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Tips & Techniques > How not to fudge with your gathering

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Posted by: Jali

About Jali star
Member since: 7/2/03
Reviews: 46 (tips: 2)
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Posted on: 6/26/10 8:16 AM
Review Rating: Helpful by 3 people   Very Helpful by 4 people   
I have found it important to ensure that you are not fudging with the gathering. What I mean by this is that the length of the gathering must match the length of the fabric that will be attached to it when both pieces lie flat. Really flat. And even distribution of gathers is really key.

Gathering problems:

1) You get scrunched up gathers, really poofy areas and only some of the nice tiny gathers that you wanted. - Here you have uneven distribution.

2) You get a lot of flat spots. - Here you might have uneven gathers or too little gathers.

3) You get a really poofy gathered area - You have too much scrunched up. Here you might have too short a piece of fabric to attach the gathers to or you might be gathering too long a length of fabric.

The prettiest gathers are of course the tiny, delicate little ones like the ones we see in little girl's dresses.

Happy sewing!

ETA: 6/30/10: Updated to include more detail.

Well, I think in my enthusiasm about reminding myself with the where one could go wrongs, I left out the main idea of what I do in my gathering. Here's what I do:


1) I have the seam line marked first.

2) Then I use the longest stitch on my machine and stitch one row of stitches above and one row of stitches below the seamline. I do not backstitch at start or ends and leave a fair length of thread hanging at either end.

3) I pin the gathering piece (as yet ungathered) to the piece it is supposed to be attached to, at the two ends. Although there would be a difference in length, the start and end points would be the same.

Segmenting off the fabric pieces here (gathering piece and piece to attach to) in quarters, or eighths if necessary, and pinning the respective positions in place is very useful. This would mean each section I gather will have to look about the same for even gathers.

3) Next, I tie up the start end of threads on both rows of the gathering piece together into a knot (for the bobbin as well the spool thread sides). This would prevent gathers from slipping off the end as I begin gathering from the other end.

4) I twist bobbin threads on the other end on my index finger, and start gathering.

I look out for the problem areas mentioned earlier as I gather.

5) Once I settle on the right amount of gathers, I knot up the loose bobbin thread ends as well. This helps hold the right amount of gathers in place more permanently.

6) I stitch the pieces in place using a regular stitch with the gathered piece facing up as I do not want the gathers caught up in the machine. As I feed the fabric into the machine, I place my fingers on either side of the stitching line to ensure that the gathers falling straight without any bunching up of fabric.

7) After attaching the gathered piece, I remove the basting stitches as far as it is visible and is easily removable.

My experience with the above technique has mainly been on wovens which is of course a lot easier to handle than knits.

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nanna57 said... (8/22/10 11:07 PM) Reply
Really good tip! The only thing I would add, having read it somewhere on these boards a while back, is to run something small and flat back and forth over the gathers to get them all lined up consistently and distributed evenly within their sections. It really works.
Jali said... (6/30/10 9:35 AM) Reply
I do note that I am doing pretty much what KarmenG does too. I have't tried using a gathering foot though which must make things a lot easier.
kathi s said... (6/30/10 0:38 AM) Reply
I made several ruffled aprons and after fussing over the gathers I pulled out the gathering foot and practiced using it. I found the look Iwanted and made a six inch strip of ruffle, then I ripped out the stitches to see how much fabric was required to make six inches of ruffle. I found that was a pretty accurate way to estimate how much fabric I needed.
Laurie Lou said... (6/28/10 5:27 PM) Reply
I'm with Fran...what is the tip exactly. Use a gathering foot???
KarmenG said... (6/27/10 9:51 AM) Reply
You are right - good tip. I have good luck using two or three rows of basting threads with one being right on the stitching line. Before pulling the threads I match up sections. I mark center, then quarter, then eighths with pins on both flat and to be gathered pieces. I find it easier to gather small sections one at a time between my pin markings.
Fran G said... (6/27/10 7:54 AM) Reply
So, what is the best way you all have found to create the perfect gather?
ryansmumAria said... (6/26/10 11:08 AM) Reply
I agree that this is crucial. I just finished doing a top that had gathers and I was thinking how challenging this would be for a newbie. ( I teach beginning sewing and am always thinking of how to clearly teach things like this) Your information is important to know as I have not seen a clear explanation on just how to do this anywhere. I like your description of how the prettiest gathers are tiny and delicate! That is the goal but not easy to achieve. I find doing gathers to be one of the most challenging things to do ~even for a professional (most especially on a knit). A lot of time and patience is required. I'm still figuring out how to effectively teach this. thanks for this very important tip and for stating it all so well.
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