How to Add Shirring to A Dress

A woman with little curves often finds it intimidating to discover comfortable yet appealing clothes. In fact, she prefers wrapping herself in a body-hugging dress or feels comfortable in a customized silhouette that has a defined waist. On this note, here’s her guide to add shirring to a dress.

Needless to say, shirring is the effect created by using elastic and non-elastic threads together. And the result received is a beautiful stretchy finish absolutely perfect for skirt waistbands, cuffs on sleeves, and sundresses. However, you need to have a basic understanding of sewing.

Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, here’s to learning or revising your basic sewing lessons. Read on and learn the best way to shirr and try it out on your next dress. So, let’s learn through the below-mentioned narrative.

How to Add Shirring to A Dress?

Shirring is an interesting sewing technique that includes rows of gathering. In the 21st-century fashion world, it has turned out to be a decorative accent to clothing. In fact, shirring gets done on other outfits besides dresses (skirts that emphasize your waistline, etc.).

All in all, it adds an elegant element to the long-sleeve blouse at your wrist too. A shirred pillow adds a luxurious appeal to the living room and bedroom. But if you think shirring your dress is only done with a sewing machine, here’s how to proceed by hand!

Method 1: Add Shirring to Your Dress by Hand?

Adding shirring to your summer dress can be a brilliant idea to flaunt your structure. However, it should be remembered that sewing a shirring dress requires some tips and tweaks. On this note, let’s learn the best method to add shirring to your dress without a sewing machine.

If the dress’s bust line, sleeves, or hip portion does not fit you right and tight, you can follow this method and stitch that portion accordingly. This will add a wonderful shirring design to your outfit. So, let’s learn further.

Step 1: Gather the Essential Tools

Firstly, you will need the essential tools. So, gather these important items accordingly:

  • A pencil
  • Your lose outfit (or fabric)
  • A needle
  • Elastic threads (contrasting or matching)

Step 2: Drawing The Stitching Points

Now is the time when you would require using the fabric pencil. With this, you have to draw a set of four lines lengthwise on your fabric positioned 2 inches away from each other. Here, the shirring will get located. For this, you need to use a ruler.

Step 3: Threading Your Needle

You will require a needle to insert the thread before you proceed with stitching. What you can do is, thread your needle with around 24 inches of length. At the end, you need to create a knot.

Step 4: Following a Definite Sewing Method

In the fourth method, you need to understand the importance of sewing small. Here, you need to make even stitches that aren’t any longer than ? inch. Thus, all you need to do is to follow the fabric-pencil lines and sew with your needle & thread.

Step 5: Pulling The Thread

Now is the time when you’d require pulling the thread to around half the stitched row length. This will create gathered shirring. As you complete doing so, you need to knot that thread at the end firmly.

Important Note:

You need to repeat the same process for each and every row. This way, you achieve a rewarding result. So, how was your experience of adding shirring to your dress by hand? Good and easy, isn’t it?

Method 2: Add Shirring to Your Dress with a Sewing Machine

For experienced pros, learning how to shirr is an important part of the overall sewing journey. But in case you know it, here’s giving it a revision.

So, you can have a gala time reading the below-offered steps and trying it out on your fancy sewing machine. Let’s now learn the easy steps to create a shirring dress.

Step 1: Setting The Machine And Threading

Firstly, you need to wind an elastic thread onto your bobbin. For this, you cannot use your hand. Instead, hold it in one hand & use another hand for winding. As you proceed, stretch the thread gradually.

Until the elastic thread is even, wind that bobbin. After you finish, place it into the sewing machine.

Step 2: Use Your Regular Thread for Machine’s Top Part

Your equation is simple: Non-elastic thread at the machine’s top with an elastic thread in its bottom part! Only then will it create a shirring effect in the dress.

So, thread your machine’s top with a non-elastic thread. You can read the manual and learn more.

Step 3: Setting The Machine For a Straight Stitch

So, set the machine to straight stitches. It’s the best stitch for using the shirring elastic. You may adjust the length of the machine. In fact, some sewers also prefer a longer length for shirring elastic.

Step 4: Sewing With The Elastic Thread (Part 1)

To begin with, mark the fabric that indicates the shirring’s first line. Here, you have to ensure that you sew ? inch from seam allowance.

As you sew along the first line, you need to reverse your machine’s direction to backstitch some stitches. As you do so, you may continue to proceed forward. It helps secure the elastic in the right place.

One Quick Note:

Not to forget, you must maintain your pressure as you sew. Also, never pull on it for your first row. But don’t forget to pull the fabric to flatten it out for every row after the very first one.

Step 5: Sewing With The Elastic Thread (Part 2)

As you reach the end of the elastic’s first line, you should press the lever on the machine’s side for backstitching the stitches. It secures the fabric’s other end. After this, sew forward & stop your machine right when it comes to an end.

Note: Cut the thread & elastic some inches away from your fabric.

Step 6: Using Your Presser Foot

Here, you need to understand the importance of presser foot as a guide for the other elastic rows. Now that you have sewed with the thread, it’s time to continue! So, use your presser foot for other rows.

You need to ensure that the fabric is back under your presser foot. This way, the edge gets lined up with the first row of shirring.

Don’t forget that the first row serves as the ultimate guide for the rest of the sewing process. Thus, it’s imperative to ensure that the presser foot’s edges are even.

Step 7: Continue Sewing the Lines across Your Dress (Fabric)

So, you’ll require sewing along the pressure foot’s edge as that of the first elastic line. Here, you need to be active to pull your fabric for every row to ensure it is straight and flat. Additionally, backstitch some stitches at the end and beginning of that line.

After that, you need to cut the thread and return to the beginning point. Now, you can continue sewing lines across the fabric. Keep going until you reach the desired number of rows.

If the elastic looks loose, don’t worry. At first, it will look so. And right after you add more rows, you will see it getting tightened.

So, you can add shirring to your oversized dress this way. But if you want to create a new dress that features shirring, it is recommended to first work on this area. For this, you need to cut the piece and finish shirring. Upon this, you can stitch the dress accordingly.

Step 8: Ironing The Outfit

As you finish adding the shirring to your dress, it’s the best time to iron it. This will make the fabric bunch up. So, the steam from your iron tightens the elastic even more.

If Shirring Doesn’t Stretch, Where Did You Go Wrong?

It goes without saying that the fabric gets gathered right as you stitch, and the non-elastic thread pulls taut. So, the sewing tension might pull it taut with every stitch. In case the non-elastic thread is taut, your gathered fabric doesn’t stretch sans breaking that thread.

So, you need to ensure that you use non-elastic thread-gathers loosely. You may require pulling the gathered fabric to full length prior to backstitching the row’s end.

Is Smocking the Same As Shirring?

No, they aren’t identical. Although shirring & smocking may sound similar, they aren’t quite the same. As a matter of fact, smocking makes the right use of embroidery stitches.

This way, it gathers the fabric and helps create a beautiful stretch. It can add decorative patterns without using elastic threads.

However, smocking is more popular when done by hand. It utilizes the pleats and creates intricate designs, thereby manipulating the fit and appearance of the outfit.

So, these are the basic features of smocking that differentiate it from shirring. Now that you’ve understood the methods for shirring, when are you trying your hands on it?



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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