Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ToolBox Tuesday: Elastic Thread

Alright, I am back and currently headache free :0)
I wanted to share one of my personal passions, Elastic Thread.
I LOVE the stuff.  It is simple to use, cheap {Just over $1 for enough for several projects}, and makes a HUGE difference on whatever you use it on.  

I buy mine from Joanns.  It looks just like this.  All you need for the following fabulous projects is this thread, a spool of regular thread, a bobbin, your sewing machine, and your project!  Just so you know, Joanns carries it in black and white, but I have seen a couple spools on the internet of Gutermann elastic thread in some colors :0)  You can check that out more if you are interested.  The color usually doesn't matter too much because usually the elastic thread is sewn on the inside of the garments.

All you do is hand wind your elastic thread on your bobbin.  Don't pull on the thread, causing it to stretch out. Just wind it around and around so that there are not any loops.  If you were to pull the thread you would not get very much on the bobbin, and you would not get the desired results from your machine.  
Now just slip that bobbin into the machine just like you normally would, then thread your top needle with regular thread and pull the elastic up from the bottom just like you would if it were normal thread.
That's it!
You are ready to SHIR!  Yep, that is the official name of this particular technique, shirring.  Smocking is different.  I have a quote from a comment one of my readers left a few years ago:

Ami joyApr 21, 2010 09:38 PM
You win the show down!!! :) 3 years ago I took a clothes making class at our local college for fun. We discussed the whole shirring/smocking controversy and found an answer!!!

Smocking is when you hand sew the fabric together (and it does not have much give) for decoration. Shiring (is the faux Smocking) is when you simply sew straight lines across the fabric with elastic. 

I have done both and shirring is better for a fitted garment whereas smocking is better to add decoration

There you have it!  Straight from the mouth of a total babe :0)

Now, just in case you are the visual type, I found two shirring tutorials online that I like.  

The first is the Pink Fig Tutorial.  I put her first just because I LOVE her clothing patterns.  She shows how to shir on one of the dress patterns she sells.

She shirred the sleeve of this dress, as well as the bodice.

Shirring is also a fabulous way to make a waist in something that needs one.

The Fabulous Shirring Tutorial @ MakeItLoveIt is very thorough and I would recommend checking that one out also.  She shows what shirring looks like from the back side.  This is one way of doing it.  I usually shir in one continuous spiral.  I start the stitching, going once all the way around and end where I started, but instead of lifting the needle and moving down the 1/4 to 1/2", I just sew until I am the desired amount lower and keep going around until either I am done, or I have run out of thread.

So, on to the good part.  Let's look at some projects that have been shirred with elastic thread.  

Good Old Martha Stewart, you can always depend on her for a great project idea, shows how to make these Sundresses.

Desert Beauty by MADE was my first and original inspiration.  After I saw this darling dress I HAD to learn how to do it.  Here was my first attempt:
Shirred Man's Dress Shirt.  The really funny thing was that Emmalee saw this dress in her closet yesterday and INSISTED on wearing it to the Dr's office.  I laughed because this hairless wonder in the picture was 1 years old.  Now she is three, and the size of a 7 year old, and still fits into the dress perfectly!  The wonders of elastic thread, I tell you!

This Old Navy Shirt to Dress tutorial was my first big blog post.  It probably still is the post with the most comments I have ever gotten.  I totally love this dress.  I think I need to add one more ruffle for Emmers to be able to wear it now, but it is luscious.

You may remember my recent post of Scarves I made for Christmas.  There were a couple there that I shirred instead of ruffled and they turned out darling.  I hear there was a little WWF back there in Minnesota fighting over who got which scarf.  I also found a few other tuts online...

This scarf  from Craftzine is adorable and will soon be joining my collection.

I also want to make this Randomly Shirred Scarf by Make It and LOve It

Now, shirring is a great way to add personally to a plain or ordinary shirt.  CraftStylish added a couple straight rows of shirring.

Topsy Turvy added a loopy design in their Loopy-Necked t-shirt 

What a fabulous idea!!!  Turn a regular shirt into Maternity Shirt with a few rows of shirring just where you want it.  This also works wonders on the back of a shirt that is just too boxy or baggy in the wrong places.  Add a couple rows of shirring to the back of your shirt, only 3-4 inches long, and it will add curve to your body where it is supposed to be.

This Recycled T-shirt from Prudent Baby is so cute.  I did one of these for Emmers too.  The shirring on the sleeves is darling.

Sugar Bee Crafts copied the  making a fabulous knock-off version. 

This Side Ruched Shirt by A Little Tipsy adds personality to an otherwise lifeless t-shirt.

My lame photography doesn't show the changes made to my Team Edward shirt super well, but you get the idea, right?

The idea to ruch your Sweater Sleeves, from The Brown Eyes Have It, is a fabulous idea.  I really can't stand long sleeves any more and may have to do this to a couple of my shirts.

Just shirring the bottom of your shirt can be a darling change. 

Shirring the legs of Baby Bloomers is a great way to make a gather that is not too tight for chubby little legs.

I went a little out of control and shirred the whole pair of these Petti Panties :0)
I guess I took the picture before I added the small elastic around the bottom.  I think I need to make another pair so I can redeem myself from this picture.  These petti panties are seriously cute on a little pair of legs.  I think that the secret to these is using very thin fabric.

Oh, and look!  Petti Panties for MOm :0)  I bet these would impress my husband!

Dana from Made shows how to make leggings, and then how to make them Ruched Leggings.  You too can make the leggings from scratch, or just ruche a pair you already have.  
I have been coveting this Ofelia Blanket from IKEA for many months.  I pick it up every time I am there, but then decide I could totally make it and put it down.  Then, the next time I go, I am determined to just buy it, only to start the cycle all over again.  Seriously, you could totally make this...but it would take a serious amount of elastic thread, patience, and chocolate chip cookies to make it through.  I should probably just buy it.

Who would have thought to shir a Pillow like this one by Tatvakala.  Gorgeous!  Love it!!!

There you have it.  Elastic Thread.  Buy some, shir something.  Before you know it, you will be shirring everything in sight!


  1. I'm going to try it, love the effect!

    1. Good luck! I think you are going to be quickly addicted. Feel free to email me if you have questions!!!

  2. Replies
    1. Not for the elastic thread. Go ahead and change your needle if it is getting dull. My friend always told me to change my needle after about 3 hours of sewing or sooner if needed. But no, you don't need to change to a different needle for the elastic thread. Let me know if you have any other questions!!!


  3. I always thought you had to mess with the little screw on the bobbin casing and I didn't want to 'screw' it up for regular thread. don't have to do that???

    1. Sorry for the late response! No, I personally don't adjust the screw on the bobbin case. You want it to pull a bit so the elastic is pulled and shrinks the fabric back. You must try!!!! Then come back and show me. I am still obsessed with elastic thread and it has been a couple years since this post ;0}


  4. This post is still very much alive. Can't wait to get smocking. Thanks for your excellent style and content.

  5. Negligence is not something my loved ones members is willing to accept. Summer are invested growing and handling food to see relatives members members. Winter and fall is invested primarily creating blankets. I have quite a collection of them, some going back to my great-great granny. Unnecessary to say that one was made before a machine was available. crosswrods solutions

  6. Thanks for the great ideas :-) !!!!!

  7. This is an awesome thing! Thanks for sharing it w/us all!

  8. I love shirring and firmly believe I get a much better result by having a separate bobbin I use just for shirring.
    I have adjusted the tension on this separate bobbin and my tension of the outside stitch is so much better and one would never know there is elastic behind the stitch.

  9. I am three years late to your first comment and I am so tickled to have found your blog! LOVE your ideas and can't wait to catch up with all your projects!

  10. Hi, what stitch do I choose when sewing in the Shirring. Is it just straight stitch, zigzag or something different.

  11. I have an old music festival shirt I’d like to wear but they are always “boy cut!” You have given me a few ideas to try! Thank you for the inspiration. Wish me luck!


Novelty Print Quilt Pattern

I have had a hard time finding good quilt patterns for novelty prints the past couple times I purchased them.  I made up this pattern so tha...