How to Add Elastic Shirring to Just About Anything!

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

Hey all! Amy here. On Wednesday Heather debuted her Amy Jumpsuit that she hacked with a panel of shirring through the bodice. We thought we’d share a tutorial for this technique since it can be applied to many different garments, whether you want to make a strapless jumpsuit like Heather did, or just add some definition to looser fitting garments. Unlike smocking (which uses embroidery stitches to gather fabric in tiny pleats), shirring uses elastic “thread” in your bobbin to gather the fabric from the backside, and regular thread on top to prevent it from stretching too far.

You can add shirring to a cuff, a waistband, bodice or just about any place you want to have a little fitting or shaping. You need a few inches of ease to whatever garment section you’re adding this too, as you’ll need to be able to stretch it to get it on and off. You’ll also want to think about what stage of construction the shirring will be added. Generally speaking, you want everything to be assembled as much as possible so that after the shirring is added you can just finish your seams.  If you are adding this to a garment that didn’t call for it, you will need to experiment a little with how many rows to add but it’s a fun adventure, we’re hacking here people! Let’s dive in.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • Lightweight fabric is ideal for this technique. Too thick and you won’t get nice even gathers.
  • Elastic thread

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

Start with an empty bobbin and gently wind your elastic thread on by hand; do not add any stretch to the elastic while you’re winding it. This is important as you don’t want the thread stretched at all before you start sewing.

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

Once you have your bobbin loaded up, leave a decent thread tail and snip it off.

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

If you have a side-loading bobbin like I do, pull the elastic through your bobbin and test for tension. The thread should pull through fairly easily without being too loose. To test this, dangle teh bobbin from the thread; it shouldn’t unwind. If it’s too tight or too loose, you can adjust by tightening or loosening the screw on the side.

If you have a top-loading bobbin, load it like you would with regular thread.

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

Next, mark the shirring lines on your fabric using your favourite marking tool; we suggest chalk or a dissapearing marker (always test on your fabric first!) Mark your lines about 1/2″ apart. A quilting ruler makes this much easier!

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

Before you sew your actual garment, test your shirring on a scrap of fabric first. A longer stitch length works best, around 3.5-4mm. You may need to adjust the length or thread tension to get a nice, even gather.

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

Once you get started, backstitch at the beginning and end of your rows and make sure to take you shirring all the way into the seam allowance so you can hide the joins in your seam. It’s very important to backstitch to secure the thread; if you don’t your elastic will likely come undone (ask me how I know this).

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

As you’re sewing each row, you may need to stretch your fabric slightly to account for the gathering you’ve already sewn. If you run out of elastic thread while you’re working just leave a long tail and reload your bobbin. Start your sewing close to where you finished also leaving a long thread tail at the beginning of your stitching.

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

Tie the thread together once you have completed your row with a square knot and trim close.

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

It should be completely unnoticeable from the front.

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

Continue adding rows of shirring until the whole section is complete.

How to Add Shirring to Any Garment // Closet Core Patterns

And that’s pretty much it! From there you can finish assembling your garment. Shirring is a fun and easy technique that adds a lot of custom detail to a garment. Give it a try!

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Hi! I'm Heather Lou, a pattern designer and sewing educator for the modern maker. At Closet Core Patterns, we transform your imagination into step-by-step implementation that helps you create a wardrobe you love - not one you're limited to buying off the rack.

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