Sunday, April 25, 2010

First and last

Well, thanks to the lovely and helpful Mikhaela, I did finally manage to shir something. And I can say, hands down, with no equivocation, that I will never again shir anything. Ever. Unless the gods somehow bless me with a sewing machine that loves elastic bobbin thread, that is. And when I say loves, I mean a machine that will buy the fabric and cut it out, too.

Until then? Nope. Never again. (Can you tell I haven't finished the top yet? It still needs buttons down the front of the ruffle and I haven't stitched down the ruffle.)

I started this top almost a year ago. I had purchased this lovely imported Japanese cotton print from Hart's Fabric and I didn't really know what to do with it. On the screen the colors looked clear and crisp, but in person they are much grayer. Muddier. Whatever, they aren't crisp and clear. I still like it, but it wasn't what I expected.

Then shortly after buying the fabric, I ordered this Jamie Christina pattern off Etsy for this cute little shirred top and dress. This was before I realized shirring just involved cutting a box and sewing straight lines. More on that later.

So the idea was born, marry the Japanese landscape print that has a texture like linen but is really cotton with the shirred ruffle button top.

Only, my machines won't shir with elastic thread in the bobbin, as I've shared only too many times.

Mikhaela of Polka Dot Overload recently posted a similar problem with shirring, and mentioned that she'd finally developed a technique that did not involve elastic bobbin thread. So I emailed her and she was gracious enough to share. I'm not going to copy her email because that would be wrong, plus I think she'll post her story on her own blog, but I will condense the instructions and share what I did with my own top.

Mikhaela's advice was to use the elastic thread but to zig-zag over it. After experimenting a few times, I finally came up with this system, and I took a picture (gasp! a picture during the process is so unlike me) so I hope you can see what I was doing:

1. Cut a piece of elastic thread 18" long. My bust is about 36" around, so I arbitrarily chose half that measurement.
2. Tie knots in each end with about a 1" tail.
3. Start each row by staystitching just after the knot, effectively "locking" it in place so when you're stretching the thread as you're sewing it won't come undone.
4. Zigzag (length 3, width 3) over the elastic thread, keeping the lines about 1/2" from the previous row. I managed to do this easily by using my larger 9mm presser foot and following its edge.
5. When I got to the end of a row, I'd turn down the dials and staystitch just before the knot again.
6. And for good measure, I tied the two knots together in one knot and then continued my zigzag over that to lock the tails in place.

Whew. That's a long process for a little payoff.

I even timed myself towards the end (actually, on the eleventh row of shirring as I was cussing the slow progress), and it turns out it took me almost ten minutes per row with all the steps involved. That is insane.

After I added up all the failed shirring rows that I had to rip out, plus the eventual successful rows and then the minor details of straps, ruffle and buttons, this simple little summer top took hours upon hours of labor. Let me tell you friends, IT IS NOT WORTH IT.

I have decided if I ever want a shirt with shirring, I'll go to the store and buy one, or take my lovely friend Cara up on her offer to let me use her Brother (since it seems to like it fine).

So there you have it. A partially finished product and a whole lotta wasted time. I could have completed my vintage pattern contest entry in the time it took me to shir this stinking top! And that includes underlining it!

BUT, I'm glad I did it. Cause now I know, and otherwise it just would have eaten away at me.

Now on to my next rant. I mean this in the most respectful way. Bloggers, sew-ers, crafters, everyone out there that is doing this needs to stop, in my cranky-just-spent-way-too-much-time-shirring opinion. STOP "designing" patterns people are asked to pay for and then pretend that it's an original design that should not be copied for resale purposes. For example, anyone who is releasing a design today for a shirred top or dress just exactly like the one I just made. PEOPLE! This is a box with elastic thread at the top. That does not constitute an original design, nor does it require a huge amount of design effort. It's totally cool if you want to upload a pattern for others to follow, I just find it greedy to ask for money for that "pattern," and then to demand some sort of copyright privilege and expect people not to use the pattern to sell finished items.

I've seen this over and over in the craftoblogosphere. Someone "designs" a zippered pouch, packages their pattern for sale, and then claims people can't make zippered pouches for sale based off their "original" pattern. Give me a break. You know who totally impress me for their completely original designs? People like the girls behind Sugar City and Sarai of Colette Patterns. Now that's original design. Zippered pouches, shirred boxes? Not original.

OK, end rant. I hope I haven't offended too many people, and this was actually not about Jamie Christina. I love her fabric shop and the dresses she sells on Etsy. I'm more irritated with a big name blogger who has just recently released an "original" shirred dress pattern that you have to pay for. I have big magnanimous plans for uploading and sharing lots of patterns, just as soon as I can get around to it. Pants patterns, reversible cross-back top pattern, etc. I may even throw in a shirred dress pattern, just to tip the scales in favor of something free.


  1. Ha, I know what you're talking about! I don't know about the shirred dress, but I did become very disillusion with a certain big time blogger/designer who put out an expensive pattern - that you were not allowed to make for any sort of resale -- which on her own blog she had said was her knockoff (a perfect one) of someone else's design. Technically legal, I suppose but it seemed too creepy to me.

    Anyway, the top looks great, even if the shirring was from hell!

  2. Oh boy, I feel like this is somehow my fault! I love your fabric, though.

    Shirring with the zigzag method is definitely NOT fast, though I timed it and it was more like 2 or 3 minutes per row (after I got going)... only I had SO many rows since my skirt was reversible. I did finally finish shirring it and putting the two skirts together last night, and just need to hem and photograph.

  3. I hear ya sista!! An amen to that. How many times have I seen "original" patterns only to find the same one in that month's magazine or in Style, Simplicity, Vogue etc. It really gets my goat that some peeps try to pass off a pattern as their own when they actually copied.

    Thanks so much Heather and Mikhaela for the instructions re shirring. Have never attempted it because I was too frightened. Still too frightened but am considering giving it a go. Monique xx

  4. I won't be trying shirring any time soon but just wanted to say that your top looks great from here. LOVE the fabric.

  5. I totally know what you are talking about. and I love your dress/tunic. too bad it was such a pain! I can't wait to see your patterns!!! yipee!