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Favorite Gathering Methods

grammy07 | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Does anyone have a good way to gather fabric for a tiered sundress? I’m making two sundresses for my granddaughters and I can never get the gathers even. Thank you. Sheri


  1. starzoe | | #1

    Whichever method you use, it helps a lot to pull all the threads at the same time (much like gathering curtains with multiple gathers).

  2. KharminJ | | #2

    Greetings, Grammy! I just watched a "Sewing with Nancy" episode where she showed how to set up a simple gathering by zigzaging over a twisted thread.Start with the needle thread extended as long as the fabric to be gathered. Take a starter stitch and pull up the bobbin thread - to the same length. Gently twist the 2 threads together and zz over them to the end of your gather. You automatically have the starting end fastened, so it won't pull out while you're working on it! She also suggested "quartering" your line, pin-marking each one, and making 4 separate zigzags, according to the above directions. (If you have a huge hem, you can divide the line further - 8 or even 16 parts will keep the ruffles from bunching. Hope that helps!Bright Blessings ~ Kharmin

  3. joanier | | #3

    Depending on the weight of the fabric, I often find that three rows of stitching instead of the usual two helps me to get even gathers and then makes them easier to stitch to the other layer.  This works best with the fabrics I use most often which are heirloom and children's fabrics but still works quite well with regular weight cotton.   I also loosen the thread tension just a wee bit to make pulling up the gathers easier and of course, always pull up by either the top or the bottom thread but not both.  I tend to use the bobbin thread out of habit.  Then I can work from the back side when pinning to the next layer. 

    One more thing that helps me is to work on a flat pinnable surface such as a June Tailor lace shaping board.   An ironion board would do as well.  That way you can see well as you distribute your gathers evenly.

    For large amounts of gathering I often use the gathering foot or the ruffle foot and to heck with even gathers!  For ruffles I simply allow plenty of fabric and take what I get rather than trying to make a certain length ruffle fit a given space.


  4. lou19 | | #4

    Best results is to use a ruffler foot. (Ruffler is also much  better than a machine gethering foot)

    Test on sample fabric for setting you like best  and then measure  and work how much extra fabric you need to get your finished width.

  5. Ceeayche | | #5

    I have two go to methods both use a medium with zig zag with the longest stiches.

    For lighter weight fabrics, I just zig zag and pull the bobbin thread.  The effect is the same as two rows of basting.

    For heavier weight fabrics I zig zag over a piece of cotton crochet thread/yarn. This minimizes the thread breakage.  And, after I've stabelized the gathers by sewing them to the next piece, the thread is very easy to remove.

  6. Teaf5 | | #6

    Others have posted my favorite ways of gathering, but I take two more steps:  mark the center front & back and side seams on the top of the ruffle before gathering and gather each quarter with separate stitching lines.  Clearly marking the sections makes it easier to distribute fullness, and the smaller the section, the easier it is to get the fullness even.

    After pulling the threads part way, I pin the ruffle to the CF,CB, & side seams and then finish pulling the threads to fit the finished length and use my fingers to ease the fullness in that section.  On really large projects, I machine baste parts of each section to secure it while I work on other sections.  I stitch with the gathered material down, so that the feed dogs take up the remaining slack as I stitch.

    Lucky granddaughters to get handmade sundresses!

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #7

      I have to agree with you Teaf, as your method mirrors mine. One habit I have developed is to cut small notches to divide my long lengths into smaller divisions as I am cutting my pieces, or marking the divisions when I am marking my pattern pieces. It makes it easy to start and stop lines of stitching at these points when I am sewing the basting stitches. Then it is easy to just pin the gathered pieces into place, and distribute the gathers for the initial placements. I also find it is easier to UNDO gathers to fit a space, than to try and gather fabric INTO a space. The gathers seem to just go in smoother. Cathy

    2. Ceeayche | | #9

      Yes, I forgot to mention that step!  Our methods are similar.

  7. Tatsy | | #8

    I once made a prairie skirt without a pattern right on the serger, using the differential feed set at the fullest gather possible. It went together easily and looked great but didn't wear very well. I'm planning to try this again, adding either a safety chain stitch, or taking it to the sewing machine and putting in a seam 1/4" from the gathering to give it more strength and stability. Even with the extra sewing, this is the quickest gathering I've ever done and had none of the "catch" accidents I've had with other methods.

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