I’m so excited to be posting this tutorial created by Amity of Lolita Patterns as part of Sewing Indie Month! Amity has a knack for clear, concise, and useful tutorials! The tutorial below teaches a great technique for adding shirring details to a woven garment! The possibilities are endless!
Shirring with Elastic Thread Using a Chainstitch On Your Serger
Hi all! My name is Amity Gleason and I am the owner of Lolita Patterns. I’m so excited to be sharing a tutorial over here at Sewn Square One! I learned about this company through Sewing Indie month and am so glad I got the chance to be partnered with them. I’ve been really into shirring with elastic thread lately and when I shared this with Elizabeth and how I was using a method different than the traditional elastic thread in the bobbin technique, we thought it would be a great tutorial to share for Sewing Indie Month. This method of shirring uses the chainstitch on your coverstitch machine. Some sergers do have chainstitch capability even though they do not do coverstitch. So as long as you can chainstitch, you can use this method! The first thing is to mark your fabric. With this method, you have to mark the fabric on the right side. This is no problem for me as I always use Frixion pens which disappear with the heat of the iron and come out in the wash. Choose your method of marking carefully. I chose to do a line of shirring every 3/8”. This is also my seam allowance. So I started s ¾” from the top (3/8” + 3/8”). Then each additional line is 3/8” from the last until I reach the bottom where I also left ¾”.
Next thread your machine for a chainstitch using the elastic thread in the chain looper and a regular thread in the needle. I used a contrasting thread in the needle so you could see the difference. I usually use a matching thread but I kind of like the look of the stitching on the outside so I may use contrasting thread in the future. It may be a little difficult to thread the elastic thread through the looper since it is so springy. To help with this, I used a long loop of regular thread, threaded the looper, then tied the elastic thread through the end of the loop and pulled it through.
Once the machine is threaded, it is time to test, test, and test some more on some scraps! You have to get the tension just right. My machine is a Babylock Evolve (the older version of their Evolution) and has automatic tensions, however, with elastic thread, it was way too much. So I had to skip some of the threading paths so there would be less tension on the thread so it would feed evenly. Another problem you run into with elastic thread is that as it starts unwinding, it jumps and springs off and starts to pool at the bottom. (The pictures show an example with regular thread as my elastic thread spool is too gigantic to use well as an example)
To help avoid this, you can use the nets that came with your serger, or cut an old pair of pantyhose and wrap it around the thread. This way the thread still feeds out the top but does not spring off and pool at the bottom.
After you have the tensions exactly right, you are ready to begin stitching. One important thing I realized was to make sure you have enough elastic thread pulled when you are finished with a line of stitching and that it has no tension on it, otherwise is snaps back and unthreads itself from the looper…and then you get to go all the way through the threading again!
Stitch exactly on the lines which can start to get a little tricky the more lines of shirring you have so just do your best. One thing to note about chainstitching: It unravels extremely easily so make sure you tie off each line of stitching. When you attach it to other pieces, that seam will also help secure the stitching from unraveling.
When you finish your lines of stitching, the back of your piece will look something like this. (I only had two lines when I took this picture, you would keep going until your piece is finished)
Next you want to make sure to get rid of your marks from the front. If using a Frixion pen, use a hot, dry iron. (I find steam does not work as well for removing the pen marks)
Then turn your piece over and turn the steam on high and hover the iron above the piece and steam well. The steam helps the elastic thread shrink up and shirr.
This method of shirring has worked wonderfully for me since I’m not a huge fan of hand winding bobbins. The more lines of stitching, the more your piece will shirr. This technique is a fantastic way of making woven fabrics work somewhat like a knit. It makes woven garments much more forgiving. Something I will definitely need in the coming months.
I love using this on cuffs, neckbands, bottom waistbands, etc. It’s a cute stretchy addition that looks like a fantastic ready to wear detail. There is also a way to do elastic thread shirring on a regular sewing machine by winding bobbins with elastic thread. The best tip for using this method is to get a second bobbin case since you will have to loosen the tension so much. You don’t want to mess up the tension on your main bobbin case! I hope this helped show you a new way of using a fun and useful technique. I love using my serger/coverstitch as much as possible so I am always using it to do things most people use their sewing machines for. I hope to show you more unique ways or using your serger coming up in future tutorials.
Thanks again to Sewn Square One for partnering with me for Sewing Indie Month!
Thank you Amity!
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