Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Craps or how shirring ruined my sewing machine

Well, I'm going to call it. Shirring 1, Heather 0. I will probably never sew anything with elastic thread, ever again.

I've tried, many times. I tried on my Grandma's Bernette (from the 80s) that's a straight-up mechanical machine. No bells and whistles, no automatic buttonholer. It wouldn't happen. The elastic thread just would not stretch up. I put it aside and waited a year.

Then Mikhaela wrote about her shirring struggles, and the project was still sitting in the UFO box, staring at me. Taunting me. "Come on, Heather, everyone who can operate a sewing machine can shir. All you need to know is how to sew a straight line. Jeez, loser."

So I got out the elastic thread again and made a fresh attempt. I dialed down my machine's tension and hand-wound the bobbin. And I sat back, just waiting for my shirring masterpiece, my shirring breakthrough, the moment when shirring was going to change my life, to happen.

Well, friends, all I can say from that fiasco is it took me a half hour to pick all the stitches out and my machine is officially broken down. She just got back from the shop a few weeks ago, and she is heading to the shop this morning because I swear on anything holy or whatever, that I have broken the bobbin carrier on my Bernina using elastic thread. There's a little doo-hicky on the side of the bobbin carrier that captures the thread and keeps the tension, and it is literally hanging off the side, limp. Dead. That would explain the awful chunking noise that occurred shortly after starting the ill-fated shirring stitches and continued on for three rows.

So now it's back to sewing on Grandma's old Bernette. I care too much about that machine to allow elastic thread to work its evil magic on her. Maybe I could try the technique Mikhaela finally used to successfully shir - zig-zagging over elastic instead of using elastic thread? I don't know.

Sooo bummed. Also, v. bummed that my vintage pattern contest entry may be either dramatically delayed or cancelled altogether due to devastating loss of sewing machine.

{weeps silently}

There may be a wee bit of irrational emotion going on around here, due to sleepless nights due to crying pupper dog. Whatever the case, I will update all on the fate of Bernina after she's diagnosed.


  1. Oh no, that is awful! I have never even tried to shir, and I don't know if I ever will. Some "easy" things are so not that! Have a good day!

  2. yikes! If you ever what the shir again -- and I don't blame you if you never want to -- you can come do it on my spare brother sewing machine. It handles it fine.

  3. Shirring scares me... Your poor machine, hope she recovers ok from the ordeal!

  4. Oh I am so feeling your pain, Heather! Maybe that's why my machine was acting up! But I do really recommend using the zigzag technique instead--at this point, I think it's far superior in many ways, and I'll be posting my reversible shirred skirt pix soon...

  5. Sounds nearly as bad as when I used my mother's machine to sew some velcro on to something. Velcro that had adhesive on the back. Really sticky adhesive. That you're not supposed to try and stick a needle through. She was thrilled.

  6. Oh nooo! Poor machine, it's so sad when they need to go in for repairs. Hope it all works out OK and best of luck if you re-try the shirring :)

  7. Sorry to hear that. My first (unfinished) shirring project also lays here somewhere waiting to be made into the cute top I imagined it to be.

  8. I've actually done it. I think the real trick of it is to not hand wind it, but wind it how you usually do bobbins. That's what I did, anyway. It was already stretched coming out of the bobbin.

  9. I think you can still do it using the zigzag method.