3 Shirring Tutorials + Tips and Tricks

***First off, I know there are dozens of shirring tutorials out there, so thanks for even bothering with mine. I’ve tried to compile all the shirring information that I could find and what I have learned through trial and error. Please let me know if anything is confusing, or if you see something I’ve left out.***

I must have tried writing this up 5 different ways before realizing that it was all too much info. So I’ve decided to break it up over a few posts. Today I’ll explain how to work with elastic thread and 3 options for assembling your garment. Then over the next few days I’ll show you how to use the steps from today to make a toddler skirt, a toddler top/dress, and a skirt for you! So, let’s get started!

Supplies you’ll need:

Elastic Thread
Regular Thread
(I’ll just be using cotton today, but we’ll get into knits another day.)

**Note – This is only the practice info. I’m working with scraps because we aren’t making anything just now**

Here we go… Click on any picture to enlarge it.


This one starts with 2 rectangles of fabric. Gather each piece separately with rows of elastic thread and then sew them together at the sides.

Here are my 2 strips of fabric hemmed and ready to go.

 Grab your elastic thread and wind it around a bobbin by hand. You don’t want to stretch it while you do this, but keep it taunt.

Thread your machine with standard thread on the top and the elastic in the bobbin case. Then lengthen your stitch. I use 4 (my longest stitch) but I don’t change my tension. This is different for each machine. You may have to play with the tension to get it just right.

Now you simply start sewing. It’s that easy!

Line your fabric up and stitch across to the other side. Cut both threads (leaving a bit of a tail) and go back to the beginning.

 (front and back views)

Line the edge of your presser foot up with your first row of stitches and sew across again. Repeat as many times as you like. (You can make any distance you desire between rows, but the presser edge is pretty standard.)

Once you have the elastic attached to both pieces of fabric, place them right sides together (change back to regular thread in the bobbin) and sew each end. Use your surger, or zig zag the ends to keep everything neat and in place.

Go ahead and ignore the zig-zag in this picture. Not sure what i was doing there.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t look so scrunch-y at first. Hit it with some steam from your iron, and it will shrink up. After it goes through the laundry, it will be even better.


This is a simplified version of option A. It can be done with one or two pieces of fabric, and is a good choice if you aren’t 100% sure what size you need. (Like when the baby is napping and you still want to get something done!)

For this demo I’m using 2 pieces of fabric. Place the pieces right sides together and sew one of the side seams with standard thread. Press the seam open. (You can hem at this point if you like. See tips at the bottom of the page for easy hemming options.)

Thread your machine with the elastic thread and stitch rows from one end to the other on your (now) single strip of fabric. (See option A)

Sew the other side seam with regular thread and you’re done. Ta Da, easier right!


The last version uses a spiral row of stitching. This is probably the simplest, and can also be done with one long or 2 shorter pieces of fabric sewn together. For this demo I’m using one long strip.(I used this option in a video tutorial here.)

Sew the short ends together to form a tube of fabric. Now is the easiest time (for me at least) to finish the edges.

When your tube is ready, thread your machine with the elastic and line up your presser foot.

Stitch the first row around and when you come to the beginning angle your line of stitches down until you form a second parallel row. Continue spiraling around until you reach your desired length. Backstitch and clip the threads.

The end result is the same regardless of the option you choose though the “insides” may look different. In my opinion, there isn’t really a reason to use Option A once you know how to do the other 2. I used it on the pink toddler dress when I first tried elastic thread, and it just seems a lot more work. (I’m not lazy, it’s just that naptime is short!)

**WARNING – I cannot be held accountable if you become completely obsessed and begin shirring everything in sight. (though you can join my support group ; )**

In all honesty, you will think of dozens of ways to use this technique. So here are a few tips to make your projects go more smoothly:

– It is next to impossible to finish any edge close to the shirring after you add the elastic thread, but if you sew it first then the side seam doesn’t turn out as clean looking. To fix this problem, finish the edge starting and ending 2 inches before the end of the fabric. Then after you stitch your side seam, fold down and finish those last 4 inches. Now there’s nothing loose or scratchy sticking out. (Pics of this in the skirt tutorial)

– If you would like a greater distance between your rows of elastic, draw lines on your fabric before hand with a water/air soluble pen.

– If you run out of elastic half way through a row, pull out the last few stitches until you have a good sized tail. Re-thread and put the needle down in the last stitch and sew to the end. Go back and pull the threads to the back of the fabric. Knot the regular threads and elastic threads together respectively.

– Save small leftover pieces of elastic to use for button loops when your machine is being dumb you don’t feel like making buttonholes.

I’m sure there are more tips I have forgotten, and I will add them as I remember. Thank you so much for sticking it out and making it all the way to the bottom of this ridiculously long post. I really hope you learned something and it wasn’t just a huge waste of time. lol

And, for those of you who just kept scrolling hoping to find the instructions for the ladybug skirt, go back and read the above directions so you are ready when I post the specifics about fabric size, row width, hem length, etc. tomorrow.

Thanks for Visiting!

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6 thoughts on “3 Shirring Tutorials + Tips and Tricks

  1. I'm always afraid the elastic is not going to hold tight at the ends of the stitching line (using the first method). Have you ever had any trouble with it coming loose? Or am I just being paranoid for no reason? LOL

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