How Much Fabric Do I Need For Shirring

Shirring is a super fun way of making clothes accessible and fit a number of shapes and sizes. You will often see shirring in dresses and tops around the bust and waist areas.

Shirring requires extra fabric, this can depend on the fabric and how thick the shirring itself is. As a rough estimate, you want to allow an extra 25cm per measurement. This will allow the item to shrink and create the shirred effect without losing width.

In this article, I am going to talk about what shirring is, how it works and how much extra fabric you need to create the shirred effect.

What Is Shirring?

Shirring is, at the most basic level, a process of sewing different layers of thread into a garment in such a way that the area you have sewn is drawn inwards toward the body of the person that is wearing it.

This is achieved by sewing elasticated thread into an area such that the area which now has stitching functions as a very basic corset-style piece of fabric. That section of the garment is drawn in to accentuate something, while other sections of the garment are allowed to hang more loosely.

Generally speaking, shirring is most common on the website of long garments like dresses, though it can take a number of forms. On dresses, shirring is used to accentuate the waist of the person wearing the item.

Shirring can also take place at the neckline or on the sleeves, which may be used to create the desired look. This is more commonly seen in period-style clothing, where the neck can be more frilly than the surrounding material.

Does The Size Of Shirring Matter?

Well, yes and no. While the size of the shirring relative to the rest of the garment doesn’t matter, the size of the fabric to which you will be applying shirring does matter.

There are two things to consider: the number of threads, the thickness of the material you’re working with, and the surface area of the material that you’re using.

The number of threads when shirring is of the most vital importance. At a basic level, one line of thread simply won’t do the job. It will draw the fabric in ever so slightly, but not enough to truly create the shirring effect.

Therefore, you need to do several rows of stitching in order to fully complete the effect.

You need to be concerned about the thickness of the material that you’re using, as shirring is really all about tension. For every row of stitching that you add to a piece of fabric, you’re increasing the tension that’s acting upon it.

Therefore, the tension that you’re starting with is important.

The tensile strength of a thin fabric is very low, meaning that shirring will be able to greatly increase the tension acting upon the fabric. Conversely, the tensile strength of a thick fabric is very high. This means that even a large number of rows may not have the same effect as a couple of rows on thin material.

The surface area of the fabric also matters when shirring, as you will be decreasing it by creating the rows of stitching.

When sewing, ‘ease’ refers to the amount of space between the body wearing the garment and the garment itself. For example – someone with a thirty-inch waist wearing a thirty-five-inch waist skirt would have five inches of ease.

When you’re shirring, you need the material that you’re using to have around ten inches of ease on the person that you’re fitting it to.

Then, the elastic thread on the inside of the garment will draw the fabric in so that there is much less ease, ensuring that the garment fits properly.

How Much Fabric Do I Need Per Meter Of Shirring?

Create a table with different increments of a meter eg 1 meter, ½ meter, ¼ meter with the amount of shirring needed for each. 

Add in information for different size shirring and different types of fabrics if applicable.

When shirring, you need to have about ten inches (25 centimetres) of ease to the area that you’ll be shirring. This means that you’ll need to cut fabric with extra space to allow for that much ease. Here’s a handy table to help you figure this out.

Amount Of Fabric To Fit The Person or ObjectExtra Fabric Needed For ShirringTotal Fabric Needed for Project
1m (100cm)+25cm1 ¼m (125cm)
½m (50cm)+25cm¾m (75cm)
¼m (25cm)+25cm½m (50cm)

To create shirring in a garment, it’s actually quite a simple process. To get started, make sure to select the straight stitch on your sewing machine. Then, change the length of the stitch to a fairly long setting – three or four is ideal.

This length is necessary to ensure the fabric is drawn in evenly along the row that you’ll be creating.

When shirring, the fabric that you’re stitching onto gathers within stitches. This means that a longer stitch length creates more shirring, and a shorter one creates less.

Next, wind the bobbin by hand with elastic thread. Make sure to use a new thread, rather than old one, as the old elastic thread can become brittle with age and thereby will not create shirring properly.

Place the bobbin into the sewing as per usual. Thread the needle with a basic all-purpose thread, making sure to match the colour to the fabric that you’re working with. Pull up the elastic thread, and leave a two-to-three-inch tail on both threads.

For the best results, try to use a machine with a walking foot – it will keep the stitch length consistent, which will lead to neater results.

Next comes the actual sewing – simple stitch straight, neat lines, and the elastic thread will do the hard work for you. To make sure that your stitches are perfectly neat, try steaming the garment after you have completed the shirring – this is known to help relax the fabric so that it can cool and dry into a more uniform shape.