2 Ways for Fool-Proof Gathers

By Kate Hegedus, Sewing from Scratch

Gathering can be frustrating and intimidating. Broken and tangled threads are enough to drive anyone out of the sewing room. Today I’m going to share my 2 go-to ways for easy gathers to keep you at the machine and creating that garment of your visions.

How to Gather Fabric – Option 1

This first way is very basic and, in my opinion, the simplest. Very little skill is needed to accomplish an even and effective finished gather.

Step 1 – Set your stitch length to the longest your machine allows – a basting stitch. This is typically a “5”.

Step 2 – Run a line of stitching ¼” from the edge of your fabric. Be sure NOT to backstitch at the beginning or end.

Step 3 – Run a second line of basting stitch about ⅛” from the first, ⅜” from the edge of the fabric, the same way you stitched the first. Be careful not to cross your two lines.

Step 4 – firmly hold the bobbin (bottom) threads on one end as you slide the fabric along the basting stitch, forming beautiful gathers. Repeat on the other side as needed.

*Note: a third row of gathering basting stitch can be added for heavier fabric or long lengths, or for peace of mind.

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How to Gather Fabric – Option 2

This second way to gather fabric is by using an item I would hope everyone has on hand – dental floss. This method is slightly more advanced, but will give you great practice and eliminates the fear of snapped threads.

Step 1 – Attach the tail end of your dental floss to the edge of your fabric with a clip. You can, alternatively, hold it in place, but you might find it a bit cumbersome at first. Leave the floss attached to the roll. Small ribbon or fishing line may also be used

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Step 2 – Set your machine to zig zag stitch with the stitch width as wide as it will go. 

Step 3 – Align the floss directly in the center of your presser foot and carefully zig zag back and forth over the floss, being careful not to sew into the floss. Sew the entire length of fabric needing to be gathered.  You may wish to go back and zig zag where the presser foot did not fit infront of the clip. If you have a cording foot you might be able to use it for this application, although not necessary.

Step 4 – Remove from your machine and gather by pulling the fabric along the floss. Be careful not to pull the floss out of the 

*Note: this method of gathering will not hold itself in place. Clip or pin as needed to keep gathers where you want them. 

Final thoughts about gathering

Method one is my preferred way of gathering fabric, simply because I find it quicker and doesn’t require extra bits.

I like to find the center of my piece before doing any gathering, to ensure it’s precice. For circles and longer pieces I will also quarter the piece.

Garments like skirts and shirts that have a front and back to be gathered should be done in 2 (ore more) separate gathering sections based on the seams of the garment. Just stitch close to the seams, but not into.

I like to secure my gathers with a basting stitch once I have them where I want, so that they are nice and even and I don’t have to worry about them moving around too much when I go to stitch them to their final piece.

Gathering adds another level of finish to your sewing practice and, with the right level of attention, will elevate your garment. Happy sewing!

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