How to Shirr Fabric to Make Easy Doll Dresses

Shirring fabric may seem like a daunting, complicated sewing technique beyond your skill level. But, honestly, if you can sew a straight line, you can shirr fabric. And once you learn how, look out, you’ll be shirring summer dresses left and right for your doll!

So, how exactly is it done?

For a quick overview, check out this video from Easy Peasy Creative Ideas, and then carefully review the written instructions below for everything you need to know about shirring for doll clothes...

One quick note before we get started: if you have a Brother sewing machine, sorry, but things are a tad more complicated for you. The good news is, you can click here for a super helpful video about shirring with Brother machines.

Okay, let’s get to it!

Step 1: Prepare and Load the Bobbin with Elastic Thread

Hand-wind your bobbin with thin elastic thread. If the thread is too thick you will have to reload the bobbin often and it won’t sew as smoothly. Keep the thread taut but don’t stretch the elastic to avoid creating tension that may break the thread during sewing.

Note the 2 types of bobbins: The one on the right has a hole on top. If that’s what your bobbin looks like, you will need to put the end of the thread through the hole first before winding the bobbin.

shirring fabric bobbin with elastic thread

Some machines may require a tighter wind and you may even need to wind the bobbin with the machine. We recommend testing this technique on scrap fabric to get comfortable with your machine before doing it on an actual project.

Now, insert the bobbin in the bobbin case and thread your machine as normal.

Step 2: Adjust Stitch Length

To get your shirring nice and tight, you want to adjust your stitch length to 4 on your machine (just make sure to keep a normal tension).

Step 3: Use Chalk or Marking Pen to Mark Lines on Fabric

Using chalk/pen and a ruler, mark guides on your fabric to follow when shirring. The closer together these lines are, the tighter the sheering will be.

Step 4: Shirr it Up

Now we’re ready to start shirring, which is pretty much just sewing a bunch of straight, parallel lines along the guides you already drew (we told you this was easy).

shirring fabric sew straight lines

Make sure to pull the fabric flat after each line and continue sewing along the guides you created.

shirring fabric sewing lines

It is important that you back stitch two or three times so that the elastic doesn't snap out of place when stretched.

Step 5: Steam the Shirring to Shrink Elastic Thread

Now, take a steam iron and hold it as close as you can to the shirring without actually touching it. This will shrink the elastic thread and make your shirring even more stretchy.

shirring fabric steam ironing

And that’s it!

So, are you ready to flex your new shirring fabric muscles? Try out your new skills on our Brooklyn Dress pattern for 14(.5)" and 18" Dolls! And use coupon code SHIRRINGBLOG for $1 off.


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  • Chloe on

    hi I seen your video on Pinterest this is great website 😊 from 8 yarold chloe ❤

  • Lois Blue on

    Thank You I really enjoyed this I never realized shirring could be that easy.

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