Best of Summer with Straight Grain!

We are in for a treat today, everyone! I’m pleased to welcome An of Straight Grain for our Best of Summer series. You may remember that An has offered some of her patterns for the giveaway going on right now. Don’t miss the chance to win one of her incredible patterns! Thank you so much for joining us, An!

Hi everyone! I’m An from StraightGrain, and I’m thrilled to be a guest in Caila’s newest series! For deciding which pattern to review for this series, I just looked at which Summer dress I made most often. And it turned out that the only Summer dress pattern which I used more than once, is not really a pattern, but a tutorial.

About four years ago, acclaimed fabric designer Heather Ross shared a tutorial for an adorable sundress on Martha Stewart. It is nothing more than a simple rectangle, with a horizontal strip is shirring along the entire width, and little ribbons to hold the dress up. In other words, the ideal project for a beginning sewer: no zipper, no buttons, no sleeves, no gathering. The shirring itself is also very simple: just wind elastic thread in your bobbin instead of regular thread, sew about 8 lines (foot width apart) and iron with a lot of steam afterwards to make it ‘shrink’ even more. Depending on your machine, you might have to experiment a bit with how tight you need to wind the elastic around your bobbin, so always try on a separate piece of fabric first. As I have shared somewhere before, when I started sewing, I never had the intention to sew clothes (ha!), but for this simple sundress, I thought I’d make an exception. So, the first dress I ever sewed was made with this tutorial. I used a super cheap gingham fabric, which is completely not my taste anymore.

smocked sun dress

This first attempt was not a very good version – the shirring is too far from the top edge of the dress, which creates a campy ruffled effect. For the next versions, I had learned my lesson. The second dress was made in a beautiful white pintucked fabric. Instead of halter straps, I opted for little bows on the shoulders.

For the third dress, I also used a simple white fabric (broderie anglaise), and I chose yet another option for the straps.

So, what are the strengths of this dress tutorial?
– it is super fast to make (between 1 and 1.5 hours (and I’m sloooooow)
– it is ideal for beginning sewer (no difficult techniques)
– you can experiment with the straps endlessly, always creating a slightly different dress
– it uses very little fabric, which also makes it ideal for using up left-overs (even for a 3Y, half a yard of quilting width fabric is enough)
– it is easy to make a dress which fits well (a few centimeters more or less do not make much of a difference in width).
– it can be made in all sizes (for new born babies to – why not? – adults)
The fun thing is that you can also experiment with the smocking. For this series, I decided to give honeycomb smocking a try for the first time. This type of smocking is not made with elastic thread, so there is no stretch. Therefore, I used a hidden zipper in the back. 
But the general principle is the same: start from a simple rectangle, and use smocking to narrow the dress at the chest. I kept the straps as simple as I could this time, and embellished them with bright yellow rose-shaped buttons.
Thank you Caila, for having me in this wonderful series!
Thank you so much, An! All those dresses are all BEAUTIFUL. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway, everyone! 


  1. says

    Thank you so much for having me, Caila! The series pushed me to try a new technique, and I’m so happy I did 🙂 I’m looking forward to the next guests!

  2. says

    I love the smocking on the third dress. I also like the first dress. It reminds me of the paper bag waistline that I keep seeing on shorts this summer, but a girly version of it.