Don't be afraid of Shirring

How many times have you putting off trying something because you feared it would be difficult, only to find how easy it was when you gave it go?

That's how I found shirring. I had read many tutorials on blogs and assumed it was really quite hard when it was quite the opposite. So here are a few pointers to make it easy for you.

  • Wind the elastic thread onto the bobbin by hand - with no tension. Use a normal thread to match your fabric for the top.
  • Remember that you will not get the milage out of your bobbin as if it were filled with thread. It will need to be checked after every couple of rows because you don't want to run out mid way through a seam.
  • I used a walking foot mainly because it's what I sew with for most things but using a normal machine foot should be fine.
  • The lighter the fabric weight the easier and better the result. I tried to shirr a fold at the top and it didn't really work. Best to make a small hem first before shirring and you can make it into an elastic casing at the end.
  • If using a cotton fabric, keep the fabric tight while sewing, but I did find the opposite for Jersey/Knit fabrics. I received a better result by letting the machine feed it through without stretching it. You also have better control over the fabric this way.
  • If you get the very first seam straight then you can use it as your guide for the next seam and so on.

  • Sew on the top of your fabric with a normal straight stitch. Back sew the start and finish just as you would with any other sewing project.
Have you tried shirring? Did you find it easy or hard to do?


Karen said...

Jodie this may seem like a dumb question, but how do you tie off your thread & elastic at the end of a row of stitcing? Many thanks.

Jodie said...

Karen, no your question is not 'dumb' & thank you for asking.

The ends of a row will form part of your side seam with whatever you attach the shirred piece to. Back sewing the beginning and end of your row as you would normally do, will also help your threads from untying.

Aussie Jo said...

No need to be afraid of shirring. It was big in the 70's, when I was a teenager and made several shirred dresses for myself and my sister. If a teenager can do it anyone can!

Claire Gresty said...

Hi Jodie, I wondered if you could tell me what kind or thickness of elastic thread you used? I was looking on ebay for elastic thread and there are so many different types! Thanks :)

Jodie said...

Hmmm??? Not really sure Claire. My shirring elastic spools no longer have packaging and I have checked with my supplier but they also don't state the thickness.

Try searching shirring elastic instead of elastic thread as the two can be very different. Shirring elastic is a bit thicker than say embroidery floss but is thinner than hat elastic. You don't want it too thick or it will be quite difficult to sew. Do you have any garments with shirring on at home that you could compare with?

Claire Gresty said...

Thanks heaps for that - searching for shirring elastic brought up something that looks very similar to what you have in your pics. Yeah elastic thread brought up all these super fine ones which I think are for jewellery making.

Megsy-Jane said...

Hey Jodie, I know this was posted ages ago but can I ask you a question on shirring? My sister has made a simple shirred dress for herself - it fits perfectly, not too tight or stretched but for some queer reason the elastic keeps coming undone. Any ideas? We set the tension on the machine as recommended and ended the seams correctly. The ladies at our local sewing shop have no idea as they have sons :-)

Jillian said...

Hi Jodie, thanks for your tips on Shirring. I just wanted to mention that I have a machine with a drop in bobbin and haven't been able to figure out how to get the elastic to do it's job. Then I read that if the elastic is wound onto the bobbin with the machine like a normal thread then it should work(for drop in bobbin type machines). I tried this out last night and It did work, yay!!!