How to Do Shirring on the Sewing Machine

By Virginia Watson
Shirring on a sewing machine is a quick way to add texture to garments.

Shirring produces a gathered look on fabric through evenly spaced rows of straight stitching. In the past, shirring has been created by pulling threads taut and evenly distributing the gathers across a piece of fabric; however, the process has become much easier with elastic thread and sewing machines. When shirred, your fabric will be approximately half the width it was when you cut it, so make sure you have provided enough fabric allowance to complete the shirring. This is an easy project for most seamstresses at an intermediate to advanced level.

Mark the fabric where you want the shirring. The shirring lines will generally be about a half inch apart. Use the ruler for the most accurate placement and the tailor’s chalk to draw the lines. Draw as many lines as you desire for the shirring.

Wind your bobbins with elastic thread. While most bobbin winding is done by your sewing machine, you’ll need to wind the bobbin by hand, as the automatic winder will stretch the thread too much. Insert the bobbing after you have wound it into your sewing machine. Use your normal sewing thread in the top part of the machine.

Practice shirring and move on to your full project. Use a scrap of fabric to test the tension of the threads and the shirring technique. When you are satisfied with the results, move on to your project’s fabric. With the right side of your fabric facing up, begin sewing the line closest to the edge of the fabric.

Move to the next line of tailor’s chalk. When you have finished the first line, move the fabric, without cutting any of the threads, to the next line of tailor’s chalk that you drew. You will need to stretch out the fabric as you sew, so that the shirring is approximately the same width across each line. The shirring will get increasingly gathered as you sew each line. Clip your threads when you have completed sewing over each line

About the Author

Based in New York City, Virginia Watson has been writing and editing professionally since 2004. Her work has appeared in magazines including "The Roanoker Magazine," "Blue Ridge Country," "Pinnacle Living" and the award-winning "Virginia State Travel Guide." Watson holds a Master of Arts in philosophy of education from Virginia Polytechnic and State University.