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How do i gather

Coyotewasted | Posted in General Discussion on

I am making a girls dress size 6 and it says to gather the upper edge of the skirt to within 1″ of back opening edge. I was just wondering if someone could give me some clearer instructions on how to do this than the pattern gave me.


  1. MaryinColorado | | #1

    Set your machine for a very long stitch length.  Divide the skirt section into 4 pieces (this is so you can try to get the gathers even so one part isn't more gathered than another).  Stitch each section between the seam allowance and the cut edge. Leave alot of thread tail on the ends.  Pull the bobbin thread gently and it will gather, you control the amount for each section so all the gathers won't be in one spot.  Then you lay it on the bodice of the dress to see how it will fit together.  You will need to tighten or loosen the gathers so they fit around the bodice.  It is saying not to have gathers in the last inch on each back side.  Hope this makes sense to you. 

    There are quicker methods after you learn this basic technique to get comfortable with gathering.  Mary

    oops, others correctly stated that two rows of long basting stitches are better than one in case of thread breakage!   But I wouldn't stitch them outside the seam allowance due to needle holes possibly showing on the finished garment.   You remove the long gathering (basting stitches) after you stitch the seam with a regular stitch lenth. 

    (I've been using my serger for gathering so it's been awhile since doing it with the sewing machine so sorry if I confused you). 

    Edited 9/14/2009 8:48 pm by MaryinColorado

    1. Coyotewasted | | #10

      Thanks so much everybody. All of your input has helped me tremendously!!

  2. starzoe | | #2

    To gather, set your machine to BASTE or to the longest stitch available. Sew a double row, one just below the seam line and one barely above, leave long tails. If there is a lot of fabric you may want to do this in two or more sections.

    To gather, take the bobbin threads and gently pull them them to gather up between markings. To hold the bobbin thread in place when pulled up, place a pin and wrap the threads to hold them.

    There are alternate methods, e.g., to zigzag over a heavier thread or crochet cotton but for a little girl's dress, the method above is one that will serve you best.

    When you have the gathers evenly set, generously pin the skirt to the top and sew (slowly, evening out the gathers as you go between pins) on the seam line.

  3. dressed2atee | | #3

    Hi although the two suggestions work.  I prefer to place the fabric to be gathered under the pressor foot; using the hand wheel lower the needle and bring it back up, then pull the bobbin thread to the top and pull it along with the thread from the needle towards you the length of the fabric width plus about 3".  Then set your machine to a wide zig zag and while holding the two threads together, zig zag over them.  You get much less breakage.  Also if you put silk thread in the bobbin it gathers really well, it's really strong and won't break.  My gathers are always foolproof!

    Edited 9/15/2009 9:01 am ET by dressed2atee

  4. AAC | | #4

    Adding to starzoe's reply, make sure you make two rows, one isn't enough to hold the

    gathers in place.  The reason they want you to leave an inch or so ungathered is

     because there is probably going to be a back facing for buttons and buttonholes  

    in the back.  You will need at least that much space for the seams to where you'll

    add that facing.  Make certain that you stitch between the two rows of gathering

    stitches using a regular stitch length (not that long basting stitch.

    Edited 9/14/2009 2:41 pm ET by AAC

    1. MaryinColorado | | #5

      If she gathers outside the seam allowance, she might end up with needle holes that will show in the fabric. 

      1. AAC | | #6

        Mary, I've given that some thought but to tell you the truth I've never had that happen  

        but you may have a point, guess that would depend on the fabric.  On the other hand, I

        don't gather like that anyway, I usually put my finger behind the presser foot till it gathers

        and then release and do it again.  I think you and I have had a lot more experience than

        this lady so that woud technique would require a demo.  Thanks for calling that to my

        attention.  Regards, Alice

        1. MaryinColorado | | #7

          Yes, after years of doing things, we tend to develope our own techniques for doing these things.  It's so much easier to demonstrate in person than to write it down.  I put my finger behind the presserfoot with the serger too, unless I feel like putting on the special foot to gather and join at the same time. 

          I didn't even think to mention she might like a gathering foot for her machine.

  5. MaryinColorado | | #8

    You may be able to purchase a gathering/ruffling foot for your machine.  It may be an unnecessary expense though as I rarely use mine.  The ones that gather one layer and attatch the other layer of fabric at the same time are nice if you will be using it alot.  Mary

  6. jjgg | | #9

    I really got a good chuckle out of "how many ways can you gather"...
    Such a basic thing to do and so many different ways,
    So now, I will add mine.

    Do 3 (three) rows of gathering stitches, each about 1/8 inch apart all of them in the seam allowance, do NOT remove the gathering threads after all is said and done.

    Pulling the bobbin threads up, gather the fabric to the length needed, then tie off the ends of the threads (or just wrap them around a pin in a figure 8 for now. with your finger nail, 'scratch' across the gathers to get them even and have 'all the little soldiers standing at attention'. Pin to whatever your sewing it to, stitch with the gathered section up, running the line of sewing right along the bottom of the first row (along the seam line). Press just the seam allowance, stitch again across the gathers in the seam allowance.

    3 rows of gathers will give you more uniform gathering.

    1. Cindy_Lynn | | #11

      I just finished reading Colette Wolff's book, 'The Art of Manipulating Fabric' this morning...over 300 pages of every type of 'gathering' imaginable. It is very well written, and illustrated, with excellent step by step techniques and formulas provided for those who wish to create their own designs."I really got a good chuckle out of "how many ways can you gather"...
      Such a basic thing to do and so many different ways,"

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