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Easy Gathers (Tip/Technique)
Viewed 5184 times
Review rated Helpful by 4 people   Very Helpful by 26 people   
Posted by: GorgeousFabrics
About GorgeousFabrics starstarstarstar
Member since: 8/12/02
Reviews written: 63
Sewing skills:Expert/Couture
Favored by: 255 people
tips added: 23
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Posted on: 4/29/03 12:04 PM
My friend Barbara reminded me of this technique the other night. When gathering fabric, rather than using the "double row of long stitches" approach, I sew over dental floss (unwaxed!) with a very wide zigzag stitch, making sure to center the floss between the stitches. I set the width of the zigzag to 5.5-6 mm and the stitch length to 2.5-3 mm. Once the dental floss is in place, it's a snap to gather very quickly, and it is very easy to control the fullness of the gathers. I use this technique all the time for home-dec, but it is equally useful for fashion sewing, especially if you are attatching ruffles. I also find that it saves wear and tear on the fabric, because you don't have to manipulate the gathers with as much force.

Makes me kick myself for buying that Pfaff ruffler!
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16 Comments      Login to Add a Comment
comocosews said...
I agree, this works very well.
4/30/03 11:03 PM
Debspuncturedthumb said...
Ann, I just love to look at your lovely creations and this dental floss technique is a favorite-so many uses for dental floss, even sewing a chicken! LOL! Anyway, here's how ruffling was taught back in the 1920's: (the originating site is and this lesson is part of a 56 chapter dressmaking course from that time.) Enjoy!
4/30/03 11:24 PM
Diane Yaghoobian said...
Nancy Zieman uses a similar trick, pulling up the bobbin thread with a first stitch, then pulling top and bottom threads to length and zig-zagging over them, using the pulled out threads as you are using the floss. When you are running low on bobbin, and ruffling uses a lot anyway, this would be a much better option - if you keep a good bit of floss handy!
5/22/03 9:59 PM
Ann C said...
I learned this one a long time ago from Sandra Betzina's HGTV show and it works well. Cuts down on worries over the gathering threads breaking.
6/12/03 10:56 PM
Diana M said...
I just "learned" that this is way easier if you work with the wrong side of the fabric up -- different for me since I've usually pulled the bobbin threads for gathering. Great tip!
5/4/04 3:49 AM
alicia said...
Thank you, thank you, thank you!! This saved me when I was doing my daughters' flower girl dress (Vogue 7681) for my cousins' wedding - I had to gather the liner, underskirt and overskirt to attach to the bodice and was pulling my hair out trying to do it the "regular" way w/2 lines of stitching. I am so grateful for this forum. I used a heavy-duty thread I have for canvas and leatherwork since I didn't have tooth floss handy - worked nicely. THANKS!!
6/18/04 8:38 PM
Nancy Anne said...
Hey Ann- I had always heard of doing this over twine, and never had twine, so never tried it. Dental floss is a great idea! Why didn't I think of that?
1/8/05 10:26 AM
Quazeekat Designs - Barb said...
What a terrific idea. I am making some girls' dresses with a layers of ruffles. It's been sooooo long since I have done this, I needed a refresher course! Thank You! Barb
2/14/05 11:58 AM
Leslie in Austin said...
Genius idea, Ann, and one that I use every time my gathering foot lets me down!
5/31/05 5:53 PM
kellyhogaboom said...
I was going to post this tip myself, but did a search to see if it had been posted. It is a great tip and easier than it sounds - the floss kinda feeds itself right down the middle! I have found it saves time and yes, is easier on the fabric. Thanks for posting!
6/26/05 5:54 PM
Tailypo said...
Anne, I am planning on doing some gathers on a dress this evening and stumbled upon this tip quite by accident this morning -- thanks for saving me a big headache! (The pattern I am using is vintage and recommends using buttonhole twist in the bobbin, which I thought was clever -- but not as clever as this!)
8/12/06 12:46 PM
Shazza B said...
If you have a cording foot on your machine this is even easier. Just put the dental floss/cording through the centre guide and you don't have to worry about accidentally stitching through it.
1/16/07 9:06 AM
regine said...
I have just used your tip and it is brilliant, thank you very much.
4/26/07 12:46 PM
aniquecreatives said...
absolutely brilliant!! an eye-opener
8/30/07 9:16 AM
Klinkerpopper said...
I tried this out today and it worked like a charm! It was the easiest gathering I have ever done! Finally a use for the Costco size box dental floss I bought a year ago.
10/17/07 3:42 AM
tanroc75 said...
Thanks a bunch for this tip! Gathering has become not so favorite to me! The double row of stitching tends to break and I am left with sewing and resewing the double rows again and again! I am definately going to try this.
7/3/09 9:52 AM

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