How to Gather

Hey, you!

Gathering is simply gathering a wider piece of fabric so that it can match a narrower piece perfectly.

Frankly, it is simple in theory, BUT just a smidgen tedious and finicky in practice.

However…

Depending on the usage and the fabric drape, it is undeniably pretty and flirty!

So dip into your jar of patience and give it a whirl. And like with anything else, if you do it enough, it eventually becomes as easy as luxuriously inhaling a bar of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango Chocolate Bar in one go! Yum!

Wait.

Let me put down my chocolate bar and let’s begin with…

The Rules

Rule #1: Get ready to take your time.

Rule #2: Use a long stitch length like 4 or 5mm; this is the basting stitch.

Rule #3: Do NOT backstitch at the start or end of your stitching lines! Because if you do, you will not be able to gather your fabric.

Rule #4: Remember to snip LONG bobbin and needle threads at both the start and end of your stitching lines. You’ll see why soon.

Rule #5: Stitch the gathered piece to the ungathered piece with the gathered piece on top. This way, you can control the gathering, so you end up with a pretty finish.

Alright, now that you know the rules, let’s learn…

Gathering Ratios

The ratio of the wider (gathered) section to the narrower (ungathered) section can be:

  • 1.5-to-1 (best choice for fabrics that have more body than drape)
  • 2-to-1
  • 2.5-to-1
  • 3-to-1 (extreme fullness: fabrics with body will stand away from the body and soft sheers will drape like a dream)

For example, if the straight section is 10 inches long and you want to use a ratio of 1.5-to-1, then the section to be gathered needs to be 15 inches long.

gathering 1.5-to-1 ratio

So now that you’ve got the 411 on ratios, let’s learn…

How to Gather

Just so you know: The gathering technique described here is best suited for light- or medium-weight fabrics.

Alright.

  1. Mark the center point on both the section to be gathered and the narrower section. This will make it easier on you to evenly gather the wider section later. In the image below, the arrows point to where I’ve marked or notched the center points.
  2. Now, change your bobbin thread to a different colour than you are using for your needle thread. (In the image below, the bobbin thread is red.)
  3. Next, change your stitch length to 5mm. Click HERE to learn about stitch length.
  4. Then, from the right side (RS) of the fabric, stitch two parallel lines of basting stitches: one at ⅜ and one at ¾ (or 6/8) inch from the raw edge, leaving long bobbin and needle thread tails of at least 7 inches long. You will need these long thread tails later!

Start your two lines of basting stitches 5/8 inch in from the raw edge at one end and end 5/8 inch in from the raw edge at the opposite end. In this example, 5/8 inch represents the seam allowance (SA) at the side seams.

narrow and wide sections prepped to be gathered

No backstitching!

  1. Place the section to be gathered on the narrow section, right sides together (RST).  And pin them together at each end and at the center point. Be careful that the pins do NOT interrupt the basting stitches.

two sections pinned and ready to be gathered

  1. Now, dip into your jar of patience and start at one end: Pull both bobbin threads at one end carefully to gather the fabric between that end and the center point until a tiny bit more than half of the area to be gathered is gathered. Pull gently on the bobbin threads, so they don’t break!
  2. Secure the end by wrapping the bobbin threads around a straight pin, using a figure 8 motion.
  3. Repeat steps 6 and 7 at the other end.

wider section gathered and pined to narrow section, right sides together

Gathering in halves will result in more even gathers and less frustration than trying to do an entire length in one go.

  1. Next, adjust the gathers until they are evenly spaced.
  2. Once you like how it looks, you are ready to commit. Set the stitch length back to regular! And with the gathered section on top, slowly stitch the two sections together using a 5/8 inch SA.  As you stitch, make sure there is no puckering to the narrower section underneath and adjust the gathers on top as needed.

stitching the gathered section to the ungathered section

  1. Once you are done, remove both rows of basting stitches simply by pulling on the bobbin threads.
  2. Finally, finish the SAs for maximum prettiness. Then, press the SAs up.

gathering: basting stitches removed and seam allowances finished

Hey, you! Yes, you did!

The End

Gathering is a basic sewing skill that is worthwhile to become the mistress of.

It does require you to slow down and take your time if you are to end up with a pretty ruffle or frill, as they call it across the pond.

And as pretty and flirty as frills are, it is so worth it! So go ahead and conquer this skill, so you can get your flirt on!

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

Click HERE to learn other essential basic sewing skills!

Click HERE to learn about the basting stitch!

Click HERE to learn how to change your stitch length and HERE to adjust tension!

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