11 June 2014

Tips for Shirring with sucess

Take one enormous reel of shirring elastic,

one piece of fabric,

and a couple of hours later, you have - A dress

Or is it a skirt?

I recently did some sample sewing for a friend who is setting up her textile design business. She asked for a shirred dress from a couple of pieces of fabric that her and her business partner had silk screened. Isn't this a gorgeous print?

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about shirring. I have done some mending on shirred clothing in the past, enough to make an impulse buy of the biggest reel of shirring elastic I have ever seen in my life! Good thing too, as each of the dresses have 15 lines of shirring, covering a width of 150cm.

I found a bunch of tutorials on shirring, and read this one before I got started. It was really helpful to get me going.

I have a few tips I'd like to share from my new found wisdom, especially if you have a long piece of fabric to do like I did.

1. Do a few rows first to work out how much elastic you need for each row, and how much will fit on your bobbin. I could only do two rows per bobbin, so worked out that 170cm was the best length of elastic to wind on to ensure minimal wastage. (You will still get a lot of wastage, but not as much as you would have.) Of course, for a whole dress for me, that meant winding 8 bobbins! If you have enough empty bobbins, wind them all first so you can get through all the shirring without interruptions. It's a lot quicker.

2. Use a guide to line up your rows. I used my quilting guide to line up each subsequent row. I found that once you got going, keeping your lines parallel was actually the hardest part about doing the shirring. You eventually get into a routine of smoothing out the previous rows as you sew the next one, but need to keep your eye on the guide to make sure that each line isn't going too wonky.

3. Cut your fabric wider than you need, so you can start and finish each row with plenty of leftover space. I cut the fabric about 5cm wider than I needed on both edges so that the elastic would gather up well at the seam, did a line of stitching next to where my seam was to go, backstitching at each row of elastic, and trimmed off the excess before I did a french seam down the back. It's hard to adjust the gathers when you're done, and you don't want the elastic popping out of your finished seam.

4. If you are adding a length of regular elastic in a casing at the top, do your casing first, leaving a gap around the seam. You can finish this small section off last, and not have to deal with the gathers, or elastic popping out of your top row of shirring as you sew the casing.

5. At the end of each row, don't try to pull the elastic through to cut off the end - you will just wear it away and it will break. Instead, take your bobbin out of the casing so you can easily pull the elastic through to trim the end. It might take a bit more time to insert the bobbin at the start of every row, but it's worth it

6. Try a sample on a scrap of the fabric that you are using first. Finer fabrics will gather up more tightly, but adjusting the stitch length can change this a little. You will probably need more fabric when using a finer fabric.

I tried out the shirring on two of my machines to see which would work best. My Janome 1600P didn't work at all. It just shredded the elastic. Luckily my Janome 4800 worked much better. I used a setting of 3.5 on the stitch length. It does make all sorts of weird noises when it is sewing the elastic in, but I'm sure that's normal. If your weird noises stop, check that the elastic is still threaded properly in your bobbin casing. If these noises aren't normal, I'm sure my father will scold me when I get him to have a look at it soon.

I hope this helps others who may have been too scared to try shirring before. I'm actually thinking I might try something for myself!

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