Here are the instructions for making your very own Beach Dress, as promised yesterday. It really is a dress for hot weather- mine is made from lightweight fabric, is knee-length and ties up at the nape of the neck. But I think you could also make it from a stretch jersey cotton or a fine wool fabric and wear it over warmer layers if you like. Ironically, today is the darkest and rainiest we've had this summer- so I'm sorry that some of the photos are rather dull. Hopefully you get the picture anyway.
3. Now you need to do some shirring. This is the fun part! Take your spool of shirring elastic, and an empty bobbin spool. Begin winding the elastic onto the bobbin by hand, stretching it tightly as you do so. (It took me a while to learn this tip- all my previous shirring efforts were futile because I didn't realise it needed to be tightly wound!) Place the wound bobbin into your bobbin case and thread the machine as usual. I like to set my stitches to a fairly narrow setting for shirring, but you can experiment with what suits your machine and fabric. Start sewing about a machine-foot-width away from the top channel you made earlier, and sew in a straight line until you reach the end of the fabric piece. You should find that the shirred fabric gathers up in a most pleasing way as you go. Continue working in this way until you have sewn about 9 or 10 rows of shirring, evenly spaced apart from each other. (You could do more or less shirring, depending on your bust size.) It should start to look a little like this:
4. When you've finished shirring, measure around your chest where you want the sundress to sit and cut a piece of narrow elastic the same length. Thread it through the channel at the top of the dress and sew the ends together. (You might want to adjust this elastic so it's not too tight or loose around your chest.)
5. Make your straps by pressing in the edges of your cut strips, folding them together, pressing again and sewing down close to the edge. to make a neatly finished strip. Sew the finished straps in place where you'd like them to be, inside the front of your dress. (I machine-stitched mine about 3" in from each side seam, and also secured them with hand-stitches right at the top of the dress.)
6. I wear my dress with the straps tied like a halter-neck but you could sew down the straps at the back of the dress too, if you prefer. Or even crossed over at the back. Now you should really wait for some warm weather, if you're in the Northern Hemisphere, otherwise, head straight to your nearest river, beach or picnic spot in your lovely new sun-dress.