Shirring is the process of making non-stretch fabric stretchy by stitching elastic thread in rows along the fabric. This technique is commonly used in fashion garments such as tops, dresses and waistbands. It’s an easy technique that can make you look like a pro behind the sewing machine!
Before picking out your fabric you will need to consider how well it can be shirred and what the finished product will look like. It’s always best to do a test strip before proceeding with your project!
First thing you will do, that’s different from normal sewing, is wind your bobbin by hand with elastic thread. The bobbin needs to be wound by hand so it’s not pulled too tight and stretched out prior to being stitched into your fabric. Thread your machine as you normally would with the bobbin placed in as usual.
Next you will need to test your tension. Because of the elastic thread in the bobbin you might need to adjust your tension to better work with the fabric. If the back of your fabric has loose stitches tighten your tension one notch at a time. If there is a lot of puckers loosen your tension one notch at a time. Make sure you are testing your tension on a scrap fabric. Continuing with your scrap fabric test different stitch lengths until you find one that is perfect for your fabric. Remember your fabric is supposed to be evenly gathered.
Make your job a little simpler by marking the shirring lines ahead of time with chalk or a water soluble pen.
Start by holding your top thread and elastic bobbin thread tightly, once you are at the end of the row pull your fabric out leaving thread tails. Snip then tie these threads together to prevent your shirring from unraveling. Do this for each row.
You will need to stitch a couple of rows to see the effect of shirring! Play around with different spacings of your lines until you find the one that works best for your project.
Clean-up your project by trimming loose threads before proceeding with sewing.
Finish up by giving your fabric a quick iron with steam. You can see the effect of the shirring in comparison to the original rectangle.