top of page
  • Londa

Londa’s Hints for Shirring with Elastic Thread


One of the most fun things to do in sewing is to ‘master’ your own sewing machine to ‘do fun stuff’!  I am constantly amazed at all the ‘authorities’ out there in magazines, on You-Tube, and blogs who post and write as if the way they have ‘figured it out’ and that works for them, on their machine will work for everyone.  NOT!!!!!  COUCHED ELASTIC THREAD – BOUND FOR FAILURE (IMHO)!

Both as you shop, ready-made clothing, and in deciding which of these techniques to use, BEWARE of couched elastic thread – which means it is laid on the wrong side, and zig-zagged over.  In my experience, this is BOUND to ‘pop’ loose creating un-shirred sections on your garment!  See the photo at the left.  I purchased this knit dress up at a bargain price due to this issue. Couching elastic thread DOES NOT WORK – at least in my humble opinion.

Pictured below is a garment I purchased where the elastic threads had ‘popped’, and it was this couched technique. Do you see just to the right of the seam, where there is no shirring?  That is because the elastic thread is popped loose from the seam line and it will only keep getting worse.  I had this happen to me – on the back of a romper I was making for my niece one time.  NOT a good idea. BUT you can fix it – read on.

‘Pooped’ elastic thread installation

FIX IT – by using that triple straight stretch stitch over the loose ends (that you excruciatingly hunt and pull over past the seam).  Make the stitch length SMALLer to really catch those elastic threads in the seam.  Then Zig-Zag over again where that stitching has come un-done.  NOT fun!

Elastic threads saved, and re-stitched securely in the side seam.

Triple Straight Stretch Stitch on BROTHER Quattro 3 – also found on most machines. It stitches forward 2 stitches, then back one.

Double zig zag stitch is very secure for re-couching the popped couching stitches that go over the elastic thread.

Be sure to adjust the length and width of this double zig zag stitch to duplicate what is shown on the garment originally.

Elastic Thread in the Bobbin

This is the technique with which I have the most experience.  I offer the following, having tested on both configurations of machines –

  1. drop-in horizontal riding bobbin like BROTHER, Babylock, Janome, Viking, Elna

  2. vertical bobbin in an auxillary case like Bernina, Pfaff, and lots of the less expensive machines

My testing on both types yielded the fact for me that the drop-in horizontal type worked the easiest.  The other is possible, of course, but I would recommend an additional bobbin case with which you can mess around with the screw that adjusts the clamp on the thread as it comes out of the case – which is the Bobbin Tension.  Just think of the screw as a clock face, and keep track of which way you turn it and how much…..

Everything is claimed out there on this technique:  wind by hand without stretching – with stretching – regular by machine same as regular bobbins….  I found the following:

This technique creates wonderful TEXTURE, but is not strong enough to stand the stress of being around a waist, over the bust, or a baby’s butt…  However, it DOES create wonderful texture.  See the photos below….

For topical decorative feature as in this ‘flower’ on my ‘Pat’ Top in Sensational Shirring Talking Pattern™