How To: Easy Gathered Hem Dress With Subtle Puff Sleeves

Contour Affair
by Contour Affair

To celebrate the start of the sewsustainablefabric challenge we're running with Candice from @sewbakemake, Allison from @sowingwithstitches, Lindsey from @thestitchfitz, and Alissah from @alissahthreads, I was inspired to sew up this piece of secondhand fabric I found at a charity shop a few weeks ago. A simple combo fo a few different styles I've done before - a really easy-to-wear dress and super comfortable. I'm a EU36/US4, but given the loose fit, the measurements easily work for a EU38/US6, maybe even EU40 (unless super curvy).


  • Fabric (flowy, with some drape) - the piece I used was only 1.5m x 1.4 m
  • Bias tape (to finish neckline) 
  • Thread (regular & elastic thread for shirring)
  • Scissors 
  • Sewing machine

I. My cut top pieces with measurements (there was a hole in the secondhand fabric I used, so I had to cut the back in two pieces, hence the center seam).

II. First I pinned the shoulders together right sides facing, and sewed them:

III. Next I finished the neckline with bias tape ( more detail on how to do that here).

IV. Then I cut the sleeves:

.. And pinned them into place, right sides facing:

And sewed. At this point I also like to press the hem double fold (much easier than when the sleeve underseam is done (only I pressed the fold a bit too wide here, ended up doing just about 1 cm of fold).

V. To create the light puff sleeve look, I sewed two rows of shirring about 6 cm from the sleeve end. I've gone through shirring in more detail  here.

VI. Last, did the sleeve underseams + side seams, and hemmed the sleeve.

VII. I cut 2 rectangles 100 cm by 56 cm (the widest pieces I could cut from the fabric I had left). I placed them right sides facing, sewed the sides, and finished one horizontal edge with my serger and a 2 cm fold (you could zigzag it too).

Next I sewed a basting stitch (longest stitch on your machine) about 1 cm from the folded edge, and pulled on the bobbin thread of the stitch to gather the fabric.. Until it was the same width as the top. When done, it's important to use your iron to press the gathers (otherwise it will be much harder to pin).


If you're really particular, you need to do the basting/gathering stitch in a contrasting colour so you can remove it after. I'm not too fussed about two stitches on the finished product.

.. And then pinned it along the top piece hem, and sewed in place. When you pin, make sure you use the pins to point the gathers upwards (so you end up sewing over the basting stitch, and don't sew the gathers flat). If you used a contrasting stitch, this is the time when you can pick that out. A waste of life if you ask me:) Last step was to hem the dress (just do a double fold and straight stitch all around).



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Contour Affair
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