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Sewing Gathered Fabric

Guest Author - Tamara Bostwick

Tips for Sewing Gathered Fabric to Another Fabric Piece

  • Partially gather the fabric piece until it is approximately the same length as the piece of fabric that it will be attached to and secure the gathering threads with pins at each end.
  • Pin the two pieces together, matching up the edges and adjust the gathers until they are evenly distributed along the length. If the pieces being sewn together are longer than 12 inches, it is helpful to mark the center of each piece with a small snip along the edge, before you start pulling the gathering threads. For example, if you are attaching a skirt to a waistband, find the centers of both the front and back of the skirt sections and match them up first.
  • Place a pin every few inches to hold the gathers in place.
  • Place your fabric in your sewing machine with the gathers facing up so that you can watch the gathers as they are being sewn.
  • Adjust the sewing machine stitch length to sew a regular stitch again.
  • Begin sewing, backstitching at the start of the seam
  • After a few stitches, leave the needle down in the fabric and raise the presser foot. Gently pull the gathered fabric away from the needle to straighten the gathers. Use a straight pin or awl to move the gathers around slightly if necessary.
  • Lower the presser foot and continue sewing slowly, removing pins as you reach them.
  • Every few inches, repeat the process of raising the presser foot and straightening the gathers. Watch the fabric as you sew and adjust it if it seems like the gathers are bunching up or pleating at any time.
  • When you reach the end, backstitch to secure the seam.
  • Remove the fabric from the sewing machine and examine the stitching. If there are any areas that you are unhappy with, remove the stitching in those sections and resew them.
  • Only remove the gathering stitches after you are completely satisfied with how the gathers look.
  • Press the fabric carefully without flattening the gathers.

Comparison of Gathering Methods after Sewing

The various gathering methods as explained in previous articles can yield slightly different results that you will want to consider when determining which method to use for your particular project. To illustrate these differences, I have provided photos below along with some comments explaining the differences.

This image shows how the gathers made with a single row of gathering stitches will look when sewn to another fabric. You can see that the gathers have flattened out slightly and in some cases look more like small pleats. This is because, with only one row of gathering stitches, the gathers are difficult to control while sewing and can crush easily. They can also bunch up in spots because they will slide easily along the stitching. Because of this, I typically only use the single row method when I am testing a pattern for fit (a set-in sleeve, for example) or on a simple project where the appearance of the gathers doesn't matter as much (casual doll clothes).
single row gathering method

Sewn gathers made with the double row gathering method are shown in this photo. As you can see, with this gathering method, the gathers are more evenly distributed and lie better on the fabric. This is especially true when you are able to stitch in the middle of the two rows. Having the gathering rows on either side of the seam stabilizes the gathers and helps keep them from folding over like they do when using the single-row method.

The double row gathering method is the method that I primarily use for gathering most types of fabrics.

Note: If you look closely, you can see the holes from the second row of stitching below the seam line. These will almost always press out and disappear, but if you are using a delicate fabric like velvet or silk, be sure to sew all of the gathering rows inside the seam allowance.
double row gathering method

This last photo shows how gathers made with the zigzag stitch gathering method will look when sewn to another fabric. The gathers are very similar in quality to those made with the single row method - they pleat easily and are not as even as those made with the double row method. When using the zigzag method, it is important to pin the fabrics frequently to hold the gathers in place while you are sewing over them.

The zigzag method works best on heavy fabrics that don't gather easily such as upholstry or other home decor fabrics.

I hope this illustration of how the various gathering methods look when sewn will help you choose the gathering method that will work best for your particular project. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the forum.

zigzag gathering method

Looking for more information on sewing techniques? Check out these books!

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Introduction to Gathering Fabric
Single Row Gathering
Double Row Gathering
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Content copyright © 2015 by Tamara Bostwick. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Tamara Bostwick. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.


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