Gathering fabric is the act of turning the edge of a piece of fabric into many small folds that are held together by thread sewn close to the edge of the fabric.
When fabric is gathered and pulled together in folds, the gathering makes the fabric shorter than the length that it was in the beginning.
Gathering can be done by machine or by hand. At one time, gathering seams was done by the tedious method of hand basting. This was very time consuming.
This tutorial on gathering explains how to gather fabric with a sewing machine which is quick and easy. Please view our other tutorial on gathering using the zig-zag stitch as well.
Learn more about how to gather fabric by watching our video or keep reading this post.
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What is the stitch used for gathering fabric on a sewing machine?
Gathering is most often done with a basting stitch or running stitch sewn on the machine. A basting stitch should be used on closely woven fabrics as opposed to slippery, delicate, or loosely weave fabrics as the holes from the needle during basting may be permanent.
It is important that the fabric is face up when gathering, and the stitching is done at a right angle to the sewing foot to keep the gathers straight.
What stitch length should be used when machine gathering?
In this simple way of gathering, parallel rows of straight running stitches are sewn along the edge of the fabric to be gathered. The stitch length used for gathering should be the longest length that can be set on the sewing machine.
The stitching threads are then pulled or "drawn up" so that the fabric forms small folds along the threads.
WHAT YOU NEED to gather fabric:
- Piece of fabric
- Threaded sewing machine
INSTRUCTIONS for gathering fabric with a sewing machine
STEP 1: set the sewing machine for basting
Begin by setting the sewing machine to the longest stitch length. This is called the basting stitch.
Place the edge of the fabric to be gathered under the presser foot.
step 2: stitch the first gathering stitch
Sew along the seam line without back stitching. Do not back stitch at the end as well.
Pro Tip: Stitch the basting stitch 1/8" - 1/4" inside the real seam allowance. This will keep your basting stitches from showing when the real seam is sewn. For example, if your seam allowance is 5/8", stitch the first row of basting stitches at 3/8".
Leave at least a 3" to 4" tail when snipping the threads at the end of sewing.
Step 3: Sew another line of stitching inside the seam allowance
Next, put the fabric back under the presser foot. Sew another line of basting stitches in the seam allowance 1/4" away from the first line of stitching. This line of gathering stitches should run parallel with the first line of stitching from step two.
Once again, be sure not to back stitch at the beginning or ending of the stitches. Once the stitching is complete, leave at least a 3" to 4" tail when cutting the threads.
step 4: Pull the threads to gather the fabric
Lay the piece of fabric on the work table. Holding the fabric with the non-dominate hand, pull the top two threads with the dominant hand.
Pull and push the fabric to create the gathers.
step 5: Evenly distribute the gathers and sew
Push and pull the fabric until the gathers are neatly and evenly placed along the stitching.
The fabric is now ready after using the gathering stitch. Take the gathered fabric back to the sewing machine and, following the pattern directions, sew the seam.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to gather fabric using the gathering stitch with the sewing machine.
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seams and finishing seams
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