The Camelia Bedelia Dress

Happy belated Fourth of July to those who celebrated! Do you remember Amelia Bedelia? She randomly popped into my head when I saw “Camelia” written on the selvedge of this fabric. Anyway, I hesitate to call today’s creation “self-drafted” because it’s really just a rectangle, but I’ll tag it that way nonetheless. Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry makes the joke that people think they’re artists simply because they can draw a 3D cube. 😉


The halter straps were intentionally made long for dramatic effect!

  • Fabric: 1 yard of Alexander Henry “Camelia” cotton
  • Pattern: One rectangle (34″ x 44″) and two rectangles folded up for the straps – aha!
  • Notions: “Chestnut” rayon seam binding at the neckline; white elastic thread for the shirred bodice

I whipped this dress up over the course of a day to wear to my friend’s wedding in Virginia Beach. The photos in this post are from the reception! The neckline and hemline were created by snipping into the fabric and ripping the rest of the way – instant rectangle with a length of 34″. I cut the lone rectangle on the fold and used the whole width of the fabric, which was 44″. This meant I only had one seam so I decided to use a French seam.

You may remember the lengths I went to with my first sundress. So many steps that just weren’t necessary! Tanit-Isis left her no-brainer method in the comments and I instantly felt silly for over-thinking, but, hey, that’s what I do. 🙂


My wind blown dress thanks to the ocean breeze.


View of front and back of dress. I suppose you could even wear this backwards with the tie hanging in front with a lowered knot!

The longest part of the process is shirring, but I found my blind hem foot to be so useful for spacing the lines 1/4″ apart as I went from neckline to natural waist (8″ total). Using this foot is a tip I picked up from Rachel over at My Messings (check out her beautiful Liberty dress!). Not sure how I’ve ignored this foot all this time; it’s definitely my new best friend for edge-stitching as well (used on this dress at the neck and hemlines).

For the shirring, I set my machine’s tension to 4 and used a 4 mm stitch length. I also hold the fabric flat as I go since it wants to start gathering. The process starts to get old fast, but it’s important to hold your concentration to keep the lines straight and to prevent the fabric from bunching incorrectly.

To wind the elastic thread around the bobbin, I kept the tension loose as I did with my first shirred sundress. This time, however, I used the oh-so-helpful advice of Sandra, a finalist on The Great British Sewing Bee, by using my sewing machine’s bobbin winder to do the work for me! As she did, I held the thread so it wouldn’t tense up as it made its way around the bobbin. I definitely can’t do it as fast as she can, but it really does speed up the process! And I’m happy to report that the results were the same as when I wound the bobbin by hand. So…many thanks, Sandra!


Can’t remember what’s going on here, but it feels dramatic.

photo 4

I seamed the main dress together and then shirred the tube about 10″ down from the neckline to the natural waist.

I used a chestnut-colored rayon seam binding along the neckline by lining it up with the edge of the right side of the fabric and then stitching 1/4″ in. The binding and dress fabric were then folded in about 5/8″ and stitched down. I wanted to keep the neckline as bulk-free as possible (hence trying this technique!) so that I could have a ruffle effect for visual interest. It turned out nicely, I believe. Perhaps the seam binding will even keep the neckline from stretching out of shape over time?

I was going to leave this dress strapless, but I wanted to add another element (couldn’t just leave well enough alone) so I created two straps that are stitched to the front and wrap around my neck halter-style. I kept the straps long in back because, well, it feels glamorous that way! The dress could be worn strapless by wearing it backwards and having the ties form a bow at the back. Hmm…

And that’s it. Another stash buster project and a cheap one to boot. Have a good one!


13 thoughts on “The Camelia Bedelia Dress

  1. Beautiful dress! I have instructions on how to make a shirred sundress similar to this one, but have not attempted it yet. Interesting to note that you wound the bobbin on machine and it worked out well. My instructions say to wind by hand.

    • Yes, I wound the bobbin by hand on my first sundress, but after Sandra on The Great British Sewing Bee showed her secret of winding it by machine I decided to give it a go! You just have to remember to hold the elastic thread loosely so that it’ll wind around the bobbin that way. Sandra shows how she does it in the episode where they make the little girl dresses, can’t remember which one that is though!

  2. What a pretty dress! It’s a beautiful print, the big flowers suit the shirring well.

    I read Amelia Bedelia too. Friends of ours named their daughter Amelia, it was my first thought then too. Many people gave them Amelia Bedelia books when she was born.

  3. Hi Amanda,
    I love your blog, and thought you could be a great fit as a possible instructor for’s sewing webinars.I’m the eMedia Production Coordinator for, and we’re looking for instructors for our new webinar series. If this sounds like something you might be interested in – please email me at dani[dot]perea[at]fwmedia[dot]com, and I can give you more details (like compensation – very important!).

Hey, thanks for commenting! I truly appreciate it and always try to respond back. :)

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