Shirred / Elasticated Headband Tutorial

Quite unexpectedly this has become my own unofficial shirring week. Yesterday, as I quickly fashioned a new headband for Zebra-girl with a shirred elasticy back, I suddenly realised what a perfect practice-project it would be for those who don't yet want to launch into making a whole shirred dress, and don't have quite the same zeal for shirring through the contents of their own wardrobe as I seem to possess.

What's completely super about the shirring on this headband is that it means that one size pretty much fits all as it's so very stretchy, I'd say from 4 - 104. Yes, although I think of headbands as primarily being for children, this will fit an adult too (worth saying as I think there's a certain type of woman that could pull off wearing a headband...possibly a potter, with bohemian dress, who exudes an unselfconscious sort of thrown-together cool...she would look quite wonderful in a headband. I am not a potter). The size may need to be reduced a little for a toddler.

The other super thing about this headband is that it's cut on the bias for a head-hugging and flattering fit; it curves snugly around in the most pleasing gaping here! Hurrah!

4.5" x 15" piece of fabric cut on the bias
13.5" x 4" piece of fabric NOT cut on the bias.
Sewing machine elastic
Regular sewing machine thread
An iron

If you haven't shirred anything before, then you'll need to read the tutorial that I wrote on shirring before you begin, as it has lots of information in it that I won't explain here.

As per the shirring tutorial, before you begin make sure:
  • that you have regular cotton thread in your spool holder and shirring elastic in the bobbin case
  • that you have reduced the top tension
  • that you have lengthened the stitch length
There's no need to hem this fabric before you begin, simply line the presser foot up with the raw edge of the fabric and shirr along the long side of the fabric. Secure the stitches at the beginning and end of each line of shirring and cut off thread tails.

Once you've finished shirring, the fabric should be about half its previous length. It should look something like this from the front:

And this from the back:

Now fold it in half length ways so that the right sides of the fabric are together on the inside. Pin along the long edge. You will need to sew along this edge with a 1/2" seam. Remember, before you begin to sew: to fill the bobbin case with regular thread, and to put the upper tension and stitch length back to the settings that you would normally sew with. You have now entered a shirring-free zone.

As you sew you will need to stretch the fabric out so that it temporarily reverts to the flat state that it was once in. To do this hold it taut at the back and front, and let the fabric feed through the machine at its normal pace.

Now turn right side out...yes, this is tricky...I normally pace around a bit as I do feels like it helps in what I always find to be this inexplicably tense sewing moment.

Once turned, roll the seam to sit in the middle at the back and you should be left with something resembling this:

And this from the front:

Set the shirred fabric to one side and take the bias cut piece of fabric. Fold it in half length-ways, with the right side of the fabric facing inwards.

Pin in place and then sew along the long edge, this time using a 1/4" seam. Once completed, turn right side out and gently fold each short edge inwards by 1/2" so that no raw edges are exposed.

Place the shirred fabric within the bias tube by about 1/2" with the visible seams both on the same side (because you won't want to see those on the finished band).

At this point, you have a choice - if you want the small pleats to be a point of interest (as seen in my picture of the finished head band, 2nd photo from the top) then fold the pleats so that they sit on the outside of the headband, if you don't want the pleats to be visible then you should fold the pleats to the inside of the headband (i.e toward the side of the fabric where the seam lines are visible). The shirred fabric should sit within the bias tube by about 1/2".

Fold the excess material at each side toward the centre to create two small and even pleats. Pin them in place.

Sew two lines of stitching to secure in place and then repeat for the other end.

Run the iron over the pleats to work them into a good shape...this can take a minute, but it's worth getting them to sit perfectly for a good finish.

Hurrah, the headband is finished. If it's for you, then head back to the potting studio (or put on a swirly 1950s style skirt and head to the bowling alley, that's another scenario in which I can picture adult headband wearing)...if it's for someone small, present them with the divine creation and leave them to pick out their own adorable clothing combination to compliment it.

If you have the time then I would love to see any headbands that you might make from this pattern - you can either email me or drop them into my Flickr pool here.

I sincerely promise that this will be the last you will hear from me about the S word. This doesn't mean that the obsession is over, as the moment I've pressed 'publish post' I'm getting straight on with shirring that I have planned for tonight...but I will try not to talk about it. Or at least not to dedicate any more posts to it.

I hope this brings you some headband happiness,
Florence x


  1. what a cute headband!

    I just had to leave a comment to tell you that I pace when I turn things, too. When I read your description, I almost said out loud "me, too!"

    I, for one, have enjoyed your unofficial shirring week. I have had plans to make another shirred dress, and this has just fueled the desire.

  2. What a fabulous headband idea! I really think I need to make 'Little Miss H' several. Right now. Fabby for our upcoming holiday to the states. Thanks kindly, Justine xx

  3. If you keep putting shirring projects in front of me eventually I'm going to go buy the thread and get looks like so much fun I'm having a hard time resisting the urge to trek to my closest shop that would have this until I need more things to justify the trip.

  4. ooo, I hope I get to try one of these, they're super cute! Thanks for sharing the tutorial. :)

  5. Don't stop dedicating posts to shirring! I love your elastic ideas - especially the "how to shirr your wardrobe projects". So keep on shirring and posting. :)

  6. This turned out so cute! I will have to give it a try -- my girls love wearing headbands!

  7. Oooh just making this in a slightly smaller size for my little girl (to match my first finished outfit - if I say so myself she looks super cute!)

    Just wanted to say first that if the shirring looks a little sad and not too stretchy don't despair - I've found that wetting it and a quick shuzsh with the iron works a treat.

    I also wondered what elastic you use? I got a great big bobbin for about 99p from my local hd store as that was all they had - but yours looks much thicker...

    And thank-you - love your posts :)

  8. Trying this out today. I too love shirring, absolutely love it. thanks so much for sharing this.

  9. So pleased that you're making use of this and enjoying the shirring. x

  10. Fabulous! I actually love wearing hair accessories especially headbands. I think I'll take your tutorial and make one with other embellishments on it! I hope I can make such beautiful project!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this pattern. I am trying to grow my hair out and it is beginning to really frustrate me. I asked my hair dresser yesterday if growing it out now (I just turned 50) and it has been short for 33 years, if it would make me look older. His comment "I don't see you being able to braid it anytime soon!" It is only chin length, but that is long for me.

  12. Having just read your stirring tutorial and now this headband one, I think this might turn out to be one of my favourite things to do :-)
    Off to buy some shirting elastic right now!
    Thank you!

  13. Thank you so much for the darling headband pattern. I just made four of them for my two granddaughters for Christmas! Great site!!


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Florence x