How to Sew Shirring Elastic? (Steps & Tips)

Last Updated on June 10, 2023

Learn How to Sew Shirring Elastic: Welcome back to TheSewingStuffs! Today, we’ll dive into the world of shirring and explore how you can incorporate this trendy sewing technique into your garments. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced sewist, I’ll share all the steps and my top five tips for successful shirring.

How to Sew Shirring Elastic

Can you shirr on a regular sewing machine?

Yes, you can shirr on a regular sewing machine. Shirring is a sewing technique where parallel rows of gathering stitches are sewn to create a stretchy and decorative effect on the fabric. While shirring is often associated with specialized shirring machines, it is possible to achieve shirring using a regular sewing machine.

How to sew shirring elastic?

Here in this guide, we will learn the technique of sewing shirring elastic to create fun and cool summer tops. Shirring is a simple and fast way to make stylish clothes, using just a band of elastic and elastic thread.


  • Fabric (1.5 times the bust measurement)
  • Quarter-inch knit elastic (5 inches shorter than the high bust measurement)
  • Elastic thread

Steps To Follow

Let’s started the steps!

Step 1: Making the Elastic Casing

Making the Elastic Casing
  • Fold the raw edge of the fabric under by at least a quarter of an inch and press it.
  • Fold the fabric again by half an inch and press it.
  • Secure the folded fabric in place along the fold line.

Step 2: Preparing the Elastic Thread

Preparing the Elastic Thread
  • Take an empty bobbin and wrap the elastic thread around it, making sure it’s neither too tight nor too loose.
  • Ensure that the elastic thread is wrapped neatly to ensure smooth feeding.
  • This process may take some time, but it’s worth it for the results you’ll achieve.

Step 3: Sewing the Shirring Elastic

Sew Shirring Elastic
  • Place the bobbin with the elastic thread in your sewing machine.
  • Manually pull the elastic thread up through the needle plate to the top of the machine.
  • Use the side of your presser foot as a guide for spacing the elastic lines.
  • Sew the elastic lines parallel to each other, keeping them as straight as possible.
  • For the average woman, sew about 20 lines. Increase to 25 for a larger bust, or decrease to 15 for a smaller bust. Adjust accordingly for sewing for children.
  • Precision is not essential, as the gathering will hide any irregularities.
  • If your bobbin or elastic thread runs out, simply start sewing from where you left off.
  • If the elastic thread runs out in the middle of a line, knot the elastic thread on the opposite side of the fabric for added security.

Step 4: Attaching the Elastic

Attaching the Elastic - Sew Shirring Elastic
  • Attach a safety pin to one end of the quarter-inch elastic.
  • Thread the elastic through the casing, allowing the tails to hang out slightly.
  • Use a zigzag stitch to secure the ends of the elastic in place.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches - Sew Shirring Elastic
  • Use the same zigzag stitch to sew along the raw edges of the fabric, enclosing them.
  • Sew the center-back seam together with a half-inch seam allowance.
  • To gather the garment further, use the steam setting on your iron to shrink the elastic. Hover the iron over the fabric and move it back and forth.
  • Hem the bottom of your garment.

Top 5 Tips for Shirring

There you have it—my top five tips for mastering the art of shirring.

  1. Always Test: Tip number one is a golden rule in sewing—always test! Before diving into your main project, take the time to practice shirring on a scrap piece of fabric. This will help you familiarize yourself with the technique and make any necessary adjustments to your sewing machine settings. Testing will ensure that you achieve the desired gathering effect without any surprises on your final garment.
  2. Consider Elastic Channels: If you’re planning to create a strapless dress or a skirt that relies solely on shirring elastic to hold it up, consider incorporating elastic channels. By adding a channel, you can insert a separate elastic band that provides additional support and prevents the shirring from slipping down throughout the day. Choose a suitable width elastic, such as half-inch, quarter-inch, or three-quarter-inch, to keep your garment securely in place.
  3. Check Bobbin Thread: In an ideal world, you want to avoid running out of bobbin thread midway through a shirring row. However, if it happens, don’t panic! Simply stitch over the previous row of stitches for an inch or two to ensure a secure connection. This prevents the shirring from unraveling and maintains its gathered effect. Keep an eye on your bobbin thread to prevent any unexpected interruptions during the shirring process.
  4. Embrace French Seams: When working with shirring, it’s advisable to use French seams whenever possible. French seams enclose the shirring elastic within two layers of fabric, providing extra durability and reducing the chances of the elastic coming loose over time. This technique ensures that your shirred garments withstand regular wear and tear, making them more reliable in the long run.
  5. Let Go of Perfectionism: Remember, shirring doesn’t need to be perfect! While the back of the shirring may appear wobbly or uneven, when the fabric is gathered together on the front, it creates a beautiful and unique effect. Don’t be afraid to embrace imperfections and trust in the magic of shirring. It adds a touch of elegance and texture to your garments that can’t be replicated with other techniques.

FAQ – People Also Ask

To further help, here are some answers to questions you may have about Sew Shirring Elastic.

What stitch for elastic thread?

The stitch used for sewing elastic thread is a zigzag stitch. You should use a zigzag stitch to secure the elastic ends in place. Also, a zigzag stitch should be used to sew along the raw edges of the fabric.

Do I need a special needle to sew elastic?

Yes, you will need a special needle to sew elastic. Using a stretch needle designed explicitly for stitching with elastic is recommended. These needles have a rounded point that allows them to penetrate between the fabric threads rather than piercing them.

A stretch needle’s slightly less rounded point is ideal for sewing elastic, as it helps prevent skipped stitches. Avoid using ballpoint needles for elastic, as they may cause skipped stitches.

What size needle do you use to sew elastic?

To sew elastic on light lycra or elasticized fabrics, you would typically use a stretch needle in size 75 (also known as size 11). Stretch needles are designed specifically for sewing stretchy fabrics like lycra and fabrics with elastic.

They have a special point and slightly rounded tip to prevent skipped stitches and fabric damage while sewing. A size 75 (11) stretch needle would be appropriate for sewing elastic on such fabrics.

What tension should I use for elastic thread?

With elastic thread, stretching it between 3% to 8% is recommended. However, using 8% stretch is considered a bit extreme and is usually reserved for smaller parts of a garment. The reason behind this is that the more you stretch the elastic, the more stitches you are putting on that particular space of elastic, which can affect its durability and overall performance.

Therefore, it is advisable to experiment within the 3% to 8% range to find the best tension for your specific project, considering the potential trade-offs between stretch and stitch density.

Can you use normal thread for shirring?

Yes, you can use normal sewing thread for shirring. Shirring is a sewing technique that involves creating gathers or elasticized sections in fabric. While shirring elastic is commonly used in the bobbin of a sewing machine for this technique, it is also possible to achieve shirring using regular thread as the top thread.

How do you sew elastic thread by hand? (Video)

Can you sew with elastic thread?

Yes, you can sew with elastic thread. Elastic thread is used in shirring, a gathering technique that provides the fabric with stretch. To sew with elastic thread, you need to hand wind the bobbin with the elastic thread, ensuring not to stretch it.

Load the elastic thread bobbin into your sewing machine. Pull out a few inches of elastic when starting to prevent it from getting pulled back into the bobbin.

The fabric width for shirring can be estimated by multiplying the desired width by 1.3 for a thinner elastic thread or 1.8 for a heavier elastic thread. Draw guidelines on the fabric for the rows of shirring.

Set your stitch length to four and increase the machine tension if needed. Backstitch at the beginning and sew in a maze-like fashion from row to row. Secure the ends of each row with stay stitching.

How do you attach elastic to fabric without sewing?

To attach elastic to fabric without sewing, you can use either fabric glue or a fusible bonding tape like Dritz Stitch Witchery. These methods are ideal when you need access to a sewing machine or prefer not to sew.

Fabric glue is a suitable option for attaching elastic to the fabric. Begin by measuring and cutting the elastic to the desired length. Apply a thin, even layer of fabric glue along the edge of the elastic attached to the fabric. Press the elastic onto the fabric firmly, ensuring it adheres evenly. Allow the glue to dry according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer before handling or wearing the fabric.

Another alternative is to use a fusible bonding tape like Dritz Stitch Witchery. Cut the elastic to the required length and position it on the fabric where you want it to be attached. Cut a piece of Stitch Witchery that matches the length of the elastic. Place the bonding tape between the elastic and the fabric, sandwiching it in between.

Use a hot iron (following the instructions provided by the manufacturer) to apply heat and pressure, which will melt the bonding tape and fuse the elastic to the fabric. Allow the fabric to cool and set before using or wearing it.

Why is my elastic thread not working?

If your elastic thread is not working, there could be several reasons for it based on the information provided. Here are some possible explanations:

  • Bobbin is too full: Check if your bobbin is filled with excessive elastic thread. If the bobbin is too full, it can cause the thread to tangle or not feed properly through the machine. Try removing some thread from the bobbin and see if that improves the performance.
  • Incorrect threading: Ensure that you have threaded your sewing machine correctly. Re-threading the machine following the manufacturer’s instructions can help eliminate any threading errors affecting the elastic thread’s functionality.
  • Tension issues: Check the tension settings on your sewing machine, including the upper and lower thread tensions. If the tension is too tight or too loose, it can affect the elastic thread’s ability to stretch and create the desired effect. Make sure the tension is adjusted appropriately for working with elastic thread.
  • Stitch length and settings: Verify that you haven’t unintentionally adjusted the stitch length or made any other changes to the machine settings while trying to work with the elastic thread. Incorrect settings can lead to issues such as skipped stitches or thread breakage. Ensure that the settings are suitable for sewing with elastic thread.

Why does my thread keep breaking when sewing elastic?

Your thread may be breaking while sewing elastic due to several reasons. Check if your needle is the correct size and properly installed, ensure that your tension is set correctly, and confirm that your spool of thread is installed and threaded correctly.


I hope these tips and steps have inspired you to explore this versatile sewing technique and incorporate it into your projects. Don’t forget to share your own shirring experiences and tips in the comments below.  

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