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Written by Gracie Steel on January 25, 2024

Shirring on your PFAFF Sewing Machine with Gracie Steel

What is Shirring?

Shirring refers to a decorative and functional technique that involves sewing parallel rows of elastized stitches to create a stretchy and textured fabric. Watch my video below or here. Shirring on your PFAFF Sewing Machine with Gracie Steel

Now that you’ve seen some of the basics of shirring on a machine, here’s an overview to help get you started:

Choose Fabric:

Select a light-mid-weight fabric as shirring relies on minimal resistance to create the gathered effect. Wovens such as cotton, linen, or similar work well.

Prepare Elastic Thread:

Wind the elastic thread onto the bobbin by hand, making sure not to stretch it. The elastic thread is used only in the bobbin, not in the needle. Don’t skim on the quality of the thread.

Set Up Your Sewing Machine:

Thread your PFAFF sewing machine with regular thread in the needle. Replace your bobbin case with the creative™ bobbin case and place the wound elastic thread in the bobbin. Adjust the machine's tension for the elastic thread, as specified in your machine's manual. An elongated stitch length can help too.

Mark Stitch Lines:

Mark parallel stitch lines on your fabric where you want the shirring to occur. Typically, lines are spaced about 1-1.5cm apart. Varying your spacing can create interesting textures.

If using a plain white thread, mark your lines on the right side of your fabric, so that the bobbin elastic stitching is hidden on the inside of the garment. Use a matching thread for your upper.

Some brands sell coloured shirring elastics. In this video I used a red shirring elastic, so I marked my fabric on the wrong side so that the red is exposed on the outside.

ALWAYS test your stitch settings on a scrap of the fabric that you will be using as different fabrics perform differently.

Sew the First Row:

Stitch along the marked lines, sewing straight stitches. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each row to secure the stitches. Leave thread tails long enough at the ends so that you can tie them off securely and prevent future unravelling.

Create Tension:

After sewing the first row, gently pull the fabric from both ends of the row to create some tension. This helps to gather the fabric between the stitched lines.

Continue Sewing Rows:

Repeat the process for the remaining rows, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each row. The more rows you sew, the more gathered and shirred the fabric will become.

Secure Ends:

Once you've completed all the rows, secure the thread ends by tying knots.


Give your garment a press as steam helps to shrink the elastic down and really bring the texture to life.

Shirring is an easy, versatile technique that can be used in various garments and projects to create a stretchy effect without the need for zippers or buttons. Keep your eye on the lookout for my upcoming PDF sewing pattern for a dress with a shirred bodice. Oh and if you’re wondering about the proper pronunciation, think Shirly Temple!

Don’t forget to share your projects and  follow us on our Facebook page, Pfaff Australia or Instagram, tagging @pfaff_sewing_australia and using the hashtag #pfaffingaround

Article written by Gracie Steel
Hello there! I'm Gracie, a self-taught sewist and pattern maker who has passionately delved into the world of making. My journey into this craft has been a remarkable adventure, and I've developed a deep love for creating garments and patterns. I'm thrilled to be a part of this creative community and can't wait to continue this sewing journey with you. Together, let's sew and create something extraordinary!

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