Shirred/Smocked Pillowcase Top From Valerie




About: I am a whole food cooking, swing pushing, boo-boo kissing, paper crafting, photo taking, homeschooling, creative sewing, attachment parenting, woodworking, guitar playing, gardening, constantly reading, arti...

There are some things that pillowcases lend themselves to so beautifully that it would be silly not to try it. This is one of those.

Shirring is really simple. However, for this project, you will use your iron as much as your sewing machine, so make sure that when you start this project, you have both ready and on hand. Then it can be finished in next to no time.

Step 1: For This Project, You Will Need:

1 pillow case
matching or coordinating thread
sewing machine
elastic thread
iron and ironing board

Step 2:

First, measure your child from arm pit to where you want the shirt to go. For Cyan (long torso and size 8) she measures about 17 inches. Measuring from the bottom of the pillowcase, I add one inch to that length (for seam allowance and gathering factor) and cut the rest off the closed end of the pillow case. (Keep aside for straps.)

Step 3:

Then make a small hem at the cut edge to finish it off. Not too big, about 1/2 inch is great. Iron the edge with the pillow case seam (there is only one) at the back center.

Step 4:

Now, wind your bobbin with elastic thread. This thread can be found at any sewing and craft store. The top thread will remain the same, so you want to pick one that either matches or compliments your pillowcase really well.

Step 5:

Starting at the top where the hem is, stitch the hem with the elastic thread underneath all the way around following the hem. It will not look like it is doing much gathering at this point. This is very normal.

Step 6:

Now move your fabric over so that the hem is on the right edge of the presser foot. This is where you sew your next line of gathers. If you use your presser foot as a gage to where your stitches are supposed to go, you end up with very neat and strait gathers without having to measure every line.

Step 7:

Make 10 gathering lines, lock stitching (if you can) each line at beginning and end. Try not to cut the threads until you are finished. Just moving your presser foot down to the next line and lock stitch, sew all the way around, and then lock stitch again. (If you like a longer smocking, try 15 lines on the top.... or just a bit of smocking at the very top with a more princess type look, do only 5 lines. It is a very versatile pattern.)

Step 8:

Iron. This time you want as much steam as your iron can pump out. This will help your top gather nicely into the smocking.

Step 9:

To make the straps, just take the left over pillowcase, and cut it into 2 1/2 inch strips. Then fold in half and iron. Fold both edges to the middle where it was ironed and iron again. Fold in half and sew down the open side. Place the top on the child, and pin the straps in place at the right length. Take it off them and sew the straps to the top. (I use safety pins so when I take it back off my dd it doesn't poke her.)

I chose to place the back straps close together for a more racer back look, but any placement will look cute!

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    9 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for sharing this creative idea. I have 4 nieces that I would like to make these for, my question is, since they range in age and size from 5-12 how would I adjust the size via the shirring? I appreciate your help, as I am anxious to get sewing.
    Aloha~ Karen


    9 years ago on Introduction

    So when you say to put a lock stitch in is that because you are not going to pull the threads to gather the smocking? That is so fabulous - I had no idea how that was done or how you would know how much to pull each one but you are not pulling at all, you are letting the steam and elastic do the trick? Great ible!

    1 reply

    Yes... no thread pulling! I have made that same top with the smocking done the 'old fashioned way' and it nearly drove me to tears. This way is much easier. :)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This looks great! Such a little bit of effort to make a pillow case look completely different. You might add a bit more information on smocking for those who aren't familiar with gathers.

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Hi there! I am not sure what I should add. I would love some input, or perhaps a specific question to answer so I can best give the information you were looking for. I have made several of these for my dd and the one pictured has quickly become one of her favorite tops. It looks GREAT with a jean jacket and a pair of khakis. :) Val


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Maybe some advice on sewing with elastic thread would be good? Just a link to the how-to of your choice would help people get into it. I know how to do it, but it's a mystery to a lot of people. I don't know if there's one on here (I haven't found it yet if there is), but this post: links to a lot of other tutorials on it. If my camera weren't dead, I'd put one up myself.

    Sewing with elastic is like MAGIC for kids clothes. Also great for waistbands for little ones still in diapers. The little pants come on and off with more ease than a single heavy band and there's no elastic to dig into the baby's tummy. You can use (if my memory serves) the same pillowcase trick for a high-waisted skirt. This is also useful when you're sewing for disabled children or autistic children of either gender who may be very sensitive to anything snug around the waist.


    9 years ago on Step 8

    I am a super beginner and not sure I understand this. You mean you stretch the part you just sewed flat and iron it, then let it go back?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 8

    No, you just put your hot iron with lots of steam over the smocked part, and it will gather a bunch more than it was when you were sewing it. The steam makes the elastic thread contract, making the project gather tightly. Hope that helps! Val