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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Using Elastic to Faux Shirr or Gather

Joy's Twirly Lace Dress is one of my favorites!  A specific detail I love about Joy's is the shirring on the sleeves. Many of our other CKC patterns use shirring as well, and it is definitely a good skill to learn.  Sometimes, however, we have people ask if there is any other way to gather the sleeve without shirring or making a casing.    

The answer is yes!  Occasionally I like to sew 1/4" elastic directly to the underside of a sleeve to gather it (no casing necessary), and it works great! Today I will show you how to use this method, both with a photo tutorial and with a video! This way of attaching elastic has several other uses too, of course, and by learning how to use it on the sleeves you'll be ready to branch out! Let's get started.

First you will want to follow the first few steps of your peasant top or dress pattern, by cutting out the pieces and sewing them at the arm curves until you get to the point that is shown in the photo above. Do NOT sew the sleeves/sides of the peasant together yet.

Lay one of the sleeves out flat, as shown above, and mark a line straight across the WRONG side of the sleeve where you want the gathering to be. (I measured down from the arm curve the amount indicated in the Joy's pattern for a 3/4 length sleeve.) Repeat this marking line on the second sleeve. 

Cut  your 1/4" wide elastic to the length that you want your sleeve to be gathered to when you're done. You could either measure the arm of the person you are making the dress for; or, I usually use the elastic length that the pattern tells me to use for the short sleeve casing. Cut two pieces of elastic so you have one for each sleeve. 

Notice in the photo above that the white elastic is much shorter than the yellow sewing line. In the next few steps we will be stretching the elastic to the length of the yellow line as we sew. Then when it is attached, the sleeve will be gathered to the size of the elastic! 

Before you sew, line up one end of the elastic with the edge of the sleeve where you drew the line. Sew a couple stitches and then backstitch to secure the edges together. 

Then as you begin sewing, stretch the elastic as you sew down the center of it, lining it up with the line you marked earlier. You may use a zigzag stitch or a straight stitch, depending on how you want it to look on the outside of your sleeve. I prefer straight stitch. Notice that I'm also using my left hand behind the foot, to help pull the fabric through the machine.  If you pull too hard on the elastic without helping in back, the feed dogs won't be able to feed the fabric and elastic through.  This isn't difficult at all but it does take two hands.  

Occasionally you will want to check and make sure you are stretching your elastic enough to have it reach all the way to the edge of your sleeve, as shown above.  You need the elastic to reach from one edge of the sleeve to the other, as evenly as possible when you are done sewing. Again, it is not difficult to do it, but it does take some switching around of your hands as you go. 

As you get to the end of the elastic, hold it in place at the edge with one finger and backstitch a couple times to secure it. 

When you are done, your elastic and sleeve will look like this!  Pretty neat, huh! Then you get to repeat with the second sleeve, which I'm always happy to do because it is so cool to see the end result. 

With your elastic sewn in place, you can continue on with the construction of the bodice/dress. 

Very pretty!  I made this patriotic Joy's for my niece to use for her Civil War project at school, and she's very happy with how it turned out.  Before using this method for gathering/shirring, you will want to make sure that the person you are sewing the dress for does not have a sensitivity to elastic because it will be touching their skin directly. My daughter has never had a problem with it, and it's a fairly common sewing technique. I bet you can think of other ways to use it now, right?  I certainly don't use it just for sleeves!  

If you'd like to see all of this tutorial in action, you can take a look at the video below where I sewed elastic to the second sleeve.  The video is also on our CKC YouTube channel, so you can come back and watch it at any time.

 Now it's your turn to go try it out with your favorite patterns! 

Let's Create! ~ Kristen 

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