Learning how to gather fabric is an essential skill for any beginning sewer. Gathering can be used to give shape to a garment or for adding ruffles and decorative finishes to all kinds of sewing projects. Machine gathering and is one of the fastest and most widely used methods and here I will show you 2 different methods of how to gather fabric. Method 1 is the fastest method but method 2 will give you fine gathering for professional results.
How to Gather Fabric
Before you start learning how to gather fabric, you need to take a look at the supplies and machine settings that will make your job a little easier.
1. Set your machine to its longest stitch.
- On most machines, this will be 3.0-4.0. Some machines will go up to 5.0 or 6.0.
- A 3.0 stitch length will give finer gathers than a 4.0, so decide what kind of look you would like in your finished product.
2. Use a strong bobbin thread
- You will need to pull the bobbin threads to gather the fabric so it is important you use a thread that won’t snap. (Read types of thread, how to wind a bobbin)
There are 2 main ways to gather fabric
- Method 1: The fast way
- Method 2: The professional way – which of course takes a little longer.
# 1 – HOW TO GATHER FABRIC, THE FAST AND EASY WAY
On the right side of the fabric, stitch 2 rows just inside the seam allowance leaving a long tail (4 inches -10cm) at either end. Make sure you don’t backstitch at either end.
On the wrong side of the fabric, grab the bobbin threads and pull gently to start gathering towards the center from either end.
Once your fabric has gathered to the correct length, tie off each end and cut the threads.
Readjust the gathers to make them evenly spaced. Press your gathers with your iron on a steam setting. You will find they will sit much flatter and look finer.
To stitch your gathered fabric to a flat piece of fabric, place it wrong side up and pin it to the edge
Backstitch at both ends and stitch with your normal seam allowance. As you have done the gathers inside the seam allowance it will be just outside the gathering stitch. Make sure the gathers don’t get caught in the presser foot.
EXTRA TIPS – Experienced sewers or those in a hurry may want to use just one row.
#2 – HOW TO GATHER FABRIC, The Professional way
For extra control and finer gathers, 3 rows of gathering are often used.
- The first row of stitching should be inside the seam allowance.
- The second row is on the seam allowance.
- And the third row of stitching will be outside the seam allowance and is removed later.
When joining your ruffle to your straight piece of fabric, stitch just outside the center gathering row.
When you open up the ruffle you will see the third row of gathering must be removed. As you have used such a long stitch this is usually quite easy. If you can grab an end you can just pull the stitches out in one piece most of the time.
See the slight difference between 2 and 3 rows of stitching. You can see that the gathers for the 3 rows of stitching on the bottom are slightly finer.
Do you have any extra gathering tips or shortcuts? Please share as we’d love to learn from you.