Sewing 101: How to Sew Gathers

Sewing 101: How to Sew Gathers

Sewing gathers is a great way to fit lots of fabric onto a project: ideal for full dresses, skirts, and ruffles. In this tutorial we will walk you thorugh 3 variations of creating gathers- check out the video below to get started!

Fabric Choices

For these examples, we used these fabrics with this pattern:

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Pull Method

The pull method is very common and can be executed efficiently with a few simple tricks:
Your fabric will glide along the threads much easier if you set the tension to 0 and stitch length to 4mm or more.

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With the fabric facing up - sew 2 parallel rows from the edge of the fabric. Do not backstitch to lock stitches when starting OR stopping. After the two parallel rows have been sewn, separate the bobbin thread from the top thread. Tie off the top threads so they stay in place, and clip the top thread tails.

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Measure each fabric piece into equal fourths and pin the pieces together. Start on one end, holding both bobbin thread tails and slide the fabric towards the center. Repeat for the other side until the fabric is gathered to match the length of the joining fabric.

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Sliding the fabric along the bobbin thread is much easier than the top threads and will make for a cleaner seam finish.

Set your machine settings back to normal and sew the seam allowance just past the gather rows. Adjust the ruffles as you go to keep them straight, and finish the seam when done.
Another way you can do the pull method is to sew the seam allowance in between the 2 parallel rows. The gathered fabric results are absolutely beautiful and it’s easier to sew to the joining fabric. An extra step is involved though – you must remove the lower gather stitch row afterwards since it’s outside the seam.

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Cord Method

Medium to heavyweight fabrics can be too thick for the parallel row pull method. Instead, try the cord method for creating gathers. Sew a wide zig zag stitch instead – with yarn or cord in the middle to pull.

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You can get the cord there 1 of 2 ways – sew the zig zag stitch with the cord in the middle as you sew, or thread the cord through with a craft needle afterward.

Continue as you would otherwise, pinning the fabric piece together, and then pulling the cord to gather the fabric until the lengths match.

Remove the cord afterward, clip gathers to reduce bulk within the seam allowance, and finish the seam.

If you sew a lot of projects with gathered fabric, investing in a ruffle foot or gathering foot might be a good idea. They give much more uniformity to the gathers and can be a big time saver.

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Happy gathering!

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