Backstitch at the beginning and end of each line of shirring, or, alternatively, tie the top and elastic threads together at each end when you are through. Don't steam your shirring just yet.

Complete steps 3 and 4 as usual. On Step 5, when you are sewing up the side seam of the top and underseam of the sleeve, it is best to sew with a sewing machine, then finish the edge of the fabric with a serger so that you don't serge through your lines of shirring.

Complete the top according to the instructions.

Last, steam up the shirring lines by hovering a steam iron over the elastic (don't iron on the elastic!). Then enjoy the pretty shirred sleeves on your Tie Dye Diva Peasant Top!

The thinner the fabric, the poofier your puffs will be. My fabric is a bit thicker than the fabric used for the Kinder Couture top and so my poofs are not quite as full, but I love the look nonetheless.

You can find the sewing patterns for the Tie Dye Diva Peasant Top for Girls, Peasant Top for Baby, Belle Tiered Twirl Dress for Girls, Belle for Baby, and more than 50 other patterns at the Tie Dye Diva patterns website or in the Tie Dye Diva etsy shop.

So many adorable designs at Kinder Couture Clothing. Show her some love for sharing her method that inspired this fun tutorial! Thank you Jeannine! 

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