Gathering Stitch – Easy Techniques to Gather

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Gathering stitch and the effect of gathering is about bringing things together. There are different ways to gather and different techniques will suit different fabrics. Gathering may just be a simple hand-stitched row of gathering stitches or it may be more complex and executed by a machine. The basic principle is to run several rows of running stitches across the area to be gathered. When the stitches are in place the threads are pulled up and the gathers are the result of the pulled threads.

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 Gathering StitchMachine Gathering StitchHand Gathering StitchSerger Gathering StitchElastic Gathering StitchGathering Stitch with CordGathering Stitch with a RufflerGathering with a Gathering FootTips for Getting the Best Gathering StitchGathering Stitch – In Conclusion

 Gathering Stitch

Here is a list of different ways to gather, how to do the stitches required, and tips to make sure your gathers are smooth and even.

Gathering Stitch OptionsGathering Stitch OptionsPinGathering Stitch Options

Machine Gathering Stitch

Machine gathering is the most common gathering stitch that most home sewers will use. It is easy to do although a little more time-consuming than some of the other methods. Use machine gathering stitch when you are sewing light to medium weight fabrics.

Read the Full Article: How to Gather by Machine

Set your machine on a basting gathering stitch. This is the longest stitch on the dial of stitch lengths on your machine. Then practice on a scrap to check the stitch will gather with ease. Do not backstitch because you are going to pull the threads to create the gathers. Leave a long tail thread at either end of the stitching to use to pull up the gathers. Sew at least two rows of basting stitches to get an even set of gathers when you pull up the basting stitches. Make sure when you pull up the threads to create the gathers that you pull on the bobbin threads and not both the needle threads and the bobbin threads. Wind one end of the basting threads around a pin inserted into the beginning of the gathers to secure the threads while you pull up the fabric into a gathered state. After you have stitched the gathers into place, you will remove the basting threads and this is the reason for not backstitching in the beginning.

Machine Gathering StitchMachine Gathering StitchPinMachine Gathering Stitch

Hand Gathering Stitch

Gathering by hand relies on running stitch.  The size of the running stitch, and the equal distance apart, determine the size of the gathers. 

Read the Full Article: Gathering by Hand

Start by knotting the thread you plan to use and choose a strong thread or use a double strand of thread. Sew running stitches across the area to be gathered. Pull the needle out of the thread when you reach the end of the row. Leave the tail thread ready to pull up with the second row of gathering stitch. Start a second row the same way as the first and run the stitches parallel to the first row with a tail thread at the end. The gathers are made by pulling the two threads together to reach the amount of gathered fabric required to fill the space you wish to fit the gathers into. Remember to mark the halfway point and the quarter points on the piece you are gathering BEFORE you pull the gathers up. These marks will help you to match the points on the area you are fitting the gathered fabric into. This ensures the even spacing of the gathering stitch.

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Serger Gathering Stitch

Yes, it is possible to use a serger to gather. In this instance, the technique works in reverse of stitching and pulling up the gathers. The serger stitches and pulls up gathers making the piece of fabric more gathered than necessary. After the gathers are put in place the stitches need to be loosened to stretch out the gathered portion after the serger has finished all the gathering. 

Read the Full Article: Gathering with a Serger

Here are the basic steps to take to prepare your serger for gathering stitch and to complete the gathering process.

Prepare your serger to use 4 threads. Thread the needle threads in the same color to identify them when you want to alter the gathers. Thread the looper threads in a different color.Change the differential feed to the highest number.Increase the stitch length to the highest number that is on your make of serger.Sew with the serger and as you sew the serger will gather the fabricThe needle threads will determine the gathers. Pull the needle threads to tighten or loosen the gathers to reach the amount of gathering you need.

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Elastic Gathering Stitch

Elastic is already a natural gatherer and very useful for different projects needing to be elasticated with some gathering.  There are several ways to use elastic as your method of gathering.

Method 1 – Stitching to Fabric

This is a quick and easy method and useful for an area that does not need too much strength to be elasticated. 

Read the Full Article: Ruching

Simply measure the finished mount of elastic to fit the area to be gathered and elasticated. This will be smaller than the amount of fabric you are gathering. Mark the area to be gathered in quarters on the fabric and do the same on the elastic. Overlap the ends of the elastic to form a loop if you are sewing in the round. Otherwise leave it flat.Use a straight or a zigzag stitch to attach the elastic. As you stitch directly onto the elastic pull it gently towards the marked quarters. Guide the elastic to the quarters and in this way, the stretch of the elastic and the gathers will be evenly spaced. The elastic creates the gathers around the area that is being elasticated. This method of gathering allows the garment to be pulled on or off easily and for the gathers to be in place sitting comfortably in the chosen area.


Method 2 – Casings

This method needs a casing to be sewn first to thread the required length of elastic through. The casing must be wide enough to accommodate the elastic.

Read the Full Article: How to Sew a Waistband

Measure the amount of elastic to fit the area needing to be elasticated. Use a safety pin or a bodkin to thread the elastic through the casing. Initially secure the elastic as soon as it reaches the point when the end of the elastic is flush with the opening where the threading began. This will stop the elastic from pulling out of the casing. Continue to thread the elastic through the casing until it is pulled through. Remove the pin or bodkin and spread the gathers evenly along the elastic in the casing. Before you sew the end check the elastic is the right size to fit the area needing gathers and elastic. Adjust the end if necessary before sewing in place. Elastic in a casing can make the waistband at the same time as providing the elasticated waist. 

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Method 3 – Shirring Elastic

A gathering stitch with shirring elastic is another effective way of adding fullness and style to a garment. Shirring elastic looks like string, but it is stretchy and a very narrow form of elastic. Shirring elastic is wound on the bobbin and brought up through the underside of the machine to sew and gather up the fabric from the bobbin side. Remember not to stretch the shirring elastic on the bobbin. The machine will do the stretching as the stitches are sewn and the shirring elastic is pulled up through the bobbin casing. 

Several adjustments will be needed to the machine and the tension of the stitch to use shirring elastic. Shirring elastic is not strong enough to hold up as a single row of stitching but is very effective when several rows are sewn together. Shirring elastic, in several rows, gives the effect of smocking on a little girl`s dress.

Read the Full Article: Shirring Fabric

Steps to take to use shirring elastic:

Choose your fabric carefully. Shirring elastic is not suitable for heavy bulky fabrics.Shirring elastic is wound onto the bobbin by hand. Wind the elastic on carefully without pulling the elastic as you go. Test the tension of the elastic as you gently pull it through the bobbin. It should pull through smoothly, but with some tension. Adjust the tension screw accordingly. Check the tension by holding the bobbin by the elastic and if it eases out of the bobbin slowly then the tension is correct. If the bobbin does not move at all the tension is too tight and if it drops rapidly then it is too loose.Mark the rows you plan to gather with the elastic. Test the tension and elastic on a scrap of fabric to make sure you have the elastic and the gathering stitch perfect for the planned shirring elastic effect.Tie off your end threads when you are sure your shirring is the right size and stitch over the ends to ensure they do not unravel. Press the gathers from the right side so you do not press on top of the elastic. The shirring elastic is made of rubber and could be damaged by a hot iron.

Shirring Gathering StitchShirring Gathering StitchPinShirring Gathering Stitch

Method 4 – Clear Elastic

Clear elastic is used to gather knit fabrics. Elastic is used particularly at the waist where a gathered skirt is sewn into a bodice. If there was no stretch retained, then the dress would not be able to go over your head.

Read the Full Article: How to Gather Knit Fabric

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Gathering Stitch with Cord

Heavy-duty fabrics and thick home décor fabrics do well using this method of gathering. The string or cord needs to be strong so that it will not snap as the cord is pulled through.

Read the Full Article: Gathering with Cord

Measure the cord to be slightly longer than the area to be gathered. Set your machine on a wide zigzag so the stitches go either side of the cord easily and do not catch on the string. Leave a long tail at the beginning and the end to pull up the gathers and secure the string. Sew the zigzag stitch over the cord and gently pull the cord to fit the area to be gathered. At the end adjust the cord to create gathers across the stitched casing. The cord is inside the zigzag casing. Secure the tail at the beginning and adjust the gathers according to the amount of gathered fabric required to insert into the area needing fullness. Finally, reset your sewing machine to stitch down the gathers. Use a straight stitch just below the zigzag and the cord. Remove the zigzag and the cord when the gathers are secured.

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Gathering Stitch with a Ruffler

The ruffler is a wonderful attachment. If you have one try it out on a scrap before committing to your fabric. Your machine handbook or the stockist of your type of machine should be able to direct you on the best ruffler for your machine. There are also many generic brands available.

Read the Full Article: How to Use a Ruffler Foot

Gathering Stitch with a RufflerGathering Stitch with a RufflerPinGathering Stitch with a Ruffler

Gathering with a Gathering Foot

For gentler gathers, use a gathering foot. This useful foot is best used with finer fabrics where only small gathers are required.

Read the Full Article: Gathering Foot

Gathering Stitch with a Gathering FootGathering Stitch with a Gathering FootPinGathering Stitch with a Gathering Foot

Tips for Getting the Best Gathering Stitch

Here are some handy hints to apply to different gathering stitch methods.

LONG RUFFLES – Consider gathering a long piece of fabric starting from the center outwards and starting the gathers twice from the middle to the left side and the middle to the right side. This puts less strain on the threads over a long space. Gathering a long piece requires some pushing and pulling to get the fabric to gather evenly. If you find you are bunching up the fabric pull gently to loosen the gathers and spread them more evenly.MARKING – Mark all the points before the gathering begins. In this way the gathers can be evenly spread over the space they are being set into.BOBBINS – Check your bobbin thread before starting to ensure there is enough to finish the row. Running out of bobbin thread halfway can be very annoying. Consider using a different color for the bobbin thread. This will ensure you have the right thread to pull up for the gathers. You will be removing the thread at the end so it won’t matter.NUMBER OF ROWS – A third row of gathering stitch helps to secure the gathers when the threads are finally pulled up.FEET – Check your machine accessories for a variety of attachments to see if you have a gathering foot.PRESSING – Press gathers on the wrong side of the fabric. Use the point of the iron to push open the gathers and make them full.

Gathering Stitch – In Conclusion

Gathering has a way of adding flair and interest to any sewing project. When you use gathering stitch to improve the look of the item you are sewing, you bring together an added interest to the style and pattern of the fabric. Enhancing any piece of fabric project with gathers is said to inspire and add joy and hope. Try it and you will see your fabric come to life with a few or many gathers.

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