Working with Elastic Thread

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How do I work with elastic thread?

Elastic thread can be used in your sewing machine’s bobbin with regular or novelty thread on top. When stitching, the thread stretches and shirrs up the fabric. Use it to simulate smocking, gather in cuffs or sleeve hems, pucker up bodices, or any other place where you need a gathered look but with flexibility.

When you go to the notions counter, be sure you’re getting elastic thread and not elastic cord, which is a bit larger and designed for handwork or couching. Wind the thread onto the bobbin by hand, being careful not to stretch it was you wind. The average bobbin won’t hold much, so be sure to check it as you’re making lines of stitching on your project so you don’t run out in the middle.

Practice on some samples before beginning your project to see if tension adjustments are needed to produce the appropriate amount of shirring. Elastic can also be pulled up after stitching if more pucker is needed.

Straight, zigzag, multiple zigzag or other open stitches like scallops work well when sewn with elastic thread in the bobbin. It may be necessary to lengthen the stitch from the normal setting for the desired look. Lightweight fabrics work best for this technique.

Be sure to securely tie off the thread ends when you have the size and amount of gathering you’re looking for, whether a single row or multiple rows. It’s easy for the elastic thread to untie itself, so stitching over the knotted thread ends within the seam allowance helps to be sure they stay securely anchored.