Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to make shirred/smocked cuff bracelets, Tutorial

Hi all! You know how much I love to sew.  And by now, you have probably figured out that shirring or smocking is one of my favorite techniques to use! Today I'm sharing one of my most "favorit-est"
(yes, I know that's not a real word) accessories to make for my girls using shirring/smocking. It's a cuff bracelet made of fabric and stretches easily over the hand onto the wrist and keeps it's shape
(tension) by the shirring/smocking technique using regular thread on the top stitch and elastic thread on the bobbin thread. If you aren't familiar with shirring/smocking I would recommend googling for a tutorial on general shirring/smocking first then make these, they are so fun and fast! (I'm not into doing tutorials that I feel are already being done well somewhere else, so no general shirring tutorial here.) I will however go through each step of what is required to make these lovelies:

Things you will need:
Sewing Machine
Fabric, scraps work well
threads, regular that matches your fabric and elastic thread for the bobbin thread
notions such as buttons, rhinestones or fabric flowers for embellishing
ruler or someway to measure
Iron and spray bottle with water

First thing you need to do is measure the wrist of the person you are making this for. I measure the wrist and then double the length of that for the fabric piece and that works well. (As when you shir/smock it pulls the fabric in and makes it shorter, but allows it to stretch.)

Today for this tutorial I measured the wrist with a piece of elastic (because one of my "little bandits" must have thieved my measuring tape) but that's okay this worked fine. So remember you don't need elastic for this project (unless you use it to measure like I did!)

So here is a picture of my piece of elastic that fits the wrist, then I doubled the size (ended up using a 12 1/2" inch long by 3 1/2" inch wide piece of fabric for this project.

Next thing you do is finish all your raw edges of the fabric piece. I used my rolled edge hemmer foot to sew under the long sides and then serged the short edges.

Here is what the foot I used for the edges looks like. I love this foot! It makes a really nice, narrow hem in one action. (You don't have to have this foot to do this project.) Instead of this foot you could just fold/press the long edges over and over again (1/4"inch or so) and then stitch down.  I have the foot, so I use it!

This is the hemmer foot in action! It rolls and stitches at the same time. Have I mentioned I love this foot?! I use it bunches!

This is what the fabric piece looks like after I have finished all the raw edges. Notice I used the serger for the short ends. (You don't have to have a serger either, you could just fold the ends over and over again then stitch with the sewing machine instead.)

Next is the fun part, the shirring!

So for all the sewing above you would have used regular thread. But now for the shirring part you need to change your bobbin thread to elastic thread. You need to hand wind it and don't pull it as you wind. It needs to go on the bobbin without being stretched. Then put your bobbin in machine just normally and then change your machine to the longest (baste type) stitch possible. I have a Bernina and I used the the largest (5) stitch that it has.

Here's some lady with a bad "mani" showing you the elastic thread and the top pink thread. (Yes that lady is me, forgive the bad "mani", I always have it, I like to garden and I only paint my nails on Saturday!) Now moving on past bad fingernails.

The picture below shows me starting the shirring process. I used the 5/8" line as my guide. Always back stitch when you start and stop, or else it will be coming undone. Stitch all the way down the strip of fabric keeping the fabric pulled flat. (any time during this process, keep the fabric pulled flat, don't let it rumple up while you are stitching.) It wants to crowd up on you (that's how it works) but while sewing you want to keep it flat.

When you get to the end (like where my serging is) I like to put my needle down, raise my foot and turn the fabric so it's perpendicular to the short edge, then put the foot back down, stitch 2 stitches along the short edge (this gives me perfect spacing to then turn and line up directly with the previous stitch.) Then put needle down, lift foot again and turn fabric so you are going down the long way again. This time you line up the left edge of your presser foot with the previous line you stitched. Again keeping the fabric pulled flat. (The more lines you stitch, the more rumpled it tries to get so keep it pulled flat as you stitch.)

This is a view of me making those 2 stitches on the short edge. Before turning again.

Here I have turned the fabric and am making my second pass of stitches using the previous stitch as my guide. I keep the left edge of the presser foot next to the previous stitch as shown here.

This view shows my 3rd pass of stitches after turning the fabric again at the end of each row. (Now using the right side of the presser foot lined up next to the previous stitch.)  Always using the previous stitch as your guide you can make as many stitch lines or passes as you like. For this project on this size/width of fabric I did 6 rows of stitches and it ended up with the same amount left on each edge.

Make sure to back stitch at the very end.

Below shows the completed shirring/smocking process. Now you want to switch your bobbin thread back to regular thread and change your stitch back to regular length. (No more baste/long stitches.)

It should look like this now.

The next step is magic! When you spray your shirred piece of fabric with water and press with a hot iron you see the shrinking and pulling in of the fabric.

Now with right sides of the fabric together and short ends matched up and pinned. Sew a seam, again I used the 5/8" and sewed over all the elastic thread lines. (Just to give extra strength.)

Don't sew over pins, remove them as you come to them.

This is what it looks like sewn together, wrong sides out.
Now I like to open up the seam and sew them down so they lay flat, it's more comfy!

Here I have the seam open and am sewing it down, matching the previous stitch. (the first stitch we made on the long side.)

This is what it looks like turned inside out with the seams sewed down flat.

This is the cuff bracelet all finished, and turned right side out and on a wrist.
Now you can embellish this any way you want to.

Some of my favorite ways to embellish are by adding bows, or flowers or buttons.
Next I will share how I made a bow.

Shown here is a 5x3.5" piece of fabric folded in half and stitched around all open sides (but leave a 1-2" hole so you can turn it right side out.) Make sure to back stitch when starting and stopping so the hole stays small when you start pulling on it to turn.

Trim off corners, being careful not to cut stitches. (Lessens bulk in corners.)

Now using the hole you left open, turn it right side out and use a tool of some kind to poke the corners out. (here I used a metal chime stick, it's what was close, the kids were playing their musical instruments.)

Now press with iron and close the hole by stitching close to the edge.

This is going to be the middle piece of the bow. I used a piece of fabric 1 1/2 inch wide folded over on itself to keep raw edges at the back and then trimmed it to 2 1/4" long. Then wrap it around the middle of the rectangle piece to make a bow. Then sew it down to the front of the bracelet.

After wrapping the small piece around the rectangle to make a bow pin it down to the front of the bracelet and sew in place by making a stitch straight down the middle of the middle piece and using back stitching when you start and stop. (Make sure to keep the bracelet back pulled out of the way of your stitching.)

Here is the finished product for the shirred bow cuff bracelet.

Another one we made with a fabric flower, netting and ribbon flower.

Hope you have found this tutorial easy to understand and follow. And I hope you enjoy using this simple technique to make fun accessories. I use the same technique to make waistbands in skirts and on headbands. To see more on how I make accessories using the shirring technique please visit my other tutorials on this blog titled: "Well, Here it is! Smocked/Shirred Maxi Skirt Tutorial" and "Shirred or Smocked Headband Tutorial."


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