Gathering using clear elastic is a useful technique that is often used for stretch knit and Lycra fabrics. Ruffles and skirts gathered with elastic maintain their stretch which is important for stretch knit clothing. This method also works well for woven fabrics where you need to create gentle gathers.
It is so easy that you may not go back to traditional gathering methods once you have tried this even once!
What you will need to gather with clear elastic
- 1/4 inch (6mm) wide clear elastic. (3/8 inch will work too but it is often firmer so doesn’t give the same result.)
Here I will show you how I gathered this skirt bottom.
Cut a piece of elastic to the finished length your fabric will be gathered to. For example, if you are adding a ruffle or skirt to a bodice, you will cut the elastic to the circumference of the bodice.
Stretch your elastic out a few times and double check the length. Cut a little off if necessary.
Divide your ruffle or skirt bottom in quarters and mark (This is easily done by folding). Divide your elastic in quarters and mark.
Match the marks on the elastic to the marks on the fabric. The fabric will gather in between. You can pin the marks together or I find it easier to just stretch as I sew.
Leave a tail of about 1/4 inch for you to grab hold of. Using a zig-zag or straight stitch, secure the first end of the elastic by back stitching a few times.
Important: The elastic needs to be fully within the seam allowance so you don’t need to remove or unpick it once you have finished.
Stretching the elastic (not the fabric) between the marks, stitch over the elastic. Leave a 1/4 inch (6mm) tail at the end also. Overlap the ends slightly.
Note: You will find that the elastic stretches out just a little when you stitch over it so the slight length adjustment caused by the overlap will not matter.
All done! Now you can continue with your project. Do you use clear elastic to gather? Share your thoughts or extra tips below.
Further Reading on Elastic:
- Types of Elastic
- How to sew elastic in leotards
- Sewing fold over elastic
- How to gather knit fabric with elastic
- Sewing Elastic Thread – Shirring
- Sewing Elastic in an Elastic Waistband
Further Reading on Gathering
- How to gather fabric – simple machine gathering techniques
- How to gather fabric with a gathering foot
- How to gather fabric with a ruffler
- How to gather fabric with cord and a zig-zag stitch
- How to gather tulle
- How to gather with clear elastic
- Sewing with elastic thread: How to sew shirring
Try this technique