Elastic Thread: New Lessons Learned


After listing the girls petti ruffle rompers in the shop, the amount of sewing I’ve done with elastic thread has increased significantly.  I think I’ve used it on 10 out of 12 of my last orders and most of the clothing items I’ve made for my kids.   I’ve seen a marked improvement in my ability to work with it due to all this practice.


And I’ve learned a few important things:

  • Not all elastic thread is created equal. Different machines will have varied results among brands.
    • I have a Viking sewing machine and have found the stretch rite elastic thread to work the best in my machine.  It’s the kind that comes on the cardboard spool, not the plastic spool.  The Dritz brand (which comes on the plastic spool) does not gather as nicely for me.    These are the only 2 brands I have available to purchase locally.  Thankfully for me the stretch rite is half the cost; unfortunately it’s not always in stock so when it is, I usually clear the shelf of it.
  • Not all machines are created equal.
    • Typically you’ll want to set your stitch length as the longest possible setting and turn your tension setting way down.  In order to find the exact settings that work for you, you’ll have to sew some test strips.
  • Not all fabric will shir as equally well as others.
    • The lighter the weight of the fabric, the better it will shir.  My favorite fabrics to work with are 100% cotton broadcloths and the premade ruffle fabric.  They will both gather fabric down to about half of it’s original width when multiple rows are sewn in.
  • When shirring panels (like the front and back of a dress or romper) stop your shirring about 3/8-1/2″ away from the edge of the fabric before sewing the two panels together .
    • This will make it much easier to join the pieces together.  Especially when working with ruffle fabric that is more tedious to sew.  It keeps the edges of the fabric more straight, instead of pulling them into a zig-zag pattern.
  • Hem the top/bottom of your fabric before sewing in the elastic thread.
    • Once the fabric is gathered, it makes it increasingly more difficult to get nice straight hems.
  • Use your presser foot as a guide for sewing rows close together.
    • Instead of marking the fabric all up, I just use the edge of my presser foot to line up a new row.  If your needle moves position, you can widen/shorter this distance to your preference.  I typically leave the needle in the “0” position, giving me a 3/8″ distance between rows.
  • Iron in guide lines for sewing rows further apart.
    • Instead of marking the fabric up when sewing further apart than your presser foot can measure, fold your fabric at the designated sewing lines and press a quick crease into it.  These lines will disappear as you sew and won’t require washing the finished item to get chalk/fabric pencil marks off.
  • Use your iron to gather the fabric more when finished.
    • If  you don’t feel like your fabric has shirred enough after you’ve sewn all of the elastic thread in, use steam to help draw it in more.  Turn your iron on its highest steam setting and when hot, hold the iron just over the rows, blasting it without touching the fabric directly.  I can usually cause my fabrics to shrink down a little bit more by doing this.
  • Practice is key!
    • The more you work with elastic thread, the easier it will be to use.  I love working with it now; almost to the point where I prefer to shir something than to put a casing in for regular elastic.


Happy Sewing!


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