Simple Shirred Skirt {from an old tank}

In my sewing pile I have actual fabric and then a whole bunch of old defective clothes.  Defective meaning they either don't fit, have a hole, have a stain, or are severely out of style. This tank is in the "doesn't fit" category.  Looks cute on the table, not so much on me. I've wanted to use it for a long time in some sort of upcycled project.  Then it came to me... as in, my friend Katherine from Sew Woodsy sent me a link to some shirred skirts made from t-shirts. Bingo!

Here's what I did. (note, this tank was a women's small which made a good toddler-sized skirt.  The bigger the booty, the bigger the shirt has to be.)

Start with your tank or t-shirt laid out flat.

Chop off the bottom just under the pits. (might want to measure your kid to see how long to make it)

I hemmed the top by folding it over about a half inch and ironing. (totally optional since knit won't fray)

Iron all the way around.

Now comes the shirring.  Load your bobbin ONLY with elastic thread.  You have to do this by hand, not in the automatic bobbin winder on your machine.  It will wind it too tight.  Wrap it around the bobbin tight enough so there is not slack but you're not stretching it either.  Then thread your machine with regular thread.  Start sewing a straight line.

 Here's what happened to mine. Ugh.

I have a Brother sewing machine and after many frustrating balls of elastic thread got ripped from my machine, I Googled and found Brother machines don't play nice with elastic thread.  So I messed and messed and experimented both with tension and stitch length and FINALLY got it to work!

I made my stitch length 5 and my tension 7 and it started to shirr! As you can see, I was so sick of seam ripping at this point, I just sewed right over the messed up lines. Whatever, she's going to spill juice on it anyway.  Just sew line after line about 1/2 inch apart... as many as you want.

It turned out really cute but has some flaws.  First of all, it doesn't stretch out as much as it should. My kid really has to shimmie to get it over her booty.  And, when I tried the same technique again to make a skirt for me, I got a big old mess again of elastic thread and no shirring.  I guess I just found the right tension and stitch length for this particular fabric?  I have no idea.  According to everyone else in blogland it's really easy... if you don't have a Brother sewing machine. : )

Click here for another explanation on how to fix your shirring frustration with a Brother sewing machine. I don't know if I'm brave enough to take my machine apart, but it worked for her! Good luck.


  1. I have a Brother and have the same problem. I have even tried the blog you referenced and still no luck. I was almost giddy when I read that you mastered it and then the let down. The skirt is cute and it looks flawless.

  2. @miamihoney - Awww! I'm sorry for the let down! haha I think I'm actually going to get on the phone with Brother and see if I can get an inside scoop on shirring. If I make some miraculous breakthrough, I'll be sure to post an update!

  3. I'm so sorry it didn't work easily for you. :( The skirt is cute, though! I have a Janome sewing machine and I've never had a problem. I'm addicted to shirring!!! Hope you figure out your Brother problems, because shirring is really fun. :)

  4. Jenni... I know! Every blog I read says it's easy so I know it's my machine :(. I have an email out to Brother now asking what gives. If they write me back with anything useful I'm going to post an update. Otherwise... Next machine upgrade, I'm going to test shirring first before I buy. I've attempted a few more times since this post with the same terrible results. So frustrating! Thanks for the comment!

  5. Oh wow! That's so simple and adorable! I love your tutorials.. as I am new to the sewing world!
    Check out my blog and handmade website! www.nicolezaccari.com

  6. Word of warning for Brother users...I stumbled upon the blog you linked to, and followed the instructions to a t. Wish I hadn't of done it now. In the end, I did find out that Brother sells a specific Shirring bobbin case. Looks the same as a normal one, but obviously the tensions are different. Any how, I was never able to get my normal sewing bobbin case back to normal after messing with my bobbin case. When sewing, it always felt as though the screw was coming loose and tension was never tight enough. I broke a needle the other day, actually smashed it to smitherines more like it, and my machine went in to catastrophic failure. It's now sitting at the sewing doctors surgery, with the prognosis of mismatched timing. Its an NS50 - have only had it since August 30, so, very un-impressed that it is in the shop for repairs already. And, its not covered under warranty :(

  7. Sorry about your machine Cath and thanks for the warning :( Before the catastrophic failure, did the specific shirring bobbin case work? You're the first person to mention it. I had no idea they made one.

  8. I followed the instructions in the link you provided (creative heart), and it worked perfectly. don't be scared of taking your machine apart - you should do it regularly to vaccuum out the lint :)

  9. I just did something similar for myself. After losing a little bit of weight, a baby-doll style tank was looking to big on me. So I (well my mom actually because I stink at sewing) cut off the straps and added a waist band. Now it's a very lovely skirt.