How To Do Vintage Style Shirring? Sewing Logs

This article starts with a basic tutorial on How To Do Vintage Style Shirring. From here are variations of the techniques to achieve different looks. You have probably heard the term “shirring” before, but what is it?

It’s an edge stitch that you can make on your sewing machine. Furthermore, if adjustable settings are not enough for beginners to create a lovely design element. These design elements are made with their own hands and mindsets in mind, then they should check out our step-by-step guide.

What is Shirring?

Shirring is an old technique that uses thread and elastic to gather fabric. Traditionally, shirring was done by hand, but today machines exist that will perform the task for you quickly and easily. Moreover, shirring gives extra fullness or gathers at specific points in your pattern.

For using this method, keep in mind that the garment may not be so “fitted” as regular patterns suggest. Therefore, there’s no need to follow any particular seam allowance because it doesn’t matter.  And since you’ll be gathering the excess material anyway, and all seams should be sewn. Also, your extra collected material will be spread out evenly along the seam line.

What do you need for shirring?

To do this, you’ll need:

Elastic thread or elastic cord (or tubing), depending on what Shirring style you will be doing. This is unnecessary. You can use ribbon instead. But it’s much more practical because it won’t fray and therefore doesn’t need hemming. The two types we have used are green/black and black (top left).

Moreover, the slightly thicker elastic cord works better than the thin elastic thread because it holds up better under stretch. You can also buy specially-made stirring flexible”. And this is very similar to the elastics with which you might do regular shirring.

Still, it has a slightly higher percentage of rubber content so that it can stretch more. And the scissors or rotary cutter/mat and cutting board are also required.

Step 1:

To begin, cut two pieces of elastic cord, and they must be long enough to go around your waist plus about 8″. In addition, we usually tie the ends into square knots. And then pull them until they reach the desired length.

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Don’t worry too much about measuring this right because if you accidentally cut them too short. There’s no harm done since you can always buy another length of elastic. It won’t fray, after all.

Step 2:

Next, decide the place for shirring. This is the perfect solution for skirts too full in the waist or hangs funny because there’s not enough give. Shirring can be done anywhere on a garment: sleeves, bodice/dresses, even necklines, anywhere where a gathered effect is desired.

Moreover, it can also be placed at regular intervals in a row, either evenly spaced or clustered or randomly placed wherever you think will look good.

Step 3:

Place your pieces of elastic around your body and adjust their length so that they’re long enough to stretch from back to front. And when pulled snugly across the area, you’ve chosen. Then pin them securely in place.

Step 4:

Next, attach your shirring to your garment with a basting stitch. The stitch is just another name for a long and highly loose running stitch. You can use either hand or machine basting. We prefer hands because it’s easier to remove later (the benefit of choosing an easily sewable thread).

Step 5:

Since you’ve pinned it in place, you know the shirring will be evenly spaced between each pin; once sewn on securely. Also, there’s no need for any further marking.

What to do when doing multiple rows of shirring?

When doing multiple rows of shirring (such as sleeves). There is usually space between them out evenly so that the overall effect isn’t crowded. However, you can also pack them altogether if that’s what you prefer; there are no rules here.

Other Methods For Conventional Shirring:

There is another way to do conventional shirring. And by using these methods, two rows of gathering stitches along the chosen seam line and then stretching them between your fingers to open up the stitches. This is the quickest, most efficient way for large sections of shirring.

However, it can look a little strange if done on its own like this. There are two rows of shirring separated by one row of conventional gathering stitches. If you’re interested in doing this kind of shirring, our best advice is to practice first on some scrap fabric. Further, it takes a few tries before you get used to how much length to leave between each stitch.

And end up with something that looks nice without too many obvious faults. We have also seen some strange-looking garments made using this method, beware.

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What fabric did you need for shirring?

Also, know that shirring can be done in any thread – both invisible/woven and decorative are perfectly suitable. The only time it’s not appropriate is when the fabric itself doesn’t lend itself to shirring. Chiffons or other very lightweight fabrics will stretch out of shape, making it impossible to put them back into place again once released.

Further, silk crepe de chines, which shine through no matter how many layers you use. And they can be iffy since the slightest pull may show through the finished garment. Similarly, rayon challis is another fabric that may show gathers even after pressing. Machine basting is “Handcrafted Business.”

There’s more to sewing than just fabric and thread. Use your skills to express yourself and make something unique, fun, and personal.

What To Do When The Shirring Doesn’t Work?

There are a few things that can go wrong when sewing with smocking or shirring. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Don’t follow these steps if the problem is resolved initially:

Step 1:

Check your bobbin thread before starting any new projects, so you don’t end up ruining an entire piece of clothing by accident.

Step 2:

If rethreading doesn’t work, try installing elastic thread, which typically stays put on its own without being attached too tightly.

Step 3:

Loose enough at either end, depending on how tight/loosely stretched out they were made initially from the beginning.

Maintaining Your Fiber

Elastic thread is very delicate compared to other threads, and washing will break it down mainly because of its stretch. The fabric will lose shape after washing, and Mistreatment will result in the elastic shirring breaking. Shirrings must be lined separately on the backside. In case there are sensitive skin individuals in the house, this is necessary.

In order to reduce the possibility of skin irritation, it is better to cover the back. The elastic cover will not only provide comfort to the wearer but will also protect it from damage. Alternatively, a slip can be used to cover the backside.

How To Do Vintage Style Shirring? Things Required

Here are the things you require to have a perfect vintage style shirring on your fabric.

  1. Pins
  2. Elastic thread
  3. All-purpose thread
  4. Scissors
  5. Reverse pattern foot
  6. A sewing machine
  7. Lightweight fabric
  8. seersucker or cotton
  9. Stitching hemmer

Issues With Your Sewing Machine

The most common issue with your sewing machine might appear that it is not compatible with the Drop-in bobbin function or bobbin tension adjustment. You need to keep in mind that your sewing machine won’t work until you follow the shiring steps in the same order as they are defined.

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Further, for your convenience, we have mentioned the steps that need to be addressed while operating your sewing machine while lacking the primary function of bobbin tension adjustment missing.

  • With a feeder, wind up the thread so that it is tight within your bobbin. Slid the thread underneath the tension lever.
  • To ensure the elastic thread is entering the bobbin holder, you need to check it goes through the tension spring. It’s elementary to overlook.
  • The stitch length should be adjusted as well. The shirring will respond differently to each setting, so test it out.


What stitch is used for shirring?

If your machine has smocking stitches, use one or both of them. Combining different stitches into one section is an easy way to achieve the heirloom look.

What is the difference between smocking and shirring?

Garment sections such as yokes and collars can be embellished with shirring. A smocked dress has gathered fabric on the sleeves and bodice as a decorative embroidery design. Further, smocking creates pleats without stretching, while shirring produces round tucks.


Shirring is a fun, creative way to add interest and dimensionality. This information will teach you how to do vintage-style shirring. As we all are well aware of the fact that vintage style shirring of fabric was a thing of the past. But now it started to get attention, making it again popular among designers.

You don’t have to acquire special skills or abilities to start shirring independently or working on it at your home. All you need is to have the basic knowledge and some needles and attachments. Further, there is another thing that you need to have is an elastic thread. And with that all the information being provided to you in the content mentioned earlier, you will be able to grab the best result-oriented shirring on your fabric. And within no time, you would feel like a professional designer who knows how to do vintage style shirring on their fabrics in time.