Gathers are used to add volume and shaping to skirts, sleeves, and bodices. When they’re a featured element, it’s important to ensure they are evenly spaced and properly aligned. Threads Contributing Editor Susan Khalje shares tips for improving gathers; you’ll add an extra step or two, but the results are worth it.
Stitch length and gathering ratio
Most gathering methods have sewers use a long stitch length: 4.0 mm or longer. Susan advises using the shortest stitch length you can, as the tighter stitches hold the gathers in place more securely. To determine how long the stitches should be, experiment with your fabric. Decrease the stitch length until it’s as short as possible but you can still smoothly pull the needle thread to gather the fabric.
Another important test to make is to decide on the gathering ratio. This depends on the look you want, the amount of fabric you have, and the weight of the fabric. Lightweight fabrics can be gathered at higher ratio than thick and heavy fabrics. Be sure to test gathering over an intersecting seam, if the garment will have seams.
Sew the gathering stitches
Start by finishing the fabric’s raw edge with a zigzag or serged stitch, to control raveling as you’re forming the gathers. Then mark the fabric to be gathered and the fabric to which it will be sewn with evenly spaced marks. Susan uses tailor’s tacks at the edge of the fabric to be gathered, as pen or pencil marks are hard to see once the fabric has been gathered.
The key to Susan’s technique is to apply three rows of gathering stitches, not the usual one or two. Sew the first row on the seamline; place the second row about 1/4 inch away, within the…