My Southern heart loves shirring. There is something about the delicate nature of shirring, the way it mimics hand smocking, and how comfortable it is that makes me happy inside. For a beginner, shirring looks super complicated. How can something that beautiful be easy? After this tutorial, you will be shirring like a pro!
Shirring: How to Do It Like a Pro
The secret to shirring is using elastic thread in the bobbin. The elastic thread will pull gather the fabric and create the false smocking look. So let’s look at what we need:
- A sewing machine… obviously
- Regular thread
- Regular needle
- Elastic thread (I like Gutermann Elastic Thread)
- Fabric you want to shirr.
I recommend trying this technique for the first time on a scrap piece of fabric. While shirring is super easy, the technique can be a little different depending on what kind of machine you have, so you want to make sure all your settings are correct before trying on a real project.
Step 1: Get Your Bobbin Ready
Threding and inserting the bobbin
The first step is to get that elastic thread on your bobbin! Now this is where a lot of machines differ. Traditionally, you should hand wind the elastic on the bobbin keeping it taunt but not stretched onto the bobbin. Other machines like the elastic to be more tight. And some machines even want the elastic to be put on the bobbin by machine getting it extra tight. Use trial and error for your machine to see what works best.
Once you have the elastic on the bobbin, insert the bobbin in the machine. Make sure your elastic thread is threaded through the bobbin case properly. For machines with a removable bobbin case, this is pretty straight forward. If you have a Brother machine like I do, they are notorious for having issues with shirring. There’s a little trick to it which is shown in the video below.
If you are having a problem with this technique, most of the time its because the thread isn’t inserted properly or isn’t wound on the bobbin correctly.
Step 2: Adjust your Stitch Length
Now, thread the rest of your machine like normal. To get your shirring nice and tight, you are going to want to adjust your stitch length. If you have a basic machine, just adjust your regular straight stitch to the longest stitch length your machine will allow. If you have a fancy computerized machine, you can use a basting stitch.
Step 3: Get to Shirring
Now is the fun part. Run your first row of stitching. To get a nice straight line, you can use a ruler and mark a straight line on your fabric. This first row will give you a basic line to follow for all the following rows.
It’s also important to note that you do not need to begin or end with a backstitch. However you do need to tie knot at the end of your thread and at the beginning when you started by pulling the top thread towards the back and tie a knot with the elastic thread. This will help prevent it from pulling loose.
Stitch as many rows of shirring as you need making sure to stretch the fabric flat as you sew each new row. The more rows of shirring you have, the tighter the gather the elastic will create. Does your excitement grow with each new line of shirring? For some reason, shirring is super satisfying to me. I love seeing the fabric “shrink” as I go along.
Ta-dah! You did it!
You are now a shirring queen! And look at that garment? One of my favorite things about it is that is beautiful on the outside…
and the inside!
Shirring is one of those things that are perfect for summer dresses. And just your luck, BSD is coming out with a new design called the Felicity Dress that features an option for a shirred back that you are going to want to sew up for your little girl this season. Be sure and check out our Instagram for some sneak peeks this week!
Did you learn anything new in this tutorial? Let me know in the comments!