And don’t call me Shirrley

A few weeks ago, I bought a skirt at the mall. Shirred waist, nice and swishy, and a print to rival my Jungle blouse. It’s so comfortable, but the print limits what I can wear with it. I needed a skirt just like it, but in a solid color. While I was doing my fabric shopping on Mother’s Day, I made a note to myself to check out their pre-shirred fabrics to make myself a skirt. But Holy Sticker Shock, Batman! $25/yard?! Madness. I decided then and there to do it myself.

Just a little bit of research online to confirm what I needed to know about shirring. No need to reinvent the wheel — check out this site for a good, detailed tutorial if you are interested in trying it yourself!

I got my solid fabric — a black linen-cotton blend that felt nice and had a decent drape. And I got my elastic thread, one in white and one in black. Before embarking on the real thing,  I made a test scrap to see how much shrinkage I could count on once I started sewing. I cut a 12″ length of scrap fabric, hand-wound the elastic thread into the bobbin, set my stitch length at 3 and left my tension at 3. With the first line of stitching, you can see that it didn’t shrink up all that much. Not to worry; that’s what all the tutorials said would happen. It’s the subsequent lines that will really gather up the fabric. Seven lines of stitching shrunk my 12″ piece of fabric almost by half. That’s what I needed to know. I could count on approximately 50% shrinkage.

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On to the real stuff! First, I cut two panels of fabric 34″ wide on the crosswise grain. Why? Because I am lazy. I wanted to use the finished selvage  edge at the top of the skirt. And there was no one to tell me not to, so that’s what I did. The fabric was 50″ wide selvage to selvage and, astonishing as it may be, my legs are not 50″ long, so the selvage on the bottom edge didn’t help me any. I ended up putting in 15 rows of shirring, 1/4″ apart at the top of each panel and those 34″ shrunk down to 15″. Mission accomplished!

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My mall-bought skirt is swishy because it has extra fabric sewn in at the sides below the shirring. I didn’t buy that much fabric for my black skirt. It was going to hang pretty much straight down which didn’t seem like a lot of fun. But you know what was fun? Shirring. So I shirred some vertical lines at four points around the skirt and then scrunched up the fabric and tied it with ribbons. Is it weird or is it cool? I don’t know. It’s unique at any rate.

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I wore it on Sunday and discovered a few things:

  • I could probably stand to tighten up the sides right at my waist (basically over the shirred part); the skirt had a tendency to slip just a little bit. I’d prefer not to have any wardrobe malfunctions.
  • This skirt is not good to wear around little jumpy dogs whose paws get caught in the folds.
  • Nor is it good for crawling on the floor to change diapers.
  • Neither does it fare well when trying to rise from micro-fiber upholstered chairs.
  • If I wear a clingy shirt, the top “ruffle” shows through, creating weird lumps; I ended up folding down the top about halfway so that I wouldn’t have a ripply ring around my mid-section.

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All those things taken into account, I think I’ll fare a bit better next time. And it really was comfortable, too.

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