Ignoring the fact that it snowed 8 inches over the weekend (it’s almost all melted anyway) Spring is here in Northern Minnesota. On my mind lately have been a lot of summer outfits that I want to make up for the girls. I had just started sewing clothes about a year ago so I didn’t really make anything for the girls last summer. My skills were limited to baby pants and 90 minute shirts. So it’s exciting this summer being able to make the girls some seasonal outfits.
Shirring is something that seems so much more intimidating than it really is, and it’s a handy technique to know that can give new life to an otherwise boring top or dress.
I try to keep things simple and this dress was really quick and easy to make up once you get the basics of shirring down.
I have to admit I sort of chickened out on this tutorial, it’s not exactly a tutorial but more of a guideline. I am not good with patterns or following directions, I do a lot of winging it so I am a little hard to follow. I am lucky I have 3 girls because even if I mess up it will most likely end up fitting someone. But I will tell you what I did and what did and did not work for me.
I looked at a few other shirring tutorials that are posted online and they are all pretty similar.
Tips I found helpful:
Make sure you back-stitch at the beginning of your row
I did not adjust any tension or stitch length on my machine
Both hand winding and using my automatic bobbin winder worked for me. I have a top loading drop in bobbin
Make sure you will have enough bobbin elastic thread to get all the way around your top. You don’t want to run out half way around. When in doubt re-fill your bobbin.
You are most likely going to sew a lot more rows that you initially think you will need
The first couple rows may not look like it’s getting as shirred as you’d like but it will get more gathered with every row.
Practice on a scrap of fabric to get things perfected before you begin sewing on your final piece
Get Creative! Do some shirring on a peasant top sleeves instead of casing elastic, or shirr around pant legs for a fun effect or the waist of a dress that needs to be taken in.
Links to Shirring Tutorials;
Ruffles and Stuff
What I did-
I started with an 18 x 21 inch rectangle of fabric. This gives me a good size to use as a dress for Cameron (3 yrs old) or a top for Brooklyn (6 yrs old). You’ll also need ribbing or ribbon or coordinating/contrasting fabric for the straps. I had some ribbing that just happened to match perfectly that I used for the straps. And most importantly you’ll need elastic thread, along with your desired color sewing thread and a sewing machine. It all depends where you’re looking for elastic thread on how easy it is for you to find. When we lived in Arkansas I went to a few different sewing/craft stores like JoAnns, Micheals, and Hobby Lobby and they all thought I was crazy when I asked them where I could find the elastic thread. At JoAnns the lady tried to convince me that it didn’t exist and that I had no idea what I was talking about. But now in Minnesota I found it at our small town local drug store that has a very limited crafting section. So I hope you won’t have too much trouble finding any, it all depends where you live I guess.
-For my straps I happened to have some ribbing on hand that matched perfectly. I cut 1/2 inch strips the width of the entire fabric and braided them together. Braids are another thing that remind me of summer and I love the look braiding gives a top. I measured on Cameron to know how long to make the straps since every child is different. Or you can use a top that fits them well as a guide. The ribbing is stretchy so I had a lot of flexibility with my strap length and error a little on the short side.
– Using regular thread I sewed my rectangle of fabric, short ends together, front sides facing. You can serge your seam or go over it with a zig-zag stitch to keep it from fraying. Press and hem around the top of your tube of fabric and attach your straps to the top. I left the bottom hem for last so that I could adjust the length if I needed to. Find the center of your garment with the seam on the side so that it will be under the armpit and I placed my straps 5 1/2 inches apart on the front and back. I also crossed mine. (You could wait until after you’re done shirring to put your straps on also. If your straps are made from a little thicker fabric they might be difficult to shirr over and you should probably wait until after to attach them.)
– I hand wound my elastic thread on my bobbin without pulling too much o
n it. I also used my automatic bobbin winder on my machine and it worked great. With the automatic winder it only takes about 2 seconds to fill and it winds so much more thread on compared to hand winding. I will note I have a drop in bobbin on my machine, and I know others that have the side loading bobbin will probably have to stick with hand winding. But try it out and see what works for you.
– Now comes the shirring. I decided to shirr the top 3 1/2 inches of my dress. And to give myself a guideline I used a fabric marker to draw a reference line. You could also mark and sew a line around as a guide. Some people will mark out every row but I am better at eyeballing it with my sewing foot as a guide. Remember to back-stitch at the beginning, and sew on the right side of your fabric with the elastic thread on the backside of your fabric. I made my rows 1/4 of an inch apart but you can make them wider to your liking. I feel it hides the mistakes if they are closer together. Also, some tutorials have you put a small 1/2 in. band of elastic around the top of your garment and then begin your shirring. I didn’t use it this time because I like the little ruffle that forms at the top but with the elastic it will help keep things in place especially if you were making a shirred tube top.
-Lastly, hem the bottom if you haven’t already and you should be finished!
I hope this was helpful and be sure to send me a comment if you have any questions. I know I’ve said it before, but I really am a scatterbrain. I find myself assuming things in my mind and not describing them when I should be, so be sure to let me know if things don’t make sense.