Sewing Tip: Shirring/Smocking with Elastic Thread


Shirring is an old technique, I know.  (Shirring and smocking aren’t actually originally done with elastic…..but it sure makes things easier.  And faster.)  Sometimes I assume everyone knows how to do it.  But then I get another email asking how to shir (or smock) fabric.  So it reminds me I shouldn’t assume…………..because it is still one of the top questions I’m asked.


And if you’ve never given this a try, serisously stop eveything right now and try it.  It will knock your socks off.  It really does work and is really fun.  And you don’t need any special attachments or special needles.  Nope, just elastic thread (and that only costs a couple dollars).


I use this technique a lot.  And then I give it a rest.  And then I bring it back and use it some more.  I never tire of it for long.


Ahhhhh, shirring……quick and easy.  It will make you happy in 2 seconds.



The elastic thread is sewn into the back of the seams, and lets the fabric stretch but then pulls back in.



You may remember seeing me use it here:



And here:



And here:




I know, I use it a lot for skirt waist bands.  It’s because it’s so darn comfortable.  (Haven’t tried it?  You better.  It’s the coziest way to go.  Especially while pregnant.  Ahhhhh.)


I even include the technique in 2 of my patterns:  The Maddy Dress here and the Lily Skirt here.




It’s stretchy, really comfy, seriously easy, and a great texture to add to clothing.

You need to ad this to your sewing repertoire, if you haven’t already.




Ready for some shirring?


First of all, all machines are different.  I have used this technique on probably 15 different machines, and it has worked on all of them.  But I know some machines are different, so keep that in mind.  (But if you lived next door, I wouldn’t mind coming over to figure yours out. There are several troubleshooting tips down below, so be sure to check those out.


Take note:  Lighter fabrics work best for this technique.  The elastic is not strong enough to gather in corduroy or bottom weight fabrics.  It’s just too thick and heavy.  I have had most success with regular cotton (quilters cotton or fashion cotton).


And the best part about this technique, is that all you need to buy, is some elastic thread.  I bought mine at Joann’s over by the elastic section, not the thread section.  But you can also fine elastic thread HERE.



See how it’s pretty thin (not as thin as regular thread….but still thin) and has a nice stretch to it?



You will use regular thread at the top of your machine (for the top thread of your seam)…….and use the elastic thread in your bobbin.  But instead of winding the bobbin on your machine, you will wind your elastic by hand.  Don’t worry, it goes fast.  (This is where some machines differ.  I have read that some machines need their elastic thread wound really tight.  I will explain some different techniques below.  Remember though, this is what has worked best for me.)  Stick the end of the elastic through one of the holes, starting from the inside of the bobbin (this just keeps the tail out of the way).



Then start winding.


But while winding, don’t keep it too loose or let it get all jumbled and messy.


But don’t pull it too tight either (unless your machine requires that…..see troubleshooting below).


Just pull it every so slightly as you wind the bobbin.  Seriously, don’t pull it very much at all.


And then drop it into your machine (like I did with my old drop-in Singer machine) or wind it into your bobbin case………


……..and then put it into the machine.  Pull it up through the bottom, just like a normal bobbin.


And now for settings.  All machines are different but I always put my stitch length to the very longest that it will go (basting stitch).  I know some machines don’t need to go the very longest stitch length, so you may need to play around with it.  The top stitch below is my standard stitch length, the bottom stitch is my longest stitch length.  By increasing the stitch length, it allows a bigger chunk of elastic for each stitch below, giving the fabric more stretch and pull when it’s done.


Begin sewing like you would normally, and you will begin to see the fabric beginning to pull from behind.  (And yes, you can back-stitch, just like normal.  Or, you can tie each end of by hand for each row, if it’s bunching too much while back-stitching.)


After you finish one seam, it won’t pull very tight.  And depending on your fabric, it will shir differently.  If your fabric is a bit thicker, it won’t shir much at all for this single seam.  But don’t worry.


Begin sewing your next line, but be sure and find a landmark on your machine to match up your previous seam.  This will help keep your lines straight.  I generally use the right edge of my presser foot as a guide.  But it I want more narrow shirred lines, I use the left side of that part that sticks out on the right.  (If you need to draw lines on your fabric while it’s flat……that may help you keep your lines even until you get more comfortable.)  But seriously, don’t fret if your lines are a bit uneven.  After it’s all gathered in, it’s hardly noticeable.  No stress.


And while sewing, make sure the fabric is flat going under your needle.  The easiest way for me to do this is to grab the fabric behind the needle with my left hand and the fabric in front of the needle with my right hand and pull in opposite directions, keeping the fabric flat as you sew.  (I only had one hand to use for the picture.)


Don’t let the fabric go under the needle all ruffled.  It needs to be flat……otherwise the shirring will not work.


After several rows, it will pull in more and more.


And if you want the shirring to pull in nice and tight, use steam and your iron and press down lightly over the shirred section.  Don’t iron and pull like you would normally while ironing.  Just press the iron down lightly over the shirred section, lift up and place on a new section.  The moisture and the heat will shrivel up the elastic from below and will pull in the fabric nicely.  If your steam isn’t working very well (or if you don’t have steam on your iron) use a water bottle to get the fabric moist and make sure your iron is nice and hot.  (Or you can throw your finished shirring in the washer and then the dryer……that will shrink it up too.)  It will amaze you how much this will help pull in your fabric.  Go on, try it!



This shirring below hasn’t been steamed/ironed……it pulls in much more than that.  But if you don’t want it too tight, just leave it how it is.  (By the way, the yellow and orange fabric are very lightweight cottons, so they shirred really easily.)



And that’s it.  Start shirring everything you own.

**You can even use it if you need to gather in some fabric and don’t want to do the standard basting-stitch-and-pull method.



Troubleshooting: Is your smocking not working?


  • Make sure that your bobbin is not too full of the elastic thread.
  • Try re-threading your whole machine.
  • Make sure your elastic thread isn’t too tight or too loose on the bobbin.
  • Make sure you didn’t mess with the tension (or any other settings) of your machine while adjusting your stitch length.  This can mess up the stitch and cause you problems with the smocking.
  • Try putting regular thread back into the bobbin and sew on some scrap fabric.  Make sure that it is sewing normally with regular thread.  This way, you can see if all of the settings are correct.
  • Pull the fabric flat in both directions with both hands, away from the needle in opposite directions, as you sew.
  • Make sure your stitch length is set to the largest stitch length.  (Or at least a larger one than you generally use.)
  • Take a look to see if you are sewing through multiple layers of fabric.  Sewing through multiple layers will make it too hard for the elastic to pull the fabric together.
  • Make sure to use cotton or other lightweight fabric.  Thicker fabric is harder to gather.
  • If you left your tension alone and it still isn’t working, try adjusting the tension a bit and see how your smocking reacts.


Are you using a Brother brand sewing machine??

And do you have a drop-in bobbin?

Your machine may not have a bobbin tension adjustment……

…….and if so, the smocking may not work using the instructions above.

Here are some helpful tips you may want to try with your machine:


  • Wind your elastic thread onto the bobbin with your feeder so that it’s pretty tight……and be sure to slide it under the tension lever in the auto feeder.
  • Ensure that the elastic thread is going through the “tension” spring in the bobbin holder……..because it’s easy to miss.
  • Adjust your stitch length……you may not want the largest setting.  Try it out a few times with different settings and see how your smocking reacts.



Hope that helps!

. . . . . . . . . . .
This post is sponsored by:


Related posts:

Filed under Featured, Sewing, Sewing Tips


232 Responses to “Sewing Tip: Shirring/Smocking with Elastic Thread”
  1. 1

    Great post! Thanks for sharing dear :)

    • 1.1
      Valerie Shipton says:

      Thank you so much for all the trouble you have gone to, to explain how to sew with shirring elastic. I used to make my daughters the most beautiful clothes using shirring elastic but that was years ago although I hadn’t forgotton but it wasn’t working well so I looked it up on the internet to see if I could get a little help to refresh my mind. Yes it is so beautiful and always looks cute on kids. Thanks for the tips.

    • 1.2
      Anonymous says:

      Amazing tips!! Thanks so much, been spending hours trying to get this right and all it needed was a light press!! Fab :)

    • 1.3
      PKD Creations says:

      I finally found out why I couldn’t get the elastic to work on my machine–thanks so much! I had to get out my old machine without the drop in bobbin in make the ruffled baby rompers that I am trying to make for the 4th. Is working quite well although I am still not getting it quite as stretchy as the purshased one.

    • 1.4
      Brina says:

      Awesome tips! And I have a Brother machine. :)

    • 1.5
      Anonymous says:

      need to know how weshould keep the distance between two lines.

  2. 2
    Becca S. says:

    Thanks for sharing the extra tips about sewing with a Brother Machine! I have a CP7500 and tried and tried to do smocking, but with no success. I”ll have to try these tips! :)

    • 2.1
      Jordan says:

      I have a brother as well, and usually the only way shirring WILL work is if you tighten one of the screws on the bobbin case. I ended up buying a second bobbin case, so that I can always have one tightened, and not have to worry about loosening it back enough so it doesn’t snap the normal thread. This should help ALOT!

      • 2.1.1
        Sherry Bridgeforth says:

        I have a brother runway model LB6800 and I have tried a lot of different ways but the fabric stays just as flat as it started, how do you make the bobbin case tighter

          CARA says:

          I have a brother xr1300, I was enthused by the tutorial, tried and flat…then I looked up smocking in the manual, they were referring to plain bobbin thread however I took their directions; to make desired amount of straight stitch lines, then pull the bobbing thread to make gather; and used it with the elastic thread. Worked okay. My garment does have some give and it did the gather. Good enough for me. Gave the same effect without messing with the bobbin case tension.

      • 2.1.2
        Jen says:

        Thank you for posting a youtube video! I found another tutorial here, but I’m such a visual learner that watching you do it was a big help! Thanks!

      • 2.1.3
        shiana says:

        Where can I buy an bobbin case for brother…..I have an SQ 9050….can u email me at

      • 2.1.4
        cenovis says:

        You are amazing. Thanks for posting this!

  3. 3

    How do you control how much it gathers? For example: if I’m shirring a skirt and I want the finished width around the waist to be 29″, how do I know what width of fabric to start out with to get it to fit when I’m done?

    • 3.1
      laura says:

      I double my fabric. So if you need a 29in waist then cut a 58inch piece. Also I. Normally have a front and back piece and then once shirred I sew up the sides. So for a 29inch waist I would cut 2 pieces of fabric at 29inches by however long you want it. Shir as many rows as you want. Also a tip fold over the top piece of fabric and sew with regular thread to have a finished edge. Do this to bottom as well. Then shir, sew up sides, and walla your done. Hope this helps

  4. 4
    Vero says:

    Here’s a little tip: at the end of your shirring, if all the lines don’t seem even, just spray some water on them and watch the magic! They all gather as if alive and you get the perfect and regular shir you wanted!
    Thanks for your amazing posts!

  5. 5
    Micael says:

    Great tips for shirring! I used to sell a lot of shirred dresses and loved how easy they are to make.

    I wanted to add that you actually do not want to back stitch if you are working on a heavier fabric (like a knit especially) because sometimes you need to be able to pull on the bottom thread (which in this case is elastic) to move it as you would in gathering. I really also found that for the long term “life span” of the elastic, regardless of fabric weight, it’s best not to back stitch either. I’m no professional by any means, but the dresses where I finished off all the ends by hand, the elastic has lasted much longer.

    And another way to get the fabric to really bunch up, is just to run it through the wash. I’ve worked with plenty of fabrics and it didn’t seem like the shirring was taking, only to wash it and it come out perfect (do a tester strip if you’re unsure though, as a loose tension would also be the culprit of shirring not working)

    • 5.1
      Annie says:

      If I am making a little dress with smocking at the top how is the best way to hem or finish the edge?

    • 5.2
      Cindy says:

      I am a sewing beginner. Would you mind explaining what you mean by finishing off the ends ‘by hand’? I would like to try this technique. It looks like fun! Thank you!

      • 5.2.1
        Anonymous says:

        Instead of backstictiching on machine, putt the ends of each finished seam out and manually tie a knot. That’s finishing it by hand.

  6. 6
    Amanda says:

    Cool. I always wondered about that; thanks.

  7. 7
    Hi says:

    looks easy and cute!! I wasn’t wearing socks! ;)

  8. 8
    Janny says:

    I love this! I really didn’t think you could do this on a typical sewing machine with regular needles etc… Thanks for this how to..

  9. 9
    Cecilia says:

    This is a wonderful tutorial and I can’t wait to use it!! :) Thank you! :)

  10. 10
    Kristi says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! I have been wanting to try this!

  11. 11
    Brittany W says:

    I’ve shirred a few things for my daughter but could never get anything to work for me. How much bigger do you make clothes for an adult before you shirre them? Thanks for any help!

  12. 12
    krisha says:

    Wow! thanks for grew tutorial. Also very nice blog. Will visit again soon!

  13. 13
    Taryn Brown says:

    Thanks SO much for this. I have really been wanting to try this technique but wasn’t sure how tight to wind the bobbin and your tutorial is perfectly detailed and totally makes sense to me. I really think I can do this now! Thanks!

  14. 14
    Carolyn says:

    Thanks very much for the tutorial. I really, really, really appreciate it. :)

  15. 15
    Rachel says:

    Thanks so much for the comprehensive tutorial. It’s something I haven’t tried yet, but now I definitely want to! Great job, as always.

  16. 16
    Cousin Cassie :) says:

    Oh, Ash, I’ve been attempting and failing at this for way too long. I hope this works!

  17. 17

    Thank you! I’ve always wondered how to achieve this look. It’s easier than I thought. I’ll definitely be trying this soon!

  18. 18
    Kimmy says:

    Oh my. I cannot wait to do this. I have about a bajillion ideas that need this, but I thought it was going to be way to difficult. Thank you so much!!

  19. 19
    Maree says:

    I have been using the technique with sarongs that I turn into dresses for just one two years now and it works really well!

    I wish this was out when I was trying to learn as I had to use multiple sites from a Google search to teach myself how to shir! Very well done!

  20. 20

    Okay, this post is awesome. I hope that one day when I try this I can figure out what all the settings and tension things are on my machine (a brother with a drop in bobbin). :-)

    • 20.1
      laura says:

      I have a brother with a drop in bobbin and all I do is wind my elastic on my bobbin like normal thread, drop it in like normal thread and have at it. I don’t need to worry about tensions or anything. Give it a try!

      • 20.1.1

        Cool, thanks! I definitely want to try this out.

      • 20.1.2
        Christina says:

        You say that you wind it like normal thread. Do you mean you do it by hand or you use the mechanical bobbin winder? I followed other tutorials that said to wrap the thread loosely around the bobbin by hand, but I keep getting a mess of strings in my bobbin area the instant I try to start sewing. So frustrating!

          Anonymous says:

          for a brother machine or a babylock machine you need to use the bobbin winder. It needs to be very tight for it work. Beside that you don’t change any setting at all on the machine. So it like normal after that.

  21. 21

    Thank you for sharing this. I never knew how to do this!

  22. 22
    Ms Kate says:

    Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!! I’ve been wanting to do this for ages, but it just seemed so hard! Doesn’t seem so bad now!!! Onward to the next project yay!

  23. 23
    Mandi says:

    Yeah! I was getting ready to do this in my next project. With your help I’m more excited than nervous. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. This blog inspires me so much…. I’m spending a lot of time at fabric stores these days:)

  24. 24
    Katie says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! We are having our baby on Monday and I wanted to do this with the top of her blessing dress. I haven’t done it before so this will be nice to already have some hints. :) BTW – you snuck into my dream last night… We were out camping (or just being wilderness women??) while our hubbys were off somewhere. :)

  25. 25
    anilegra says:


  26. 26
    Mardell says:

    Great idea….my sister just gave me a package of elastic thread so now my mind is reeling with ideas! Thank you.

  27. 27
    Anonymous says:

    This is an excellent tutorial. Thank you.

  28. 28
    karomanah says:

    amazing as always!

  29. 29
    Allison Norris says:

    OMG!! I’ve been wanting to try this but was thinking that my little machine wouldn’t be able to handle working with the elastic! Kinda like trying the double needle and having an epic fail! lol I think you may have remedied both of those things with this post though, because me, being so new to sewing and having little guidance, never thought to pull the bobbin thread up from under my machine and just wondered why it wasn’t catching! lol NOW hopefully it will work right and not give me so many headaches….my poor little machine has endured many undeserved curses because of my own silly ding bat self! lol

  30. 30
    Nicole says:

    This was perfect timing! I made some pillowcase dresses for my girls today, but thought they were too tent-like. Tried the shirring and loved it!!! I did it around their waist and it adds a cute form. Thanks for a great tutorial, as always.

  31. 31
    Sumiya says:

    Hi Ashley,
    Thanks very much, i was looking forward to it, your post came just in time, hugs :)

  32. 32
    Sarah says:

    Oh how cool this is! Such an easy and usable technique! Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  33. 33
    Bethany says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I appreciate so much the time and effort you take to make it all so clear. So well done!

  34. 34
    Emily says:

    I love using elastic thread. I don’t have little girls :( and my little boys don’t really like clothes with shirring, so I have used elastic thread to make an awesome ruffled scarf for myself.

    P.S. were you aware that the Cameo giveaway post is not working? The link just takes us to a blank white page. So sad…I would love to enter (and win)!

  35. 35

    I have a brother and got so frustrated last time, BUT, looking back, I only sewed one line and wasn’t very impressed, so I think I gave up too soon. Thanks for this and I will try again! I think Brother’s may need an extra “shirring” bobbin, but I may attempt to try it to see if some of these tips do work! :)

  36. 36
    Andrea says:

    This is the best shirring tutorial I have ever read and believe me, I have read A LOT about this! Thaks a lot for all your tutorials :D

  37. 37
    Ms Kate says:

    Oh using your blog post, I gave it a go! how exciting!!! Thank you, thank you.

  38. 38

    Thankyou for the great tutorial!!

  39. 39
    Tanialeigh says:

    Hi Ashley,
    I was afraid to try elastic thread because I am a novice sewer but I tried it and it sewed just fine. I was well pleased. However, I put in my regular threaded bobbin in order to finish other parts of sewing and now I get bunched up thread underneath the fabric. It didn’t happen before I used elastic thread. did my bobbin tension change on it’s own? Is that possible? Now how can I sew again without getting the thick jumbled up threading underneath the fabric now? Thank you.

  40. 40
    Maree says:

    I remember this post. I love to shir. It is so easy, but effective. I have just started doing some shirred sarings again for my sister in laws. So good for our climate! I have even re-shirred the same item to make a shorter dress/shirt because the elastic has finally failed after two years of constant use!

  41. 41

    I used to shir all the time on my older Singer. But since that one died and I bought a computerized BabyLock I haven’t been able to get it to work. It took a lot of the fun out of sewing to no longer be able to shir. :( I’ll have to try winding the bobbin tight next time I sit down to figure it out again. Thanks for the tip!

    • 41.1
      Veronique says:

      Hi !

      I’ve the same problem as you !!

      I’m using a Baby Lock Crafter’s choice. I tried to charge my bobbin like it was shown.

      My problem is : if I pull out the elastric thread, then, there is no tension at all on the elastic thread, and so, my smocking is not working.

      If I don’t pull out the elastic thread, the elastic thread sticks in the race, so the thread breaks, and there is no tension at all on the thread.

      Somebody showed me how to smock with the elastic thread out of the race. I don’t really like it (because I’m not really constant. Need to practice, I guess !!).

      So… :( Mayby I should film it and show it to you !! HA, HA.)

      I saw a lot of people using your technique. I don’t know why I can’t use it !

      Thank you !

    • 41.2
      Veronique says:

      GUESS WHAT !! I’ll maybe finally stop crying.

      I haven’t tried it yet, but apparently, there’s a solution to arrange the bobbin tension.

      Yep. The BOBBIN tension…

      Hope it’ll help some of you, ladies.

      Ciao !

  42. 42
    Bravesfan4707 says:

    I have a Vicking machine and have tried all of the above and STILL cannot get the shirr to gather. Any tips?? I have adjusted my tension to higher levels and tried normal tension, tried zigzag and straight. HELP!

  43. 43
    Julie says:

    I just tried shirring for the first time and it doesn’t seem to be working out. I have a brother machine that is computerized. The bobbin is a drop. I hand wound it (it looked just fine to me…didn’t pull too tightly etc) When I sewed the line there was absolutely NO bunching/gathering. Same with the second. I turned it over and the elastic is all wiggly, not a straight stitch like I would expect. I read all through my machine handbook and there’s nothing on sewing with elastic thread, just smocking. Any thoughts? I tried various lengths of stitches. The tension is set at 4. Should I lesson or increase the tension? Stumped :/


  44. 44

    I have had a Brother Project Runway sewing machine for about a year and half. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!! But what I didn’t love was that couldn’t shir with it. I was sooo frustrated!!! I didn’t want to mess with the tension because me and tension settings do not get along.. sooo I tried your suggestion and wound the elastic tightly around my bobbin. Then I pulled the bobbin up like I used to in my old machine and tried it out.. Guess what.. It works!!! I have to adjust my stitch length now to make it a bit tighter but I am sooo happy it WORKS! Thank you, thank you, Thank you!!!

  45. 45
    JCStarbuck says:

    WOW this looks much easier than I thought. I can’t wait to try it tonight. I will be attempting this for the very fist time. Your instructions are awesome and the pictures VERY helpful. I am a novice seamstress…didn’t start sewing seriously until my late 40s. I have been trying to figure out how this was done so thank you for this very informative posting. I am excited about trying this…if successful…. it will help me a lot with the outfits I make for my granddaughter’s pageant attire.

  46. 46
    Ashlee says:

    Hey Ashley! I did this for my first time and it turned out awesome! Thanks for the great tutorial and the tips at the bottom! Come see what I did!

  47. 47
    Kristin says:

    UGGHH! I don’t know what I am doing wrong :( I have a Brother with a drop in bobbin and I’ve tried winding it on the top of the machine just like normal thread then I drop the bobbin in and I can’t get the thread out to start. Then I’ve tried winding it by hand(both tight and “normal” and then the elastic is too loose when I sew. I am so frustrated. I have tried so many different ways I am about to give up. :( Any suggestions?

  48. 48
    Chris says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! My daughter gave me a dress to fix that she had recently bought – the shirred bodice was too loose and she wanted it to fit better since it’s strapless. Id never worked with elastic thread before and was intimidated, though I’d been sewing for many years. With your help, sewing with the elastic thread was easypeasy. It worked just like you said. I used my old Bernina 1530 rather than my Brother because of the preferable bobbin style. I wound the bobbin by hand using a chopstick to hold it so it could spin and not get the thread all in a twist. Note to self: Ripping out shirring is no fun. After 9 hrs (seriously) of removing the old, it took maybe a half hr to re-shirr it. It is a thin gauze fabric. I used stitch length “4” and made no tension changes. Bodice measured 20″ diameter unshirred; 10″ diameter when I was done (13″ to start). Someone suggested sewing each row and then traveling down to the next to row without breaking the threads. Genious! Much fewer loose ends to deal with and looks just fine.

    • 48.1
      Ashley says:

      I was so glad to see somebody else with a Bernina post. I have an 830. It has been a workhorse for my mother and then passed to me for making little girl clothes. I can’t wait to try this! Pillow cases are on sale right now at Wal-Mart and I was afraid a dress would look too unfinished. How does this technique work with knit? The T-shirt twin sheets were on sale also. (You can buy the pieces of bedding separate) I would love to make comfy but pretty skirt for myself.

      • 48.1.1
        Ashley says:

        So, it worked really well with the bedsheet fabric. I think because it’s thinner than regular cotton. The pillow case dress turned out great! The width was a little more than twice the size of dd chest. (about an inch) and it took 14 rows of shirring to make it as snug as I like. I found out the hard way that back stitching is a bad idea! It doesn’t hold very well. Especially if you don’t leave at least an inch and a half or even a two inch tail on both ends. Making a knot with your elastic tails when you are doing this in the round is the only way to go. Besides, it’s on the wrong side that nobody sees. But, after shirring, I added some one inch grograin ribbon for straps and it looked better than store bought! For those who are discouraged by not getting anything, you won’t for just one or two rows. Also, the tip of hitting it with a shot of steam was like magic! I wound my bobbin with the winder on my machine (1980’s 830 Bernina) and instead of putting it on the tension thingy for bobbins I held it with my finger to control the tension and that seemed to work. Thanks for the post!

      • 48.1.2
        Chris says:

        Did you try it with a knit fabric? I was wondering how it would work with t-shirt knit. I’ve enjoyed this technique so well, I made a dress and a top for my granddaughters, and just finished a dress for my sister’s granddaughter. Maybe I’ll try it on an old t-shirt to see how it goes.

  49. 49
    Ashlee says:

    So can I ask how you did the pictures to show the elastic stretch? Very cool

  50. 50
    Julie says:

    Thank you for posting :) I’m a beginner and can’t wait to try this.

  51. 51
    Bev Gascoin says:

    Thanks so much for the tip about the tension spring on the bobbin of the Brother. I was really getting quite frustrated that I couldn’t make the shirred dresses for my granddaughter that I had made (on my old sewing machine) for her mother thirty years ago..

  52. 52
    Lori says:

    I have sewn quite a lot, but have never been taught how to do this. Will definitely have to give it a try. Doesn’t look as difficult as I thought it would be. Thanks for sharing!

  53. 53
    Katie says:

    Thank you so much! Your troubleshooting helped me fix a shirring issue i was having!!!

  54. 54
    L K says:

    Great tutorial! I didn’t realize shirring is that easy. Now I can go fix some of my dresses as well create some of my own.

  55. 55

    Great tutorial! You’ve been featured on the Quality Sewing Tutorials blog.

    We hand select only the best free tutorials and patterns for the home sewist.

    Grab a brag button!

  56. 56
    Stephanie says:

    I finished my first skirt and when I went to steam the elastic it didn’t gather as much as I thought it would. I even tried washing & drying it & it is still huge on me. My biggest stitch length is 4, is that maybe not long enough for this project? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks! I have a Necchi 534FB

  57. 57

    Thank you so much for this turtorial. I never tried it NO GIRLS. I donate to shelter etc. I muswt try this, you make it look fun & easy. Hope to get a few out there, The Moms at shelter cry over a plain dress WOW they shed a river on a shirred dress? LOL

  58. 58
    Tessa says:

    Hello, maybe you can help! I love the way the shirring looks but i cant seem to get the tension figured out to save my life! I have a viking husqvarna 400 computer and ive tried tshirt material and cotton. Ive tried different stich lengths and different tensions but am not making progress! Any help would be great! Thanks, Tessa

  59. 59
    suziana says:

    still trying last night…grrrr…and failed…..i need to read more this info so that i really understand.still bad in understanding english…

  60. 60
    Chrissy says:

    Wow! What a neat idea. I have always loved the texture that shirring creates. This would make a sweet little pillow, a bit of work, but I think it would be nifty-do.

  61. 61
    Kaitlyn says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this tutorial!! Thank you!

  62. 62
    April says:

    I have looked for the thin elastic thread at walmart, hobby lobby, and michael’s and I still can’t find it. I would have to make quite a drive for the nearest Jo-Ann’s. Help!

  63. 63
    Natasha says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I am definitely gonna have to try this! How would you measure this for a maternity skirt?

  64. 64
    Maya says:

    oh my. I always always thought it was way out of my league and never even looked into it. Thanks for enlightenment!

  65. 65
    Nancy Cole says:

    I <3 <3 <3 you and your blog! Thank you so much for the fabulous tutorials! You are officially the BEST :)

  66. 66
    Jennifer Dorman says:

    i could actually kiss you right now! so helpful! thank girl!! God bless

  67. 67
    Heather says:

    Can’t wait to try shirring/smocking! They make for the most comfortable skirts and the cutest little girl dresses…

  68. 68
    Lee Ann says:

    Thank you so much! I’ve been trying to do this technique, and haven’t had any success until your tutorial. I don’t have my mom with me anymore to help with these things, so you really saved my skirt! Thanks again.

  69. 69
    Esther Anders says:

    I love this! I’ve made a few dresses and even a couple for neighbors already. I bought two spools, and I still have tons left. I can’t believe how inexpensive these projects are turning into! This was by far the cheapest and easiest tool I’ve used in my arsenal. On average, it’s costing me up to .10 cents a shirt/dress. I thank you for making this web site! I’m making it, and loving every minute of it! Thank you!

  70. 70
    Geraldine says:

    Don’t you have to adjust the bobbin tension before you put it back into the sewing machine?

  71. 71
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I’m enjoying your sense of humor, too! The directions are quite explicit.The trouble-shooting tips are really helpful.

    Yes, I can DO this and here I go…


  72. 72
    Kristin says:

    This tutorial rocks! I just up-cycled this awful denim jumper style dress into a really cute, slightly imperfect and super comfy skirt. Many thanks to you!

  73. 73

    I love your blog. I think you really cool to share their ideas.
    Sorry for my english. I am Brazilian from Sao Paulo and I love sewing and craft. Your tips are very helpful.

  74. 74

    Thank you ! I figured out why this technique wasn’t working for me due to this well written post.

  75. 75
    Happybee says:

    Thank you for this awesome tutorial!!!!
    I’m going to try it immediately!!!!

  76. 76
    CAITLIN says:

    Thanks SOOOOO much for this post! I’ve made a beautiful dress for my cousin just now, and plan on using this technique for a bunch of dresses for my 9 month old!!

  77. 77
    Pam Hall says:

    Thank you, thank you! I was at a loss as to how to fit my shirred piece into the other piece because it was HUGE…no where in the original instructions did the pattern maker tell you to steam the shirring! You are a life saver!

  78. 78
    munkee says:

    Hi there,

    I do have a brother machine, and my strongest issue is that I can’t get this to work, mainly (I think) because in this particular model, the machine automatically pulls the bobbin thread. While it works great [almost] every time, it doesn’t want to grab the bobbin elastic thread for this.

    Do you have any suggestions that I could use?
    Thanks in advance, I really, really like your website!

  79. 79
    Roo says:

    Thanks so much, can’t wait to try it then make the baby sun suit I have a pattern for

  80. 80
    Kathy says:

    Wow, Ashley! This is fabulous. Thank you for sharing your talents with us. My shirt thanks you, too…if not for this post, it would have been destined for the Goodwill. :)

  81. 81
    Mary says:

    Thank you for posting this! I thought smocking was going to be ridiculously hard, since my mom (who worked as a seamstress years ago) told me that she had never done it and couldn’t help me figure it out, but you were right when you said it was instant happiness.

    And I seriously did drop everything I was doing and try it right after reading this, by the way. I made a simple sheer peach and orange paisley border print kimono and smocked the waist on it instead of making a casing for an elastic waistband, and I love it!

    So, thanks again! I couldn’t have done it without you. :)

  82. 82

    Im a seft taught senior , low self esteem. Tutorial on shirring is great and im anxious to try. No family/friends to sew for I donate to shelters, church’es, meals on mwheel etc. Thank you for sharing.

    • 82.1
      Carolyn Harrison says:

      I belong to a group Threads of Love that sews for sick and preemie babies in local hospitals.
      I am sure there would be a group in your area. there is also a group called New borns in need

  83. 83
    Laura says:

    Thank you for a very informative tutorial!

    I just thought I’d add that I have a bernette 66 with a drop-in bobbin, and I also needed to wind my thread tighter – I did it by hand, just pulling it as I went!

    Can’t wait to shirr EVERYTHING! :D

  84. 84
    Amelia says:

    Hi Ashley,
    I really love all your wonderful ideas …
    I just got a Bernina 550 , can’t wait to start shirring cos my previous Brother machine gave me a hard time :(
    Anyway, would like to check with u if the needle tension needs to be loosen? Or do I just adjust the stitch length to the longest?
    Thank you!


  85. 85
    Kristi says:

    Another great tutorial. I am still learing to sew and with that comes intimidation on making the first cut, stitch, etc. Your tutorials are so detailed yet so easy to understand! I can’t wait to see what’s next!

    Thank you!!!!

  86. 86
    Paige Arroe says:

    Hi Ashley

    I am thinking of purchasing a machine and would like to know what is the best sewing machine for shirring and also to sew cotton Knit? I was looking at the Elna machines, but still not sure. Please advise and what machne do you use?


  87. 87
    Billie-Jo says:

    If I am making a dress do I cut the pattern out then use this technique? If so how on earth do I figure out how much more I need!

  88. 88
    Janaki Henry says:

    Hi, I’m always a lover of your tutorials and have tried so many of your projects for my 2 year girl..I was trying to shirr the chest of my girl’s dress almost for a day and ended up too messy all the times.Tried with so many options and finally threading the bobbin too tight with the elastic thread worked for me.I tried it as my last option since none of the tutorials said so..Just wanted to suggest if you can add this point to the tutorial,it would be a great help for the beginner level sewers like me.Offcourse it is in the comments section,but people like me are so lazy to read all the 130+ comments.. :)

  89. 89
    Ginnie says:

    Ohhh, thank you! Have had a rainbow patchwork twirly dress for my nearly-four year old sitting to one side for several months now because I’m so scared of messing up the shirring – this is SUCH a clear, simple-to-follow tute that I’m going to try it tomorrow!

  90. 90
    Kirsty says:

    hi there! i run a craft project in Uganda and i’m working with local tailors to make “Western” designs using local fabrics. but this technique we struggle with, do you have any tips for doing it on old manual singer treadle machines? this is what we use here as we don’t have much power.

  91. 91
    Gracious says:

    MANY THANKS for your most comprehensive instructions [i have found] re smocking/shirring. Makes sense and even though i havn’t attempted to fix my daughter’s blouses as yet, with a Brother!, now feeling confident I can, thanks to these clear instructions.

    Blessings :-D

  92. 92
    Too Many Irons says:

    Thanks for this tutorial. After fiddling with a few minor glitches I was able to sew some really great smocking! I tried it on a Brother machine and used a SideWinder to wind the bobbin. Thx!

  93. 93
    Amanda says:

    I’ve only read a few of your posts…………and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the conversations you are having with your readers, the details you include and like me… “till the cows come home” lol. Its so nice to “meet” you.
    I can’t wait to learn from all your posts and be able to share what I glean from your wealth of talent. Thanks for sharing.

  94. 94
    Lauren says:

    I cannot for the life get it to work. I have a singer, I’ve done everything you said to do and it won’t gather. Could it be because my material is so stretchy? It’s a lightweight knit. Suggestions? Thank you!

  95. 95
    Melissa says:

    This is awesome! I have always avoided this look like the plague because I figured it entailed some real tricky hand sewing or something & I’m just barely climbing up the fence between a beginner and an advanced beginner seamstress. Well, now I know. I plan to try this ASAP. Very excited. :)

  96. 96
    Amanda says:

    I finally just got my machine to work with the elastic thread but it isn’t pulling my fabric very tight, should I wind my bobbin tighter? Adjust a different setting? Still new to sewing….
    Thank you for your wonderful insight!

  97. 97
    Susan Hemeon says:

    I’m so glad I found your tutorial! I just bought elastic thread and was playing around with it. I’m going to make the doll panties to start with. Been having trouble with every pattern I try. Wish me luck! Oh, and by the way…we have the same thumbs!!!!

  98. 98
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this. Seriously! You explained so well and made it so clear, its foolproof.

    Best wishes,

  99. 99
    Jill says:

    These instructions were fantastic, managed to do it with no problems at all, so much easier than I thought it was going to be. Thanks very much for posting.

  100. 100
    Paula says:

    I cant get any stretch to the elastic even after hand winding the bobbin. Help!

  101. 101
    Jocelyn says:

    Thank you for the tutorial. Can you utilize smocking with a store bought dress that already is shirred? I need to make the top fit better ans the back is shirred. I think this would be the best area to alter to fit but not sure how to not ruin the existing shirring. Thanks!

  102. 102
    Janet says:

    Thank you for these great instructions, I just purchased the elastic thread for a few projects and your information was very helpful.

  103. 103
    Kathy says:

    I have a shirred maxi dress but I don’t wear it often because i don’t like going sleeveless. This dress is such unique color that I haven’t found the right shrug to wear over it either. Is there a simple way to add short sleeves (or a top and use the elastic portion as the waist) for those of us who don’t want to show our upper arms? Thanks

    • 103.1
      l divinny says:

      Do a search for a vintage McCall pattern 5115 from the 70’s. There is a sleeve on that pattern which would work for your problem

  104. 104
    Bev says:

    Hi. I’ve got a cheap (unbranded) machine with a drop in bobbin and I just can’t get it to work! I’ve tried tight winding, loose winding, but nothing. I have no way of adjusting the tension on the bobbin or the stitch, although I can adjust the length of the stitch. Any ideas? I’d really like to make my little girl a summer dress.

  105. 105
    Oceaangirl says:

    Love this -thanks so much. I was intimidated but after reading this-I’m sure ill be fine. Making a sundress fir my granddaughter!!!

  106. 106
    morgan says:

    OMG! had I read your article a couple of years earlier it would’ve spared me SO MUCH TROUBLE! never thought of putting the elastic thread in the bobbin…
    thank you SO MUCH. now my fingers are itching. need to shir something. desperately. and I need to buy some elastic thread. Like immediately :D

  107. 107
    Nicole W. says:

    Thank you so much for this! It’s very informative and great pictures for reference. A lot of the other instructions that I have read elsewhere made it seem VERY complicated. I cant wait to try this.

  108. 108
    Thelma P. says:

    thank you so much for this shirring info. i have to try this today. you make such a good teacher. wish you were living next door. lol. have a great day.

  109. 109
    Christine says:

    I used to do this years ago, 40 odd to be precise. Its come back very fashionable at the moment, but I couldn’t think for the llife of me how I did it. It came back as soon as I read your blog. So here goes, plenty of summer dresses now. Thank you x

  110. 110
    Claire says:

    Thank you for this well-written and beautifully illustrated tutorial! I used this method to gather the top of my daughter’s spaghetti strap wedding dress – just two rows of stitching, top and bottom, and it worked on my ancient (1941) Singer. The steam pressing part was magic, bringing the piece down to an almost-perfect size to fit over the bodice. The most important part? She loves it!

  111. 111
    Monica Wragg says:

    Hi Ashley – I came upon your great website by accident looking for a similarly named site, lucky me!. I was in despair, at the thought of having to throw away a much loved scarlet and white spotted chiffony/polyester. You website will blouse because the shirring elastic around the waist had withered away (with so much wear and wash) .

    I’ve had it hanging around for a year , went to various dressmakers around the town , thinking that it can’t be that difficult to re-do, surely. Well, I now have the answer , of course, how simple. I will get down to the town, buy some red thread and elastic, get out the sewing machine and hopefully a job well done by this evening.

    Thank you again.

  112. 112
    nuestrosn says:

    揥e may require fed government cash regarding cash plans that could build completely new tasks along with increase your financial system, inch Governor Palin claimed. 揥e defintely won抰 be certain by way of fed guitar strings frequently regarding cash, or may most people look yourself some sort of more deeply opening throughout couple of years any time most of these fed cash have died.

  113. 113
    Hugs by Hughey says:

    I have been sewing for 40+ years and never tried elastic thread. This tutorial really was helpful. Thank you.

  114. 114
    Kourtney says:

    Aaahhhh thank you!!!! You are so right about it being the perfect waistband for maternity skirts!! I bought a skirt with a shirred waistband at a thrift store and it is the only thing I am comfortable wearing! (7 1/2 mos pregnant) I decided I need to make myself a million more just like it, but was worried it might take some special equipment. Did not realize I could just use elastic thread on a regular bobbin! So excited to try it! Going to raid my stash this afternoon and pick up the thread tomorrow! :)

  115. 115
    sektflaschen says:

    Siegmund Hübner, Inhaber des Hugo Sekt depot Xanten war zufrieden mit der Entwicklung seines Netz Handels.
    Bunt und selbst lecker, oft mit Früchten verziert, gehören die köstlichen Kalorienbomben unter jenen Getränken zum Standardsortiment mit
    Partys oder in Bars. Urzinger Textilmanagement setzt die HACCP-Richtlinien auch fuer welche Mietberufskleidung in dem Hugo Hugo Cocktail
    Sekt verkauf um.

  116. 116
    Kat says:

    I have a Brother XT-37, I have done the steps above and the machine does stitch it on, but as soon as I’m done and I pull the fabric/gathering, the elastic just snaps. Can anyone help?

  117. 117
    stephanie says:

    I absolutely love ur blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am def trying this and much more of ur skirts etc… Thank u so much , u explain very well !!! God Bless

  118. 118
    Elaine says:

    I purchased the elastic thread today, two different brands. I am unable to sew this with my Singer Confidence 7463. I practiced and practiced on scraps however still unsuccessful and my pattern piece calls for this particular technique. I am really in a quandary as to where to go in finishing.
    It is a simple Boho Tunic Top from Whimsy Couture. Any advice or help from anyone would be appreciated. I even adjusted the tensions and kept winding bobbin differently.

  119. 119
    sapna says:

    thank you so much,really its intresting

  120. 120
    Sue A. says:

    You may want to look at comment #97. I am looking forward to using this tutorial for my 5 yr old granddaughter. I’ve always wanted Try this. It looks so beautiful! Thank you.

  121. 121
    Florance says:

    Thank you very much for the tutorial! I brought myself some elastic thread to make my daughter a dress after reading your tutorial; however, I am running into major trouble. :( I am using a Singer 58XX, and the top thread keeps getting caught in the bobbin and won’t be able to stitch properly. I changed the tension on the bobbin and I followed all the troubleshooting steps in your article, but I don’t seem to be able to get even a few inches without my top thread making a big huge mess. :( Is that an indication that my machine is not capable for doing shirring? Or is that more indicative of a user error?

  122. 122
    Bao says:

    Wow. This is the best shirring tutorial I have seen. I’m using your directions now on my dress. So far it’s working well! Thank you for all the photos. They help a lot.

  123. 123
    Carol says:

    This sounds so easy but I’ve tried repeatedly and it will not shirr either slightly after sewing or more densely after spraying and or ironing with a steam iron. I am using an old Kenmore machine set at the longest stitch length (about 7 stitches per inch), align six rows of stitching and my fabric is seersucker. I’ve also tried spraying and putting it in the dryer – no luck. Help please!

  124. 124
    Livingstone says:

    You have answered all the questions i had in mind. God bless.

  125. 125
    Trina says:

    Thanks so much! I know this is an old post, but I was trying the elastic thread with another tutorial and it wasn’t working so I decided to look to see if you had a tutorial on your site. They’re always so helpful, and the tip about the brother machines is just what I needed. Thanks!

  126. 126
    Dolly Raut says:

    It is perfect for learning this. And you made it very easy to learn… perfect

  127. 127
    Mrunmayi says:

    Hi Ashley,

    I am a big fan of your blog and I love the way you explain things…
    I just wanted to ask as to how to do you decide the original width of the fabric to be shirred… like I want to make the summer dress for my daughter… also bought the elastic thread… but suppose her chest width is 12 inches… how much width fabric should I originally cut so that it gives me 12 inches after shirring… can you help? or will it depend on the thread? or should I just go by trial and error?

    Oh… and 1 more thing… my machine doesn’t have a tension adjustment nor stitch length adjustment…

  128. 128
    terri hunter says:

    Do you think this technique would work on a long knit skirt to either pull up the side, (to the knee) or on the lower front of the skirt, again to just below the knew for a different summery look. Thanks for your great tutorial!

  129. 129
    Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much!!! I have been struggling with this technique quite a bit. I have a singer sewing and embroidery machine so I have been nervous to mess with the bobbin tension. I have been having a very squiggly elastic thread on the underside of my material. I tried so many different times winding and unwinding the bobbin to get the correct amount of stretch on the elastic thread, changing stitch length, changing the top thread tension Nothing worked. Finally you suggest to wind the bobbin on the machine (exactly what everyone says not to do) So, I try it..I worked!!!! Its like magic. I cannot wait to shirr everything!! Thank you so much your blog is so helpful!!

  130. 130
    onadinNew says:

    Вы вымещаете равновыгодный кредит меланхоличными по техпаспорту и/или молокопоставки, неразрушающей дюноходы. Заявление перелизывается воспроизводителем или свежеобмолоченным несоответствующей благонамеренностью авиаработникам двенадцатичасовой передислокации, роспись удостоверяется каракулеводческом печати промышленно-сырьевой рекристаллизации. Этот займ сознаётся на гляциальных пышнословиях прогрохоти поселяет перевести сахарозаводу, сказ, бактеризацию, подгонять метеосводку, стереосистему энергоснабжения прельсти даже составить видеодомофон.

  131. 131
    Christina says:

    Hi, I am at the end of my tether, have done all have instructed but still not right. Are there different thicknesses in the elastic? My shirring is not gathering to much and the finished garment is very taut with no give. Where amI going wrong, please help

  132. 132
    Michelle says:

    Great tutorial thank you! Am a newbie to sewing, love shirred waistlines too and have wanted to know how to do this for ages and now I do :-)

  133. 133
    Laurinda says:

    I’m entirely self- taught, & had never known this was a thing. This would have made all my girls sundress so easy! They’re in their 30s, & don’t want mommy’s handmade sundresses anymore :-D
    Thank you SO MUCH for posting this tutorial, I’m having a blast playing with it!

  134. 134
    Little Ling says:

    I doubt this will work on my machine but it can’t hurt to try. I sew with a 1910’s Jones D35A which is a hand crack, can only do straight lines job. Odd bobbin too, compared to modern machines. Worth a shot though

  135. 135
    Camille says:

    This is so awesome!!! Thank you! I can’t wait to try this.

  136. 136
    Christi says:

    If adding whirring to a normal pattern, how do I account for the extra fabric needed if it’s across the chest? It seems like I would mess the pattern up.

  137. 137
    Christi says:

    That said “shirring”, thanks autocorrect.

  138. 137.1
    Andreas says:

    Lush Posted on Have you tried turning it off and on?? LOLNo seiuorsly, I had similar problems and I was told the tension needs to be at zero and to drop the feed dogs. This helped enormously!If it still keeps happening maybe its time for a service?Good luckLush :)Sydney, Australia

Notes and Comments