Gathering is the sewing technique used for many applications in different sewing projects. Ruffles are an example of gathered fabric, as are puffy sleeve caps. Gathering is accomplished by first applying long stitches, called basting, and gently pulling up on the threads to gather the fabric.
- To machine baste, set your sewing machine to its longest available stitch length.
- Stitch this basting stitch along where your seam line will be, on most commercial patterns 5/8 inch from the fabric edge.
- Stitch again 1/4 of an inch inside the seam allowance.
- Two lines of stitching will keep your gathering more even, and hold your gather in case one thread breaks. This is especially important on long gathering lengths such as waistline areas.
- Gently pull up on one thread to gather the material.
- Evenly distribute the gathering, and finish sewing your seam according to directions.
For very thin or slippery fabrics, you may need to use a slightly smaller stitch length to keep your stitches smooth. Always mark your patterns, as you will need to line up the gathered area with particular areas of another piece of your garment. If you don’t have it marked, you won’t know where to match up the pieces.
When you’re gathering a small area, you can wrap one end of the thread around a pin to keep it anchored in place and prevent the thread from being pulled totally out of your sewing piece.
Machine gathering is a technique that you’ll use in many sewing patterns. Practice it a few times on fabric scraps until you’re comfortable with the technique, and you’re on your way to more successful sewing projects.