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How To Make Scrunchy or Bubbly Fabric Shapes

Updated on May 7, 2013
Stones tied into material.
Stones tied into material. | Source

Making Permanent Shapes In Synthetic Fabrics

This is a simple technique that allows you to change the shape of any synthetic fabric simply using hot water. The examples will explain how to create a bubbled fabric and a scrunched fabric.

The shape will remain in the fabric even after it is stretched, only the application of heat will re-shape it.

This is a great way to create texture by shaping patterns into the fabric. It is useful for costume making and textured fabrics can be extremely useful in set design. For example, a heavily textured piece of fabric, dyed in shades of grey can look like a stone wall.

Step One: Create The Shape.

For bubbly fabric- Take some stones or glass marbles and put them into the fabric using an elastic band or tight string to hold them in place. It can take a while if your fabric is large, but is easy to do while watching tv.

It ends up looking something like the above picture.

You can make patterns, neat rows or tie them in randomly, as I have in the example, to get a warty look as it was an idea for skin for a Jabberwocky from the poem by Lewis Carroll.

Gathering the loose running stitch.
Gathering the loose running stitch. | Source
I have stitched a loose end and a tight end for comparison.
I have stitched a loose end and a tight end for comparison. | Source

For scrunchy fabric- Using cotton thread, sew large, loose running stitch across the material and then pull each end tight to gather the material. Tie them of to hold the gathers tight.

There is no need to worry about neatness, the more ‘wonky’ the stitches, the more random the final effect will be.

The size of the stitches will determine the level of wrinkliness the fabric will end up with. The smaller and closer together the stitches, the more scrunched the final result will be. As long as they are able to be pulled to gather the fabric.

It ends up looking a bit like this.

Step Two: Simmer

Now simply heat up a pot or urn of water big enough to submerge the fabric.

Let it simmer, it doesn't need to boil rapidly. Leave it for around 40-60 mins, depending on the size and thickness of the fabric piece.

Step Three: Dry and Unpick/Undo

Remove from the pot – use tongs.

Hang it up to dry, or the scrunchy can be put in the dryer once it is squeezed out.

The bubbly, with rocks/marbles in it can be undone while still damp, as long as it is cool, so it can dry faster. You can tumble dry it, but only on a cool setting.

NOTE: A little colour may wash out of the fabric, you'll notice it in the water (my water was a lovely violet colour after simmering the green material). It rarely dulls the material noticeably, but it might stain your dryer, so give it a wipe out afterwards.

The bubbly fabric sewn to a red background.
The bubbly fabric sewn to a red background. | Source

The Final Product

Here is the result.

REMEMBER - This only works on synthetic fabric, I have tried it on tulle, organza, polyester, nylon netting and stretchy nylon all to great effect. Opaque and open materials like organza, tulle and netting are great for this technique as they let the fabric behind show through for greater effect. Patterned and printed or shiny fabrics will enhance the effect also.

Experiment with shapes and patterns. Have fun.

Note the size difference in the wrinkles due to different size stitches.
Note the size difference in the wrinkles due to different size stitches. | Source

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