Gathering fabric is a simple technique that can be used ?in many situations.
Gathering fabric is a simple technique that can be used ?in many situations: at the waistband of skirts or pants to reduce fabric width at the waistline; at drape headings to soften the effect; or to make frills to trim garments and household linens.
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Straight stitch ?gathering
Gathering with machine stitching using a long stitch will give the most even result. Use strong, good-quality thread, but don’t worry about color matching because the stitches will not be seen ?on the final item.
a1 Set the stitch length on the machine at its longest and loosen the upper tension slightly. Stitch a straight line just inside the seamline, then stitch a parallel line around ¼in (6mm) away within the seam allowance.
a2 At one end of the stitching, tie the two top threads together on the right side of the fabric and the two bobbin threads together on the wrong side. ?This will stop the fabric from sliding ?off the stitching as you begin to gather.
a3 At the untied end, pull both bobbin threads together to gather up the fabric to the required length, easing the fabric along the threads. Fasten off the bobbin threads to secure the end, then adjust the gathers along the length so they ?are even.
Gathering with a presser ?foot attachment
Some sewing machines have a simple gathering foot that can be bought as an extra attachment, but creating a gather around every 1?8in (3mm) is often the best this will do. Tightening the upper tension and setting a short stitch length will give the fullest gathers. This foot is ?a great timesaver when you have lots of frills to make, but the results won’t look the same as gathering by pulling the stitching threads as described in Straight Stitch Gathering, and it is also much harder to gather to a specified length.
The optional ruffling foot is a better buy. It can either gather or pleat the fabric, and has an adjustable setting ?so you can gather on every stitch, every second stitch, every third stitch, etc. ?The stitch length will also affect the fullness of the gathers – a short stitch will produce more fullness, a long ?stitch less.
Tip Use strong thread or it may break when you need to pull on it to create the gathers or to adjust them so they are a little tighter.
Joining gathered and flat fabric
In most cases the gathered edge ?must be joined to a flat piece of fabric. ?If it is a frill to be inserted into a seam, see page 108.
b1 With right sides together, pin the gathered edge to the flat edge, matching any notches, marks or seams. Check ?the gathers are even along the length and adjust if necessary. Once correctly adjusted, you can secure the gathering threads in a figure of eight around the final pin.
b2 With the machine at normal stitch setting and tension, place the fabric in the machine with the gathered side uppermost. Stitch along the seamline. Unpick and remove any gathering threads showing on the right side ?after the seam has been stitched.
Gathering over cord
When gathering a very long length – such as around a valance – it is safer ?to gather over a cord because threads may break under strain.
c1 Cut a length of thin cord slightly longer than the length to be gathered. Set a wide zigzag stitch. On the wrong side, place the cord within the seam allowance and position it under the presser foot so the left swing of the needle falls short of the seamline. ?Stitch over the cord for the length to be gathered. Hold the cord taut and slide the fabric along it. Even out the gathers.
c2 Pin the gathered edge to the flat edge with right sides together, matching any marks. Set the machine stitch back to normal. Working with the gathered
side upwards, sew along the seamline, being careful not to catch the cord in the stitching. When the seam is completely stitched, gently pull out the cord.
Gathering with elastic
Elastic can be machine stitched directly to the fabric and is ideal if the gathering needs to stretch to allow a garment to ?be put on.
d1 Cut the elastic so it is the correct length when not stretched, and join the ends if necessary by overlapping them by about ½in (12mm) and stitching together. Pin the elastic to the fabric ?at evenly spaced points.
d2 Pull the elastic taut against the fabric to place one or more pins in between the first ones. Set the machine
to zigzag with a fairly long stitch length and width. Stitch between the pins with the elastic uppermost, stretching the section you are stitching between your hands as you sew to keep it taut against the fabric.
Machining with shirring elastic
Shirring elastic is a thin, stretchy cord, and it is usually used in parallel rows on the yoke or at the cuffs of garments. Use shirring elastic in place of the bobbin thread and a normal sewing thread for the needle thread. Wind the shirring elastic onto the bobbin by hand, stretching it very slightly as you do so. Using a long stitch, machine a row of stitching; then stitch further parallel rows, stretching the fabric flat each time so the shirring will be even. You can gently pull the elastic threads at the end to increase the fullness of the gathers.
Frills, or ruffles, can soften an edge ?and add extra interest on plain fabrics.
Making a separate frill
To make a frill with two finished edges that is stitched on afterwards:
e1 Cut a strip of fabric the desired width of the frill or ruffle, plus an extra 1¼in (3cm) for seam allowances. Fold over one long raw edge twice and hem or topstitch to hold in place. Run a double parallel line of gathering stitch (see page 106) along the other long raw edge, within the seam allowance but nearer the raw edge.
e2 Knot together the two gathering threads on the right side at one end of the line of stitching, then repeat for the matching two threads on the wrong side, as shown here. Fold the raw edge over twice and hem or topstitch close to the bottom fold, making sure you don’t catch the gathering threads in the stitching.
e3 Holding the unknotted ends of only the bobbin threads in one hand, ease ?the fabric into gathers with the other hand. When the frill is the right length, adjust the gathers evenly then knot the threads off at the other end so the gathers don’t slip.
e4 Pin the gathered fabric to the flat piece it is to be attached to, matching edges. Stitch with straight stitch, between the two lines of gathering stitch, so the gathers stay even.
Inserting a frill into a seam
If you are inserting the frill into a ?seam, there is no need to hem the top gathered edge as in E2 above. Place ?the two pieces of fabric right sides together with the frill sandwiched in between right side up and all raw ?edges aligned.
Making a double frill
For a more solid-looking frill, make it with a double thickness of fabric, with the fold at the lower edge. No hemming is needed, and if the frill is inserted in a seam, both sides of it will be the right side of the fabric for a neater finish.