Gathering is the process of drawing up the fabric along two or more stitching lines to create soft, even folds. Gathering mostly occurs in a garment at the waistline, cuffs, yoke, or as ruffles. Gathers fall best on the lengthwise grain, so it is best to let the stitching run across the grain. The stitch length for gathering should be longer and the tension should be looser. Suitable stitch lengths vary from 2 mm to 4 mm. The stitch length should be shorter for sheer or lightweight fabric and longer for thick and heavy fabric.
In gathering, it is the bobbin thread that is pulled. A looser upper tension makes gathering fabric along the thread easier. Fabric for gathering can be cut double or three times the length of the edge it will be sewn to. This depends on the amount of fullness that is required. I mostly cut fabric strips double the length of the edge it will be sewn to.
Method One - Pulling Bobbin Threads
Cut a strip of fabric to the desired length and width. I have sewn a hem on my sample before gathering it, since it is a narrow strip of fabric. Press the hem.
Adjust the machine top tension and stitch length. Working on the right side of the fabric and using 1.5 cm seam allowance, stitch the first row 1 mm above the seamline. Stitch a second row 6 mm above the first row.
Leave long thread ends at the beginning and end.
Mark the centre of the fabric edge where the gathered fabric will be attached with tailor's chalk or fabric marker. I marked both pieces of fabric with a pressed fold. Place the two fabric layers right sides together, matching the centre pressed fold.
Pin the stitched edge to the straight edge, right sides together. Fasten the bobbin thread at one end by twisting it around the pin.
Gently pull on the two bobbin threads, while sliding the fabric across the thread with the other hand to form gathers. Twist the thread around the pin.
Untie the opposite end and repeat the same process. Secure the thread at both ends with a knot.
Reset the machine tension and stitch length for normal stitching. With gathered side up, stitch on the seamline while holding the fabric on either side of the needle.
Neaten the raw edge with overlocking or a zigzag stitch. Press the stitched seam with the tip of the iron.
Method Two - Using A Gathering Foot
This foot works great on lightweight fabrics. It is best to tighten the top tension first. Adjust the stitch length as well. The longer the stitch length, the more closely the gathers will be. It is best to make a sample first to determine the amount of fabric needed. I used lightweight poly cotton for this sample.
The open slot on the side of this foot allows for two layers of fabric to be sewn at the same time. One layer will be gathered while attaching it to the second piece of fabric simultaneously.
The completed sample of a single-layer fabric.
Method Three - Using the Ruffler Attachment
This attachment is very versatile and a must-have. I have used it for many decorating projects around the house. The Ruffler has 4 settings as seen below.
1 makes a pleat with every stitch.
6 makes a pleat every 6 stitches and 12 makes a stitch every 12 stitches.
The star setting is for straight sewing.
My sample was made on setting 6 and that is the setting I use most of the time for home projects.
The Ruffler attachment can also sew two layers of fabric simultaneously by gathering one layer while attaching it to the other.
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