Friday, June 21, 2013

Shirring Fun 101

Making my Staple Dress recently I finally had reason to bite the bullet and try out sewing with shirring elastic in my sewing machine bobbin.

 Don't ask me why I've put off doing it until now, why this has seemed like such a scary sewing thing to do with my machine. 
Prior to the Staple dress I've been using the much more time consuming technique of narrow elastic and a small zig zag stitch for anything that required a "shirred" effect (like in this strapless dress I made way back in 2009), painstakingly marking stitch lines with chalk and pinning the elastic to the lines at regular intervals. 
Amazing what having a lot less free sewing time can do (hello motherhood!). 
The information April Rhodes gives for shirring in her pattern instructions are excellent.  If for some reason the first method for shirring doesn't work with your machine she offers up alternative techniques/method to use.
Luckily my Janome seemed pretty happy with the first variation of shirring given, that is sewing with shirring elastic wound loosely (by hand )onto your machine bobbin:

Hand wound shirring elastic on bobbin
Even though its hard to tell this is reasonably loosely wound- the aim is not to stretch the elastic as you wind it on, otherwise it will end up overstretched when sewing and your resulting shirred fabric wont have much stretch.

Threaded up and ready to shirr!

As this was my first time machine shirring it took a bit of getting used to the feel of sewing with the elastic. I'm not 100% sure if it should feel this way but sometimes it really felt like the machine was fighting against the elastic in the bobbin.

Also I managed to accidently wind on some very old- and deteriorated- shirring elastic that I had lying around by mistake. I figured what had happened after I had tried on the dress for fit and the two lines of shirring sewn with old elastic "popped" instead of stretching! I chucked out the yucky old elastic and resewed over the popped lines, but they just didn't end up as neat as the others that were sewn with new elastic. 
Lesson learnt :( 
"Popped" stitches in the middle

Resewn rows from back (extra elastic visable)

Also maybe it was the slight bulk of the fabric but sewing over the side seams also created a few abnormalites in the shirring:

Widely spaced shirring over side seam bulk

I'm wondering if maybe next time I would be better off sewing the shirring lines accross the front and back before sewing up the side seams to avoid this. Only thing would be making sure that the shirr lines matched at each side, which might require careful marking *sigh*.
Once the dress is on the rest of the shirring stretches out and the side seam spacing is much less noticable, so my other option may just be to learn to live with it.... especially if next time I make it with a less bulky fabric.

 Finally you can tell I'm no shirring expert as the inside of my dress looks a tad messy:
But it has survived three washes so far and is still behaving like shirring should, so I can't be too unhappy with my first attempt ;)

The elastic that I used time was just some generic sewing elastic I picked up at Spotlight on a whim. Since buying it I have read up online and apparently some elastics shirr better than others. One brand in particular I've heard good thing about is Stretchrite. I'm hoping that I might find it in stock at a local sewing shop here once the generic stuff runs out, but if not it it seems to be plentifully avaiable on the internet- one way or another I'll get my hands on some! 

Til next time...

Happy Sewing (and may all your shirring be evenly spaced)!


Kate x


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