How to Gather
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Learn how to gather fabric when sewing to make beautiful ruffles and gathered skirts. Gathering is a basic sewing skill that is used often!
In this tutorial I’ll show you how to gather fabric. Gather is a basic sewing stitch but it is fun and pretty. It makes things look feminine and fun.
I love using it for ruffles, for skirts and dresses, and for sleeves. There are so many places to gather fabric to add your own detail to something you are sewing.
how to gather
Start with one piece longer than another. My long piece is twice as long as my short piece.
Set your machine stitch length to five. This is a basting stitch.
Sew three lines on the edge of the long piece at 1/4″, 1/2″, and 3/4″.
Three lines. Sometimes when I don’t have time I’ll sew at 1/2″ and 3/4″ inch but three lines are really best.
Grab either the top three threads or the bottoms three threads and pull with one hand while pulling with the other.
My top thread is purple and my bobbin thread is blue. I’m pulling the three purple threads.
Once you’ve gathered a little on one side, put a pin in the fabric and wrap all six threads around it.
Now go to the other side and gather. Measure the gathered piece against the short piece and pin and wrap the other side once they match lengths.
See how the gathers are uneven? You’re going to push and pull the gathers across until they are even.
I like to pin every 3/4″ or so to really control the gathers as I sew.
When you sew the gathers to another piece of fabric, sew at 5/8″ with the gathers up so you can watch them. REMEMBER TO PUT STITCH LENGTH BACK TO NORMAL. (I always forget.)
Also, a gathered piece has to be sewed to an ungathered piece. If you sew a gathered piece to a gathered piece, the gathers will move around as if they weren’t sewn down.
The purple thread is where I sewed, the three blue threads are the basting stitches.
Sometimes the gathering threads peak out the seam. Trim them off.
Iron the piece by going up to the gathers, but do NOT iron over the gathers. This will squish them and ruin all your hard work.
Iron the seam allowances without ironing the gathers.
Unpick the one basting stitch that is showing.
You are finished! This ratio is 2:1.
Different Gathering Ratios
Here are some other samples from my sewing classes.
Ratio 3:1 on grainline gathers.
Ratio 2:1 on grainline gathers.
Ratio 2:1 on crossgrain gathers.
Ratio 1.5:1 on crossgrain gathers.
Ratio 3:1 on bias gathers.
Ratio 1.5:1 on bias gathers.
Grainline gathers are the most economical because you use the least fabric. Crossgrain gathers are next, and bias gathers are the most expensive because it uses a lot of fabric.
Bias gathers are also the prettiest because the fabric drapes so nicely. Grainline gathers are next, and crossgrain gathers are the least pretty. The only reason to use crossgrain gathers is if there is a border print on the fabric that you want to use.
I hope all this makes sense! Have fun with your gathers! There are so many things you can do with gathers. Like gathering lace. . .
If you make something using this sewing project, I’d love to see! Please share it on social media with the hashtag #heatherhandmade and tag me!
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I believe small sewing moments can create great joy. Find your own “right” way to sew. -Heather
haha. That's much more effective then my method! No wonder my clothes always look so awful when I try to sew them myself!