Elastic Thread

First of all: NEW THEME! While I LOVED the little moving fishy one I felt like it was time for a change, ya know? I will probably revisit the fishy one at some time because, lets be honest, it was the cutest thing in the world!


Today we are going to be discussing elastic thread. I truly love this stuff and a while ago I made a skirt using it and never ended up doing anything with the skirt but this last time I was back in Iowa I found the skirt, brought it to L.A. with me, and I plan on fixing it (it needs to be taken in a lot and a couple other alterations!) so I can actually wear it because the fabric is really, really cute. However, I’ll save that for another post and I’ll do a little tutorial with it too since it was handmade completely! Elastic thread is great for creating ruching, shirring, smocking, etc. which is commonly what it is used for. The elastic thread goes on the bottom/on the under side of your fabric so all you see on the top is regular thread. You can stretch the threads out to go around but the elastic thread will pull it all right back in.


I had a lot of trial and error when I first started using elastic thread because I didn’t know when to pull, when to not pull, etc. At first it wouldn’t pull the fabric in and that just made me mad so I did a lot of test runs and am happy to report what I’ve found for you guys so you can have success the first time around! Let’s begin:


  • Elastic Thread
  • Basic Thread
  • Fabric*
  • Usual Sewing Supplies
*I am just using some scrap muslin from school, lighter fabrics work the best. The elastic thread just isn’t strong enough for heavier fabrics, as well as double layers 😦

This is elastic thread so it does have a pretty good stretch to it. However, it’s not Hulk elastic thread so don’t get to wild with it! I recommend that you thread your machine as normal and do a couple stitches on some scrap fabric using basic thread (in the bobbin as well) just to make sure that all your settings are correct, the stitching looks normal, etc. If you have a problem using regular thread you are for sure going to have issues using elastic thread so be sure to iron all those problems out before hand.


Step 1: Using an empty bobbin begin wrapping the elastic thread around the bobbin. DO NOT pull tightly on the thread**, but don’t let it become a jumbled mess either. Just gently tug a little and wrap it around until the bobbin is nearly full – not totally full like you normally would. Once it is all wrapped up insert the bobbin into your machine as you normally would as if you were just using basic thread.

et3 et4 et5 et6

**I have heard that SOME machines actually do require you to pull the elastic thread tightly. In which case, I’m terribly sorry but, I simply can’t help you.

Step 2: Adjust your stitch length to the longest stitch length. All machines are different so it’s probably in your best interests to play with this a little bit just to find you exactly what your best stitch length is. For the most part, and the couple of machines I’ve done this on, the long stitch length is the best option because it allows for more elastic in between each stitch, which in the end makes more stretch/pull for the fabric and end result.


Step 3: Begin sewing as you normally would. You can back-stitch if you’d like too, however I find that it creates a lot of bulk so I hand tie each one off. A little time consuming, yes, but also a little more couture – if you will! You will begin to see the fabric start to bunch up a bit.


There isn’t going to be much bunching after the first line of stitching but don’t worry, it will get there! This also depends on the thickness of your fabric, the thicker the fabric the more it will take to get it to bunch up.


Leave fairly long tails so you can tie them up without the elastic snapping back and the stitches disappearing.

Step 4: Now it’s time to begin the next row of shirring. Line the fabric up – I usually just use the right side of my presser foot for this but if you want narrower/wider rows of shirring you need to find another way of keeping your lines straight. (i.e. drawing lines on your fabric, etc.) It’s not the total end of the world if they aren’t all parallel but my Type A personality and intense OCD require all my lines to be straight!


Begin sewing and while the fabric is going through the machine KEEP IT FLAT. You don’t want it bunching up while it goes through the machine or it’s not going to stretch because all the excess is sewn down. I use my left thumb and pointer finger to hold the fabric flat while it sews so each row of stitching is identical to each other.



^^^Don’t let this happen!!!

Step 5: Keep repeating Step 4 until you have all the shirring you want. Make sure the keep it all flat and you will be all set!


Step 6: Grab your iron (get it pretty warm but not to hot, you don’t want a scorch mark!) and using a little steam gently press down on your shirring. Don’t flatten it and don’t move the iron around like you normally would. You aren’t ironing here, this is just to shrink up the elastic thread a bit. If your iron doesn’t have a steam setting or doesn’t seem to work that well (like mine, hey it was only $9 at Target!) get the fabric a bit damp and then go over it with the iron. Alternatively you could just toss it into the washer/dryer and that would work also!





  • Play with your machine! All machines are different and my stitch length might be different from what yours should be. This is just a basic outline for how to go about shirring your fabric.
  • Adjust your tension if necessary (this isn’t recommended unless it’s your LAST resort). If you shirring isn’t working, try going back to just regular stitching and see how everything is working. If that is good then get back to your elastic thread and mess with the tension a little bit at a time (on scrap fabric) and see what that gets you.
  • Do not use the automatic thread cutting option on your machine if it has one. You need to leave fairly long tails on the ends to get them tied up before the shrink into the fabric and your stitches start falling out. (If you back-stitched you won’t have this issue)
  • If all else fails: re-thread your machine.

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2 thoughts on “Elastic Thread

  1. Pingback: Skirt Rework: Preliminary Showing | From Iowa to L.A.

  2. Pingback: Sew With Me, Series 1: Skirt – Waistband | From Iowa to L.A.

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