Learning how to gather knit fabric using elastic is a useful technique that is often used for stretch knit and Lycra fabrics. Gathering with elastic for ruffles and skirts means they 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.
How to Gather Knit Fabric with Clear Elastic
Gathering with clear elastic is so easy that you may not go back to traditional gathering methods once you have tried this even once!
If you used traditional gathering on a knit fabric skirt, you would find that the seam would not stretch, and so it would be hard to get on. Knit garments usually have no zippers, buttons, or openings, so need to stretch to get over the head.
Using clear elastic to gather means the waist will stretch for you to get it on, and no stitches will pop.
Supplies - Gathering with Clear Elastic
- ¼ inch (6mm) wide clear elastic. (⅜ inch will work, too, but it is often firmer, so doesn’t give the same result.)
Clear elastic is used since it is softer and less bulky than regular woven or braided elastic. If you do need to substitute regular elastic, make sure it is really soft and stretchy.
Here I will show you how I gathered this skirt's bottom.
How to Gather Knit Fabric, Step by By Step Instructions
Let's start learning how to gather with clear elastic.
Step 1 - Cut Elastic
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.
Step 2 - Divide the Waist
Divide your ruffle or skirt bottom in quarters and mark (This is easily done by folding). Divide your elastic in quarters and mark.
Step 4 - Match the Marks
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 ¼ inch for you to grab hold of.
Step 5 - Sew the Clear Elastic
Using a zig-zag or straight stitch, secure the first end of the elastic by backstitching 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 ¼ 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.
How to Gather Knit Fabric - In Conclusion
All done! Now you can continue with your knit fabric project. Do you use clear elastic to gather? Share your thoughts or extra tips below.
Try this technique