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
Gathering with 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 elastic to gather means the waist will stretch for you to get it on and no stitches will pop.
Supplies – Gathering with 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.)
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 bottom.
More Articles On Gathering
Here are 11 ways to gather fabrics:
- How to gather by machine
- How to gather by hand
- Shirring (sewing with elastic thread)
- Gathering with a serger
- How to sew ruching
- Gathering with cord
- Gathering with elastic
- How to gather tulle
- Gathering foot
- Gathering Fabric
- How to Sew a Flounce
How to Gather Knit Fabric
Let’s start gathering with 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 1/4 inch for you to grab hold of.
Step 5 – Stitch Over the 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 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.
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.
Further Reading on Elastic:
- Types of Elastic
- How to Sew Elastic in Leotards
- Sewing Foldover Elastic
- How to gather knit fabric with elastic
- Sewing Elastic Thread – Shirring
- Sewing Elastic in an Elastic Waistband
- How to Sew Ruching
- Sewing Binding in Leotards
Try this technique