My son turned 4 just after my daughter was born so the preparation for his birthday party in the year 2004 were somewhat bare bones. Luckily, in the supermarket I found the best birthday cake ever! It was very blue with the icing made to look like the sea and, swimming in it, a shark! And dotted around, arms and legs.
The cake was very popular, not just for the torn limbs and the shark. If you ever find yourself entertaining and want to drive your guests wild*, may I recommend you serve artificially coloured blue food?! Wanting to repeat this serendipitous success, I’ve looked for Shark Attack Cake many birthdays since but the supermarkets no longer sell it and the shop assistants, when asked, look doubtful that it ever existed.
However, a while back in Goldhawk Road, I found a fabric that immediately made me recall the fabled, gruesome product. I bought it to make my son a Hawaiian shirt or some Bermudas but after suggesting this a couple of times, I got the impression he was totally indifferent to the idea. So instead, for her 10th birthday I made my daughter a dress.
It’s basically two rectangles, the total width at least double the waist measurement plus seam allowances. The dress is held up by two sets of rouleau strips. The top edge is first finished with a rolled hem (I used a zigzag stitch, which looks like little teeth!).
The shirring begins 1.5cm below bodice edge, though with a toddler or a smaller person, you can start at 1.2cm and if making for an adult, then 2cm might be more in proportion, depending on the person. The rows of shirring here are spaced 1.5cm apart, though once again, you should keep this in proportion if you’re making a dress for an adult. And there’s no reason why the same ‘pattern’ couldn’t be used for a shirred bodice of a maxi dress.
You might want to trim your dress with some teeth like I did. I used two strips of bias in a silvery grey and bagged them after lots of zigzagging. It added a few hours to the project which were worth it as this definitely gives the dress an edge!
If you’ve never tried shirring, it’s easy: normal thread on top, shirring elastic wound into the bobbin. Experiment with scraps to get the right tension then draw your lines onto the right side of fabric and sew.
Tip: to keep the elastic inside bobbin when you begin winding, affix the end of elastic thread to the top of the bobbin case with a tiny sliver of Magic Tape.
Tip: don’t use grandma’s shirring elastic that you inherited with her haberdashery box. Elastic has a shelf life so buy fresh!
My daughter wore the dress so much all summer that its red has begun to fade! She wore it on the day of my son’s 14th birthday when we visited the Aquarium in my home town. And look what happened there! My dad got eaten by a shark…
Nice to be back!
* Note: in some countries, blue artificial food colouring is illegal!