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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Shir A Lot of Sewing Around Here

It is no secret that I love to sew.  Probably the only thing I love better than a good sewing project, is to sew for the people that I love.  My Sister, Kallie, and our Minnesota Grandma came for a visit a few weeks ago and brought our little cousin Charlotte.  Kallie and I swiftly decided we needed to make "cousin skirts."  We found this fabulous poppy fabric at Joanns and our skirts turned into sun dresses.   

I know that they sell the fabric shirred {when the fabric is gathered by elastic thread like this} in stores now, but it is incredibly expensive.  Especially when you see how E-A-S-Y it is to do yourself.  I have used this technique on tons of projects, but I just thought I would show you a bit of how it works.

It usually comes in a package like this for a buck or two.  I found mine at Walmart.
Take an empty bobbin for the sewing machine, insert the loose end of elastic thread inside the bobbin and let it poke through one of those little holes inside.  Pull the tail of the thread out just a little, then tuck it under your finger so that you don't lose hold of the thread.  Now, just start winding by hand.  Don't stretch the thread at all.  The machine does all of the stretching.  Just wind, wind, wind...this is when I like to turn the bobbin around because it always seems to fill up on one side faster than the other.  Wind, wind, wind some more until the bobbin is full of elastic thread.  When I fill up one bobbin, I like to just keep filling bobbins until I have used up all of the thread {about 3-4 bobbins}.  Shirring a dress like Emmalee's up there takes about 1 1/2 bobbins of elastic thread.  When I made Madison's skirt {the same way} it took almost three.

Place your wound bobbin into your machine as you normally would.  Don't stress that the elastic thread is so much thicker than normal thread...

Just hold on to the cotton thread tail and move the needle so it pulls up the bobbin thread, as usual.  Replace your bobbin cover and you are ready to shir!

I like to put elastic in the first row to make a firm gather.  If you look at the picture above, the row of stitching on the right is the casing stitch.  It is much more narrow than my gathering stitch.  Normally I would run a piece of 1/4 or 1/2" elastic through there to keep the skirt in place.  The elastic thread usually does a nice job, but every once in a while the fabric can be heavier than the elastic gathers can hold up.  That is when you want a row of regular elastic.  These lightweight dresses were so cute with that top row ruffled, I didn't bother putting in the row of traditional elastic.

So, the row of stitching on the left is my row of elastic thread.  I bump my stitch length all the way up as long as it will go.  The elastic thread is, yep, ELASTIC, and as such, must be secured rather well.  Start all beginnings with an extra time or two over the top of the thread to pin it where you have put it.  Do the same when you finish your stitching.  If the thread in the bobbin runs out, no problem.  Just find where you left off, plop a new bobbin into it's case, and then start again, but stitch over the last few stitches a couple times just to make sure the elastic stays in place. That will give you the greatest gather.  

When working with a dress like this sundress...or pretty much any time I shir, I like to work with a tube.  That makes it much less work.   You have WAY less stops and starts that you have to backstitch over.  

You can see in this picture how I end my incredibly long spiral of elastic thread.  The arrow at the top is pointing at the last thread.   You can see as you follow that stitch to the bottom arrow how I just work it over and join it up with the stitching line above it.  On a dress like this you really can't tell unless you look really closely.  

Here is a picture of that shirring again.  I tell you I did a terrible job.  My rows are very crooked and uneven, but guess what!?!  You can't even tell unless you are really looking for mistakes.  This is really a fabulous technique to try if you are a beginner and just want to feel like you KNOW how to sew.  Have you seen those pillow case dresses?  They kinda drive me crazy because they are not flattering at all on the figure.  Well, shir the top and you will see curves come back where they are supposed to be :0)

I just wanted to show you how much shirring can actually gather.  Above is Madison's skirt.  I didn't have any helpers, so I just shut it in the door of the refrigerator.  The skirt is not stretched out or anything.  I just placed it there and used the door like clothes pins. {don't you just love hotel life :0}

This is the very same skirt, after I sprayed the elastic down with water and threw it in the dryer.  
***very important- when I was a newby at shirring, I didn't realize that the elastic thread shrank in water/steam.  I thought I bought a bad batch of elastic thread.  Not the case.  All you have to do is spray the thread down with a squirt bottle and dry it in the dryer, wash and dry the skirt, or even just iron the thing with the steam setting switched to "on."  That will give you the above result...gathered to almost half it's size! 

The girls loved running and playing in their carefree cousin skirts.  

Here is baby Charlotte.  The fabulous thing about her dress is that she will be able to wear it for years since it just stretches and grows with her!

The dress is even cute from behind!  Love it!!!
Now, too bad evil Auntie Kallie stole Madison's skirt :0{  Luckily we bought just enough fabric to make a new skirt for my Maddy girl.  Thank you Minnesota Grandma for funding this fabulous project and making it possible for our cousin group to stand out in any crowd {for a reason besides the screaming and usual wrestling matches ;0}


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