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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shirring and Troubleshooting

Shirring is when you use elastic thread as the bobbin’s thread.

I love the look of a shirred garment. Just love it. And after seeing this tutorial for a shirred bottom too-big shirt, I knew the perfect shirt in my closet that needed this alteration.

And I achieved the desired alteration to my shirt. However, I had many terrible problems.
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I tried and tried to shirr with my elastic thread. I cried at one point because of all the problems I had on my quest to create a shirred bottom.

I found tons of sites explaining how to shirr, so I’m not going to bother with a tutorial on that. But I didn’t find anyone really showing me pictures of problems they had while trying to shirr, so I’m going to show you what my problems were and how I solved them.

Here is a picture of my problem. (This is the back of the fabric.) See how the elastic thread was all sqiggly? And not stretchy? That is the problem.  I ripped out almost an entire spool of elastic thread after 3-4 seams around the bottom of the shirt looked like this.
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I was so mad.

I thought that maybe increasing the tension on my machine and decreasing the stitch length would help with the tension problem.

Nope. Still unsuccessful.
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Finally, I read [for what felt like the 15th time] that people with a “Brother” brand sewing machine with a drop-in bobbin have to do something with the tension on their bobbin to shirr properly. Now, I don’t have a Brother machine and I don’t know what type of bobbin I have. But I finally gave in and watched this instructional video.

I normally hate watching videos on the computer. I don’t know why. I guess I am just a trial-and-error person. But I was having too many errors and gave in! So watch this video.


I am SO glad I watched it!! I learned a lot. Including how to keep regular thread from being wiggly on the back of normal sewing projects.

I was finally able to turn out a row of straight elastic thread. And shirring takes way less elastic thread when it has the proper tension holding it under the bobbin.

correct shirring

I do not have a Brother brand machine. I have a Kenmore. But here are my tips if you have had any trouble shirring:

1. I am the queen of cutting corners. Of not paying attention to detail. So when I sew, I often don’t take the time to tuck the bobbin thread underneath my ‘bobbin tension creator-thingie’. (That is not a technical term.) Here is a picture of what you should do:IMG_5896.1
2. Before placing fabric under the presser foot, take a few stitches by turning the wheel of the sewing machine. This will ensure that the bobbin thread comes through the little hole under the presser foot and avoid tangling.
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3. You may have to increase the tension on the bobbin. This sounds hard, but is simple. There is a screw on the bobbin case. Just turn it to the right until you can’t turn it any more. IMG_5854

And by doing these three [seemingly] technical steps, I was able to achieve perfect shirring! I was so excited.


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This is the before picture. (My mom had gotten this shirt for me and lost the receipt to return it. It was too big and a little shapeless.) But three rows of shirring made me love it!
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So I’d like to say “Thank you” to Ashley of Make it and Love It. I now love my once too-big shirt.
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And a big, big thank you to this blog for helping me gain the skills I needed to shirr many future garments.

25 comments:

  1. The shirt looks terrific - elastic thread has always scared me but you've given me a bit of confidence!

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    1. I have had so many screw-ups with elastic thread yet seen so many cute, CUTE garments made with it that I just had to try one more time...and then one MORE time...so give it a shot! It's worth it.

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  2. OMGosh, you have read my mind with this post! My shirring looks just like yours on the backside and I was lost. I am so nervous about messing with my tension though (we have a love/hate realtionship). I'll have to try the bobbin tension though. I have a Brother machine so I'll have to see where mine's at. There are like four shirts I want to do this with, lol!

    Visiting from House of Heps and now your newest follower!

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    1. Welcome and thanks for following! I think the Brother brand machines are very similar to my Kenmore, so hopefully this is helpful for your shirring projects!

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  3. What a great idea! I have several shirts that I need to alter just like this because they're too big! Thanks for saving me lots of trial and error.

    I'd love for you to share it at my link party, Off the Hook:
    http://daisycottagedesigns.blogspot.com/2012/05/off-hook-3.html

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  4. Oh man, I love that shirt; it looks great with the shirring! I have a shirt that was shirred when I bought it, but the little elastic thread snapped so now half of it is droopy :-( I figured that was it but you've totally inspired me to try fixing it! I have a brand new link party going on right now and I'd be thrilled if you'd share this over there so everyone else can be inspired too!

    http://practicallyfunctional.net/2012/05/the-fun-in-functional-link-party-1/

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    1. Thanks for linking up, I'm so happy you shared this!

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  5. Awesome project and great tips! Your after top looks really nice on you. If you're looking for another place to share your creative ideas, stop by Etcetorize (http://etcetorize.blogspot.com). Party starts later tonight and I'd love to see you there!

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  6. great up-cycling project! and thanks for the tips as to what NOT to do, that's very helpful!

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    1. Glad it is helpful! I was so frustrated when I couldn't find pictures of what not to do or what incorrect shirring looked like...thx for reading.

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  7. Great tutorial. I have a brother machine and I too have had the same woes you faced. My bobbin screw is not as easy to get to as yours so I'm just going to have to take apart my machine and just do tons of shirring projects! lol. Btw... I featured you on Sew Woodsy today!

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  8. TFS!! I love up-cyling clothes. Stopping by from Sew Can Do's linky party and a follwoer. Here is what I shared: http://craftybrooklynarmywife.blogspot.ca/2012/06/kids-roll-up-nap-blanket.html

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  9. Nice. I tend to go for shirts with shirring at the bottom.

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  10. Thanks for linking with me on Wow us Wednesday!

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  11. My shirring isn't tight! And I have my stitch length set high... Any advise is appreciated!

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    1. If it looks like mine in the blog post (the picture with the loopy elastic thread) it is a bobbin tension problem. Try tucking the elastic thread into the bobbin again. Or try increasing the tension like I did with the screw on your bobbin.

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  12. Thank you so much! I'd been struggling for ages to get further than 2 inches of shirring done without the top thread snapping or the bobbin getting tangled. I followed your tips and was happily surprised they worked! I'd looked at so many sewing blogs etc and youre was the only one that helped!

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  13. Thank you soooo much! This helped wonderfully! I was in tears trying to make this dress. Truly brilliant!

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  14. Did anyone have the problem where the top/bottom edge of the shirring curled over? no amount of ironing is keeping mine flat and it's at the bottom of a top...so it looks pretty dumb!

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  15. Thank you so much for this post. I was half way through a project and started having problems. Spent hours rewinding bobbin, taking apart bobbin compartment and cleaning, changing needles, adjusting tension and stitch length multiple times - before giving up decided to google my problem and your solution came up! Did not have to adjust tension on the bobbin itself, just followed your instruction to make certain elastic thread was securely installed into the bobbin and manually pulled through using the needle. Success! I can't thank you enough - you saved my sanity and my project which was a gift!

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  16. This post is more than four years old but you just saved me SO MUCH aggravation! Thank you!

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  17. Putting the thread in the bobbin tension slot saved me from giving up on Shirring.

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