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Tips & Tricks

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.


Let’s talk about fabric! You’ve purchased your fabric you’ve bought the pattern and you’re ready to sew! But, suddenly there are all these terms and you have questions. Which way does the fabric go to cut it? What do the lines mean on the pattern? How do you fold your fabric together? Knowing these simple terms will help answer all of those questions.

Fold: Folding the fabric in half makes it easier to cut two of the same piece at once – for example, sleeves or half a bodice when there’s a centre seam. Folding also allows you to cut single symmetrical pieces – notice that some pattern pieces correspond to half of a fabric piece only, and will say “cut on fold” if they’re to be cut like this.  DON’T cut the folded edge when you open up the piece, you will have the full-size piece. Whether you fold your fabric right sides together or wrong sides together is going to depend on your fabric and your markings. If you have a sheer fabric you won’t want to make any visible markings but you will want to mark which side you use as the right side for all your pieces. If you’re using a fabric like the cotton above you will want to fold it right sides together and make your markings on the wrong side.

Selvedge:  is a “self-finished” edge of the fabric, keeping it from unravelling and fraying. The term “self-finished” means that the edge does not require additional finishing work, such as hem or bias tape, to prevent fraying. The edges of a raw fabric that run along the edge with the grain. The fabric has a selvedge edge so that it doesn’t fray before it’s sold. When you fold your fabric to be cut you will fold it selvedge edge to selvedge edge.

Fabric Grain: The orientation of fibres, woven or knit together, to create a fabric. The grain creates lines that run parallel and perpendicular to the selvedge. The basic difference between woven and knit fabrics is in the yarn or thread that composes them. A knit fabric is made up of a single yarn, looped continuously to produce a braided look. Multiple yarns comprise a woven fabric, crossing each other at right angles to form the grain. Stretching is one of the tests to know whether a fabric is knit or woven. A knit fabric will stretch easily along its width, slightly less along its length. A woven fabric will have barely any give along its width, and only slightly more give along its length.

Bias:  is any grain that falls between the straight and cross grains. When the grain is at 45 degrees to its warp and weft threads it is referred to as “true bias. The bias will run diagonally across the grain of the fabric, where the woven fabric has more stretch or give.

Warp: Warp threads are the threads that run along the length of the yardage (up-and-down, vertically) and parallel to the selvage (horizontal axis). The thread that runs the length of woven fabric (“up” and “down”).

Weft: Weft threads are the threads that run from selvage to selvage (side-to-side, horizontally). The threads that run at right angles to the length of a woven fabric, otherwise known as cross-grain. Nonwoven fabrics such as felt, vinyl, suede, and leather do not have warp and weft threads.

Tips & Tricks

  • Any machine that sews a zigzag stitch can do a buttonhole
  • A basic buttonhole consists of two sides and 2 ends, a rectangle
  • Before sewing a buttonhole always do a test buttonhole on the same fabric. This will ensure you have the right tension and stitch length before you do it on the actual garment
  • Make sure your buttonholes are equally spaced
  • Always be careful not to cut the thread when cutting your buttonhole open
  • Use interfacing for added reinforcement for the buttonhole and buttons



*Always refer to your machine manual for sewing buttonholes. Every machine is different and might require different steps.*

  1. Mark the top and bottom of the button on the fabric. Add 1/8″ for ease. Draw a line down from the top to the ease line. This will be your line for sewing.

2. Line up your drawn line with the dot at the bottom of your buttonhole foot. Adjust your slider until it reaches the top line. This is where your buttonhole will start. This length will determine the length of your buttonhole.

**Some machines may have a buttonhole foot that requires you to but the button in the back to determine the length. If you have this foot you can ignore this step.**

3. Set your stitch length an tension. We set our machine to our buttonhole option. You may need to adjust your tension after doing your practice buttonhole.

4. Attach your foot to your machine and line-up with your markings. Stitch as per the instructions in your machine manual.

5. Snip away any loose threads. Insert a pin at the top of your buttonhole. Pierce through the bottom of your buttonhole moving up until you meet the pin. Be very carfeul not to cut through your threads.


  1. Attach your button foot and place your button on your fabric where you want it to be finished.

2. Set your machine to a zigzag stitch and slowly turn the wheel to see if you have the correct stitch width. Set your stitch length to 0. Start with the two back button holes and then the front buttons.

3. Pull your threads and sew 10 stitches. If you are doing a 2 hole button you are done, if you are doing a 4 hole button lift your foot and reposition for the remaining holes.

4. Pull your threads to the back, tie and trim away your excess thread.

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