Technique Tuesdays: Shirring

August 10, 2010

I first learned how to shirr when I fell in love with the Kaiya Eve pettiskirts. I was almost ready to shell out the $100+ bucks to buy one when I found the Martha Stewart tutorial on how to make your own. And in the beginning she told you to 'shirr' your fabric. I had to look that up since I didn't know what 'shirr' meant. And 'shirr' enough it was the same thing that you do to create those smocked tops.

If any of you have been intimidated by shirring, rest a'shirr', you have nothing to be afraid of. Shirring is as easy as sewing. If you know how to sew, you know how to shirr.
If you have any questions just leave me a comment in this message.

And I have a great idea for next week's Technique Tuesdays! I'm sort of sad I didn't do it today but I promise it's something a lot of you have probably been too intimated to do, but can GREATLY benefit from. I just did it yesterday and saved myself a LOT of time and money.


Top photo courtesy of Amanda *Bake It Pretty*

52 {comments}:

angelaphotos said... Best Blogger Tips

it's funny that you're running this tutorial today- I have spent (not lying) HOURS in the past week trying to shirr fabric to no avail.

I have a Brother XL-3750 machine, and some tips I've been seeing online say it's not possible to do it on that machine (something about not being able to adjust bobbin tension?)

can anyone help me? my sad skirt isn't being finished! :(

Stephanie said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh my, thank you for this! I tried to make a skirt this weekend that was shirred but I couldn't get it down...seems that I was going it right just didn't know to spray and iron afterwards! Plus you have the same machine as me so now I know exact settings, yah!

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

What does your fabric look like after you try to shir?

Does it just lie flat like you used regular thread?

I assume you tried to adjust your top thread tension? What happened when you tried that?

Did you try winding the elastic thread on the bobbin and pulling it a bit so that it is tighter?

Marianne Elixir said... Best Blogger Tips

This has always intimidated me! I am excited for so simple a tutorial.


angelaphotos said... Best Blogger Tips

it just doesn't gather. I've tried everything- we scoured the internet for tutorials, tried various thread widths, tensions, winding methods, stitches, etc. I even did the spraying and steaming hoping that would help.

no dice. bums me out :(

my mom took it home with her to see if she could use her older machine and get it done.

T. Navis said... Best Blogger Tips

I cannot believe you posted this today! I also have a Brother sewing maching and spent HOURS this weekend trying to figure out shirring - hand windng the bobbin, messing with thread length tension...and on and on, but nothing worked...UNTIL (da, da, daaaaa)..I found a reference to this site:

Brother problem solved!!! I accomplisted 2 projects within hours - a mere fraction of what it took to figure out shirring on my Brother! Stay focused...this is NOT hard to do and you'll be happy to finally have the solution :)

Good luck!

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

Sorry to ask you a million questions but did you try doing several rows (8 or so) before you tried to steam iron?

angelaphotos said... Best Blogger Tips

a million questions is fine, esp. if it helps solve my question :)

I sewed six rows, and it still didn't work. I went through most of a roll of the elastic thread

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Nice tutorial! I did a dress a few weeks ago with elastic thread - I learned a few things from your video that might make it easier next time around!

Carrie said... Best Blogger Tips


I have the same machine and was finally able to shirr by winding my elastic tightly on the bobbin and then setting my stitch length to the longest length possible. The first row won't look like much but once you get to about the 3rd row it should look gathered, and once you hit it with the iron it really looks gathered. I hope you can figure it out! I had a dress sitting around for months because I thought it wasn't possible. I just finished it last week!

S.K. said... Best Blogger Tips

I've tried on my Brother machine as well, different model though. When I load the bobbin it just unwinds, taking out all tension I had used while winding it. not sure how to prevent this from happening. Anyway, it sews but doesn't really gather much. i've tried adjusting tension, and all other tips I've found online. so frustrating. I'm in the same boat Angela! you are not alone...though I wish you were! hahaha!

Ceci said... Best Blogger Tips

I have heard that on Brother machines that shirring can be quite difficult. Although, I read recently that it is possible. I will try to dig up the link, but it said to wind the bobbin as if you were winding regular thread. I also use a metal bobbin (in the correct size) on my machine which solved all my tension problems on my Brother.

I hope this helps!

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

Check out what T.Navis said about her brother machine. Her comment is above. She found her solution here:

angelaphotos said... Best Blogger Tips

wow... lots of Brother people with issues. thanks so much for the input :)

I'll give it a shot and report back with my findings

Brenbren said... Best Blogger Tips

So, I don't know what's up but I can see the tutorial. I only see the top photo and that's it.

jennifer said... Best Blogger Tips

i want to shirr a skirt but the skirt needs a lining. can i shirr through two lightweight fabrics together at the same time? thanks for your help!

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

Do you see a box where the video is supposed to be?

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

I've never tried it but I think it would work. The only thing I can think that might happen would be that the two pieces might move differently and it might be a little off in the end but I don't think it's anything that can't be minorly corrected.

hilaryg said... Best Blogger Tips

I was trying to do this a couple of weeks ago w/o elastic tread, I put it aside pretty quickly. Thanks for the tutorial!

Is the top thread regular (not elastic?)?


Jay said... Best Blogger Tips

So after coming across your blog a few days ago i made my first dress - the scarf dress listed on an old contest on burda style - which actually used this technique! I love this style, your video reaffirmed that I did it right and that my dress will not fall apart when i wear it. Thank you!

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

How much material would you use to make a top, for instance?

If you measure you're bust, how much additional fabric do you use (or should you use) to allow enough material for shirring?

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

The top thread is normal thread, not elastic.

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

I've never made a top so I can't say for certain but I would take your bustline measurements and multiply it by 2. If its too much you can always cut off the rest. It's better to have too much than too little. If you want to be very sure that it's enough I might even do 2.5x. I guess it really depends on how much your machine scrunches the material. Mine doesn't do it as well as others.

Laurwyn said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you! It seems so easy now... It gave me a lot of ideas now!

Also, I love your machine. Mine is a basic Singer, and you have to undo the bottom compartment to get to the bobbin EVERY TIME!

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips


cherryavenue said... Best Blogger Tips

i am sooooooo excited you showed us how to do this as its one of my favorite ever!!!! thanks a million! we love you! xx

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

My Technique Tuesday two cents:

Linings! I avoid anything that needs one.

A tute on linings would be super!

Thanks Kathleen!

shoutingforha said... Best Blogger Tips

I have always wondered how to shirr fabric. Thanks for yet another wonderful tutorial. I may figure this whole sewing thing out yet!

Claire (aka Seemane) said... Best Blogger Tips

To Jennifer re: sewing/shirring 2-layers together (lining + top/fashion fabric). I've never done shirring but maybe if you straight-stitched with your machine using regular thread (top + bobbin) along the lines where you would like the shirring-lines to go first, then that'd lock the 2-layers together.

Next, you could proceed to machine stitch the shirring (as per Kathleen's video) the 2-layers should then 1) act as one layer, and 2) you'll have handy guidelines to easily see where to stitch the shirring onto :)

I'd guess this would work best with very lightweight fabric e.g. cotton voile?

Genevieve said... Best Blogger Tips

so i don't know what it is about shirring but it has always intimidated me! but watching your tutorial- i want to try it! thanks so much for taking the time to share this.

Mandy said... Best Blogger Tips

Hellooo--spritzing and ironing!! I have been trying to do this for months and mine looked just like yours, BEFORE the spritzing and ironing. I will try this tonight and hopefully whip out a ton of shirred stuff!! Thanks!

Abs said... Best Blogger Tips

Kathleen, when you got to the part with the spritzing and ironing, I felt like it was magic--sort of like a choir beaming down on a ray of light. I actually said, "OH!" out loud. What a moment for sewingkind :) Thanks for that.

Little Lizard King said... Best Blogger Tips

Excellent tute. Thanks for sharing. I will definitely be linking.

For those that can't see the tutorial, I would guess you have an old version of internet explorer.

Mandy said... Best Blogger Tips

Update: Found a piece of experimental shirring that I THOUGHT had gone bad, spritzed it with water---it cinched right up! Ironed it and it cinched up a little more!! I'm gonna link this tutorial to my blog to help more of the shirr-challenged!!

jimena said... Best Blogger Tips

Frances: thanks for the technique, I can't access the denim contest on Burda yet, any ideas? I saw on Facebook I am not the only one
Have a nice day

Anne said... Best Blogger Tips

Great video!!! I linked to it over on Craft Gossip Sewing.


Brenbren said... Best Blogger Tips

There is a big blank space where the tutorial is suppose to be. There isn't even a box. I tried clicking on it and nothing happened.

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

BrenBren & anyone else having trouble seeing the video,

Go to this direct link:

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

I wanted to tell you that I tried that tutorial I linked in the comment section of the shirring post and WOW, I mean WOW!

I too have a brother. And I was shocked at what happened. I'm writing a post on Friday about it. But I'm so excited I might just post it today. It will definitely fix your problem.

jennifer said... Best Blogger Tips

kathleen frances and seemane -- i read somewhere that i should sew a few inches down the side seams to keep the slip in place, but i forgot this step, and didn't have a problem with it sliding around. the whole thing worked great. not quite as bunched up as i'd like, even after spritzing/ironing, but wearable. thanks!!!

Charlotte said... Best Blogger Tips

this is always something I have wanted to try! I have lots of summery dresses with a shirred back panel that's stretchy instead of having a zipper. for a simple warm weather dress, this seems like an easier alternative to sewing in a zipper. can't wait to try!

Rachel said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh my goodness! I LOVE this! Thank you so much for breaking it down and making it un-scary. :)

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

It may even work better if the bobbin was loaded correctly...going counterclockwise instead of clockwise...any machine with a dropin bobbin needs the thread to wind off counterclockwise.

B said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for the awesome video. I'm a follower now! :o)

Genevieve said... Best Blogger Tips

thank you for this video! it finally gave me the courage to just try shirring!! i posted back to your blog here-


Christina said... Best Blogger Tips

I made a shirred dress a few months ago. It turned out pretty well for my first peice of clothing, but I did run into one problem. How do you keep your shirring lines from slowly drifting off? I tried to use the guides on my sewing mashine (the lines on the bottom) but after 20+ lines even the slightest vier adds up. When I ran into the problem was when I shirred all the way across the fabric and then lined it up in the back. It didn't line up correctly after the first couple stitch lines. I did find a cloth guide in my sewing box a few weeks ago (I'm using my grandma's old 1968 Emdeko, so I'm still learning what I have) so I'm assuming that will help. Are there any other tips you can offer on how to keep the lines straight so they'll line up on the other side?

jimena said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi! I want to do the shirring but I need to know if I have to pull on the elastic thread in order to put in in the bobin? (sorry I can't find the vocabulary, I am not an English speaking person so I don't know a lot of technical terms)
Thanks for your time.

jimena said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi! I want to do the shirring but I need to know if I have to pull on the elastic thread in order to put in in the bobin? (sorry I can't find the vocabulary, I am not an English speaking person so I don't know a lot of technical terms)
Thanks for your time.

jimena said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi! I want to do the shirring but I need to know if I have to pull on the elastic thread in order to put in in the bobin? (sorry I can't find the vocabulary, I am not an English speaking person so I don't know a lot of technical terms)
Thanks for your time.
Sorry if this is going more than once. I have a problem with the computer it seems. Hope you can see this one day and answer as well.
Thanks in advance and sorry in advance in case it went more than once

American Nanny said... Best Blogger Tips

I have a question and a couple of comments. Does anyone have any tips on how to shir an existing garment so that you end up with the right circumference? For instance, I have a top with butterfly sleeves that I want to shir so that I end up with puffed sleeves. The first time I tried it the sleeves were way too small and I had to rip everything out. Now I'm stuck as all tutorials I can find talk about shirring a piece of fabric that you can then cut to the size you want.

I wanted to also comment on the reader who is trying to shir with a lined skirt. My thoughts would be to shir the top layer but not the lining. It seems as if shirring the lining would end up with quite a bulky finished product. If the lining needs to be tailored to fit the new shape that might be a better option.

And for those of you who's finished shirring isn't very gathered, I would say to back stitch the beginning of each line but not the end of each line. Spray with water, iron and if it's not as gathered as you want then you can pull the elastic thread on each line to get the amount of gathering you want. When it's where you want it sew along the end of the fabric to lock up all the lines of shirring.

The Ceder House's said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for tutorial and video! I have a question... When shirring is there a ratio or rule of thumb when it comes to the amount of fabric needed? Say- double the waist measurement for a skirt OR triple for a shirred top or sleeves? Thanks!

faith ann raider said... Best Blogger Tips

oh this is SO cool!! I have been wanting to do this to make a cute little dress for my girls... just didn't know what it was called. Thanks so much!!

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