Gathering can be found in many sewing projects and is used in everything from basic crafts to garment construction.
There are several different ways to gather, but my favorite way is using two rows of stitches.
TIP: USE TWO ROWS OF STITCHES
Creating your gathers with two rows of stitches provides a safety net, just in case the worst happens and a gathering thread breaks. It may save you from having to start all over again. The two rows also helps the fabric to lay flatter. This is a plus when you need to sew the gathered fabric to something else.
When sewing gathering stitches always use a long stitch length. The longest stitch length on your machine is usually best and can range anywhere from 4.0 – 7.0. I find 5.0 – 6.0 is usually my go to stitch length for gathering. The thicker your fabric, the longer the stitch length needed.
The two rows are stitched with a gap between them. I find it most successful when I use a 1/4 and 1/2 inch seam allowance for the gathering stitches. This leaves a wide 1/4 inch gap and provides a little bit of leeway for small errors in the seam allowances size. (If the rows of stitching get too close together it may stop the fabric from sliding along the threads.)
When you gather you do not backstitch (this would create a knot) and you leave the thread tails long.
TIP: SLIDE DON’T PULL
To create gathers we hold the two bobbin threads and slide the fabric. Our instinct when gathering is to pull the threads to create the gathers, and if that doesn’t work, we pull harder. Uh oh…then you hear it…snap! The thread breaks. This is a particularly dreadful noise when you are gathering, especially if it is something large. Having the two rows of stitching instead of one could save you, but not always.
So, instead don’t pull…slide. Simply hold the thread tails in place and slide the fabric along. See the video below for what to do when it won’t slide anymore! Pulling the threads isn’t the answer, as there is too much of a chance of that thread breaking. But if you remember….slide, slide, slide! It helps 🙂
TIP: USE TWO DIFFERENT COLORS OF THREAD
When you are just learning how to gather, identifying the correct threads to hold can be tricky. If you thread your bobbin and top thread with two different colors it makes it super easy to find the threads you are looking for! The bobbin threads become obvious and you won’t make the mistake of holding the wrong pair of threads. I used yellow thread for my main spool, and blue thread in the bobbin.
TIP: GATHER FROM BOTH SIDES
Sometimes when we are on a roll and gathering quickly we accidentally slide our fabric off of the threads entirely! At that point, there is nothing to do but begin again. To avoid this, gather half of the fabric from the left, and half from the right, so there is no danger of sliding the fabric too far.
See the video below for a detailed tutorial on basic gathers!
SKILL BUILDING VIDEO: