Look in any kids boutique and you will see all sorts of clothing with elastic thread or shirring elastic. Shirring fabric and Sewing with elastic thread is great as you don’t need to worry about any fiddly zips, buttons or dreaded buttonholes.
With a little practice, you will be making perfectly shirred tops, dresses and skirts too!
What is SHIRRING FABRIC?
Shirring is the name commonly used for sewing with elastic thread.
Shirring fabric is done by simply putting an elastic thread in your bobbin case to create an elasticated row of stitching. When stitched in several rows, it creates a band of elastic around a bodice or skirt top.
Sounds easy already right?
Sewing with Elastic Thread: SUPPLIES
The first thing we need for shirring is an elastic thread. It generally just comes in black or white colors so choose which is the best match.
The elastic will be on the back of the garment so unless your fabric is really sheer you won’t see it when worn.
For the best results purchase a good quality elastic thread like Gutermann or Dritz. Some of the cheaper elastics are overly stretchy and you may not be happy with the results.
How to Wind a Bobbin with Elastic Thread
Start shirring fabric by winding the bobbin with an elastic thread.
Step 1: Thread the elastic through one of the holes in your bobbin to stop the end pulling out.
Step 2: Then start hand winding the elastic thread. You can’t wind elastic thread on the machine I’m afraid.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to wind a bobbin as the elastic is much thicker than regular thread. You will want the bobbin to be not wound too tight.
Step 3: Once you are finished winding, cut off the excess from the hole at the top of the bobbin.
More Articles On Gathering
- How to gather by machine
- How to gather by hand
- Shirring (sewing with elastic thread)
- Gathering with a serger
- How to sew ruching
- Gathering with cord
- Gathering with elastic
- How to gather tulle
- Gathering foot
- Gathering Fabric
Sewing with Elastic Thread: Shirring Fabric
Start by threading your machine. You will have a regular thread in the top of the machine and the elastic thread in the bobbin.
Put the elastic bobbin in your machine as you normally would. Make sure it is threaded correctly through any tension grooves in the bobbin casing.
Set your machine to a longer stitch length. I set mine to a 4.0 which is what I would usually use to gather. We will be straight stitching so the width will be 0.
Backstitch the end and then start stitching your first row. It may seem a little strange at first as it often sounds different to normal sewing due to the increased tension in the bobbin. The first row won’t gather up much but you will notice the elastic gets progressively tighter as you add more rows.
At the end of each row, you can either backstitch and cut off the threads or just move to the next row forming a loop at the end. I prefer back stitching even though it does use a little more elastic due to the longer tails.
Once you have sewn your first row, start sewing the second row at about 1/4 – 1/2 inch (6-12mm) apart. I like to use the edge of my presser foot as a guide.
It is very important that you stretch out the elastic in front of the foot. You need to be sewing over FLAT fabric.
Once you have finished, gently press the fabric with a hot steam iron. Don’t pull the iron along the gathers but simply press on top and then move to the next section. This will give your shirring finer gathers.
TROUBLESHOOTING SHIRRING FABRIC– If you find that your elastic is becoming uneven and loopy at the back, just check that the bobbin elastic thread has not come out of the tension groove.
What are you sewing with elastic thread? Do you have a special project in mind? Please comment below. Thanks for reading.