How to Create Elastic Shirring

comments (31) November 27th, 2008     

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CalPatch cal patch, contributor
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By using elastic thread and a simple straight stitch, you can create professional-looking shirring such as on this neckline.
This is the elastic thread that will allow you to do the shirring.
Using tailors chalk or a disappearing pen, mark dotted lines on your garment where you want to place the shirring.
By using elastic thread and a simple straight stitch, you can create professional-looking shirring such as on this neckline.

By using elastic thread and a simple straight stitch, you can create professional-looking shirring such as on this neckline.

Photo: Cal Patch

You've seen elastic shirring on shirts and dresses in stores, but did you know you can do it yourself? The trick is to use elastic thread in your bobbin, and a simple straight stitch becomes a magical shirring stitch! This is a very versatile treatment that you'll find all kinds of uses for, and it works great on both knits and wovens. I love how beautifully it gathers up the fabric but still stretches for comfort and ease in putting the garment on. I'm going to take you through the steps on a knit raglan-sleeve tunic I'm making, but feel free to try it out on a cuff, the waist of a dress, or the hem of a's perfect for all those restyling projects, too!

You'll need to get yourself some elastic thread before you begin. Most sewing stores carry it in white and black, and Gutermann makes it in a few colors. But since the elastic thread will only be on the wrong side, you don't have to worry too much about it matching your fabric.

  This is the elastic thread that will allow you to do the shirring.

1. Mark your garment where you want to place the shirring. Usually it's done in multiple rows to give it more gathering power; one row can't always pull the fabric in enough, unless it's very lightweight. I'm putting five rows of shirring around the neckline of a raglan-sleeve shirt, so I've marked (with chalk) five lines, beginning 1/2 inch from the neckline edge and 1/2 inch apart on the right side (the side I'll be looking at as I stitch). I'll be leaving my actual neckline a raw edge, but don't forget to add a seam allowance (or hem your edge first) if you plan to finish yours.

  Using tailor's chalk or a disappearing pen, mark dotted lines on your garment where you want to place the shirring.

2. Wind the elastic thread onto your bobbin. You'll do this by hand, with slight tension on the thread as you wind. It won't work if you try to do it on your machine, trust me! It won't take as long as you think, though, because the elastic is much thicker than regular thread and it will fill the bobbin pretty quickly.

3. Thread your machine with the elastic bobbin you just wound and your usual sewing thread on top. Now you're ready to begin sewing!

posted in: fabric, top, shirt

Comments (31)

nanapamela writes: Hover over the thread with a steam iron and gift it a few puffs of steam and the elastic will return to original length.
Posted: 8:05 pm on February 16th
danitasdzine writes: Why your questions are not being replied to I have no idea. I'm new to this method but I have learned that applying heat will bunch up the fabric after sewing. I just used a blow dryer. Also some ppl say put elastic thread in bobbin and some say put it on top. This is a trial and error thing so practicing is all it takes :-)
Posted: 7:21 am on March 30th
wardhani writes: lovely....thanks for sharing
Posted: 5:39 am on August 13th
Lilee writes: Oh, hooray! I'm so glad I stumbled across this today. Just this Monday a friend came over and I was explaining smocking vs. shirring, and realized I still have some of my sister's elastic thread. I watched her do shirring on a shirt she was making and had her do that step on my project for me, so I remembered how it worked, but was nervous about trying to do it myself all these years later.

One question; does the bobbin tension have to be adjusted for the larger diameter shirring elastic? I am concerned that even stretched tight it may not feed smoothly through the bobbin casing on my old basic Pfaff machine.
Posted: 2:05 pm on June 19th
SewUNeek writes: With elastic thread every machine sews different. I have. husqvarna Viking and it takes 4.5 length and 3.0 width right my other machines but the trick is longest length stitch and then play with the width on scraps of course.
Posted: 9:06 am on May 28th
JaneB writes: Mine is coming out flat - not gathering! Can you tell me what's going wrong??
Posted: 11:28 am on April 15th
mposler writes: Ugh!!!!
I have been trying to do shirring on my Viking and it doesn't work! I have a Viking 150. Any suggestions?
Posted: 2:18 pm on February 6th
patie writes: Hi I have been trying to find out how to put shirring on the back of a sundress for ages. I have a Brother NS30 but it is computerised will this still work. I thought I would have to buy a different machine to make shirring.
Best Regards
Posted: 10:09 pm on December 3rd
JFriday writes: This looks just too easy! I can't wait to give it a try. BUT how do yu fix the amount of gathering so that the finished band is the size you want?
Posted: 8:18 pm on October 18th
CPThrow writes: I love this shirt :)) Could someone tell me the pattern used?? Thanks!!
Posted: 2:46 pm on September 18th
taysha1128 writes: i've searched for many 'tutorials' in regards to elastic thread and yours is the only one that ju7st made it look simple and easy- THANKS
Posted: 12:06 pm on June 17th
dadudette writes: I just can't seem to get my elastic thread to be straight and not wavy. What am I doing wrong?
Posted: 9:32 am on May 22nd
Leana writes: Girls I did it!!! =) I had some difficulties at first but managed to fix the problem, I was determined to do it!!!

I have a Husqvarna, Vicking Platinum 730, so I just placed the stitch length to the highest, in my case to a 6; pumped up the thread tension to the MAX, on my machine the highest is 9, and last but not least, I winded the elastic thread onto the bobbin with a little tension because I was shirring a light fabric, on other fabrics you must hand wind the elastic thread loose.

My top looks so nice! Thank you very much CalPatch !!!

I love sewing!!! =)

Posted: 1:44 am on March 20th
maria_g writes: Do you think I could use shirring as an easy DIY way to take in the body of an inexpensive blazer? Maybe a couple of rows of shirring will do the trick instead of altering a $20 cotton jacket...
Posted: 4:58 pm on July 2nd
PABarnes writes: I am in the process of trying this and think it is so neat especially since the shirred tops are in style now and go for so much money.
I am sewing on a Singer 7430 CB5 machine and while reviewing other posts have read that computerized machines do not shir correctly. If so, how can I make sure it comes out the way I want it and what do you mean when you say you used a straight stitch set at 3 mm? Please help me to understand.
Thanks for the tutorial.
Angie B.
Posted: 12:50 pm on June 30th
LoopyLou writes: Thank you so much for the excellent instructions on shirring. I have never done it before and have been sewing for 24 years. Wow its brilliant such fun and produces such a professional finish to the garment. I love learning new techniques and this one is fantastic. I'm going to have so much fun. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge- very much appreciated. Happy Sewing :)
Posted: 10:07 am on April 27th
keily writes: Hello - pls pls pls help! I am a beginner with a sewing machine and i really want to make a shirred dress for a wedding - i have the elasticated thread in the bottom bobbin and normal thread in the top - i am using a Singer Concerto 2 sewing machine(which i dont have the instructuon manual) - i have it on the longest stitch - the straight stitch and have tried different tensions - but cannot get it to gather up! the elastic just doesnt seem to stretch!! Pls can someone help me!!
Posted: 2:25 pm on April 6th
vickerypokery writes: Brilliant! Thank you - really clear instructions, just tried it out and have made a stylish little skirt for my long-legged fox. One of those things that I knew about but had never dared to try, but your post makes so much sense :-)
Posted: 8:04 am on March 29th
AkuTyger writes: I have used this to great effect on the simplest machine ever. Thanks for the great and very easy to understand tute!
Posted: 1:54 pm on January 7th
Loves_it writes: Jannel,
Make sure you use shirring is quite fine and bring the elastic up like you would normally bring up the bobbin thread.

Then just use a normal Straight Stitch and everything else happeneds on it's own!
Posted: 6:16 pm on December 18th
Loves_it writes: I have always wanted to do this but never tried, I already had the elastic, I came across your instructions and OMG.........

All you girls in this post that aren't sure if you can do it.......JUST DO IT!!!!!!

It is sooooooooo easy, and my sleeves look fantastic now:)

Thank you so much Cal...You are a legend!

Posted: 6:13 pm on December 18th
Jannel writes: I can't get the elastic thread to come up in the machine. It doesn't grab it. How do you do this. Is it too heavy?
Posted: 5:10 pm on December 18th
ella_rose writes: This is VERY helpful! But I have a challenge for you. I am trying to recreate these leggings that I have seen go for more money that I want to spend on my daughter. There are small strips of fabrics shirred then attached to the bottom part of the leggings to create ruffles. There are 4 rows of this then the hem is also shirred somehow. I have pictures that a friend sent me but now sure how to share them.
Posted: 9:52 am on July 28th
ILOVEYORKIES writes: Thank you Cal!
Posted: 12:22 am on June 3rd
CalPatch writes: iloveyorkies: DEFINITELY backstitch to anchor the elastic at the beginning and end of each seam. i usually go back and forth at least twice at each end!
Posted: 9:57 pm on June 1st
ILOVEYORKIES writes: Thank you for this info! I LOVE IT!!! With this process, do you backstitch at the beginning and end?
Posted: 4:29 pm on May 30th
atinoco writes: I love your ideas and the fact that you are willing to share them. I always look out for your contributions. I can't wait to try this one.
Posted: 9:57 pm on April 5th
CalPatch writes: gardenparty: it's really not difficult at all; try it! just practice on a scrap of the same fabric to get the tension right. the tension is controlled by how tightly you hand-wind the elastic thread onto the bobbin. have fun with it!
Posted: 10:26 am on January 28th
Toffy writes: Very nicely explained. I have never tried this, and bought the elastic thread years ago. I have to be sure it hasn't rotted and is still useable for use. Probably would be better to just buy new.
Posted: 9:05 am on January 28th
gardenpartynyc writes: is it really this easy?

i even have elastic thread from an ambitious spontaneous
purchase years ago.


i don't know if i have the sewing chops for this.

Posted: 9:43 pm on January 25th
panpan writes: thank you for explaining it so well! I'd love to try it out!
Posted: 12:09 pm on November 27th
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