help please.. any sewing people out there?

ok so i just bought my first sewing machine a couple days ago. i made a shirred shirt and it turned out great. i know alot of sites say to hand wind the elastic thread but no matter what i did to my tension it just would not shir. so i wound it with the machine and set my tension to like 6 or something and the shirt turned out perfect.... so .. now to my question... i'm having a hard time shirring this type of fabric.. its that shiny stuff that alot of prom dresses are made out of...well i'm trying to shir it and it wont do it.. i practiced a bunch on some scrap material it gets a little bunched up but when i pull it it just about straightens out... i retried hand winding the bobbin and re-ajusting my tension to just about all the different settings.. i don't know whats wrong.. is it the type of material?... do i need to use actual elastic bands to get it to bunch up the right way or what?... thank you so much for any help....btw the sewing machine is a "brother" for beginners..

3 Answers

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Some fabrics won't shirr. I'm not sure what your shiny fabric is, but if it's heavily sequinned, for instance, forget it. Other fabrics will shirr with elastic thread, but you may need many, many rows of elastic thread to accomplish this. Have you tried steaming the fabric after you've got your elastic thread sewn in? That should help it gather up. Generally, the thinner and more pliable the fabric is, the better elastic thread shirring will do.

    IMO, elastic thread shirring is one of the biggest pains to do, and often not very successful. Other methods include couching elastic cord or doll elastic (zigzag over the cord with plain thread, top and bobbin, and then pull up and adjust the cord length to suit; stitching through clear elastic or narrow elastic while the elastic is stretched, direct application of a wider elastic, or elastic in casing.

    If the shirring doesn't have to be elastic, a drawcord or a ribbon in casing works very well, with the bonus that you can undo the cord or ribbon and press the garment without the gathering after laundering, and then draw the cord/ribbon up again to shirr. And of course, there's basic gathering, like you might do to a dirndl skirt to attach it to a waistband.

    There are other ways of doing the same thing, too, and often the way to decide which technique works is to save the scraps of fabric and try several methods to see which one gives you the effect you like with this particular fabric.

    May I suggest a book for you? Bednar and Pugh-Gannon's Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques is a compendium of different methods. It's a handy thing to have on your shelf when the way you first try to do something isn't working. The old Reader's Digest sewing book ( ) which has several editions with slightly varying titles, dating back to the 1970s, is another good choice, though not so specifically techniques oriented as Bednar & Pugh-Gannon.

    And on the off-chance you're somewhere close to the Seattle area, the largest US sewing show takes place at the end of February or beginning of March each year -- that's another really good place to learn techniques and see all sorts of interesting things. Website is The actual show

    is in the fairgrounds at Puyallup, WA; usually about 35000 people attend during the four days of the show.

    If that's at all a possibility for you, there's a yahoo group called "PuyallupSewExpo" ( ) where we make plans to attend, tell folks from other areas what sort of weather to expect and what to wear, etc. There are smaller shows around the US, but this one is one of the friendliest, cheapest to attend classes at, and totally visually overwhelming. <g>

    Source(s): 50 years of sewing
  • 9 years ago

    I hand wind the bobbin with elastic "thread" and lengthen the top stitch.

    If the fabric is sheer, there may be too much pressure on the presser foot. Check the manual for your machine to see if there is an adjustment for presser foot pressure.

    If not try laying tissue paper (like wrapping tissue) next to the feed dogs and make a test sample using the fashion fabric you want shirred. The tissue will easily tear away when you are finished.

  • 9 years ago

    It sounds like you are on the right track. Here is what eHow had to say..

    and another..

    I have been sewing for 50 + years and I haven't tried this. Part of your problem may be that you are using too heavy a fabric. Satins can be super heavy, be sure to choose a lighter weight satin if you want to shirr it.

    Hope this helped

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