Shirring: How to Shirr!

How to Shirr

Shirring is a sewing technique where you sew more than one row of fabric with elastic thread in the bobbin of your machine. If only one line of fabric is sewn then it is simply called gathering. Shirring is often seen on the bodice of summer dresses, skirt waistbands, off-the-shoulder tops and bubble-hem tops.

This tutorial has been made in Collaboration with Babs Rudlin from Fiery Phoenix. Babs had created a youtube video that you will find helpful, especially if you learn better through video.

Check out her video here!

What you need to shirr?
Elastic Thread/Shirring Thread.(Abakhan has this available in white, natural white and black Abakhan Shirring Elastic).*
Normal Thread (That matches your fabric).
An empty bobbin.
Fabric roughly 1.5 times wider than you want the finished project (this is because shirring gathers the fabric so makes the width of your fabric less.)

*You can find shirring elastic in all colours but I find it unnecessary! 

Supplies: Gingham Scrap, Empty Bobbin, Pink Thread, White Elastic Thread.

Setting-up your bobbin.

To shirr you must hand wind your shirring elastic onto your bobbin to ensure that the tension in the thread is correct. Make sure when you wind that the elastic is snug on the bobbin but NOT tight. Set up your bobbin into your machine like you would with normal thread.

Hand wind the bobbin.
Set up bobbin as normal.

Setting-up your machine.
This is a situation where 'trial and error' definitely applies. So far I've only shirred on cotton and it didn't require me to change ANY settings on my machine. I left my tension and stitch length on normal and it worked like a charm. However, other people suggest putting your stitch length on a longer stitch than you would typically use (this gives the fabric more stretch once finished).

How-to shirr

Be sure to sew on the right side of your fabric, this is because the shirring elastic is in your bobbin so it will be on the wrong side of your fabric. First mark a line where you want your first line of shirring to start (use tailor's chalk or something else that will disappear once you are done). As you sew more lines of shirring your fabric will gather more, so don't be disheartened after only sewing your first line. The closer together your rows of shirring the tighter the shirring will be. 

Use a straight stitch to sew your rows of shirring, when you sew your rows of shirring make sure you hold your fabric as flat as possible. 

First row, let's go!
Once you get to the end of each row of shirring, lift your foot and needle, pull the threads out a little (so that they are out of the way), turn your fabric around (180 degrees) and start sewing in the other direction.

Second row, and back we go!
...Some rows later...

Finishing your shirring

Once you are finished all of your shirring, steaming your shirring will cause it to gather more/shrink. To do this, place a thin piece of fabric over your shirring (I tend to use a thin dish cloth) hold the iron over the shirring gently (and fabric/dish cloth) and allow the steam to flow through but do not press your shirring. Do this to both sides of your shirring.
All finished!

Goodbye for now!



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