Sewing Basics: Easy Gather Method

One of the basic skills of sewing is gathering. It adds fullness to skirts, sleeves, necklines, aprons and many more things. It also looks great on pillows, totes and could be used as an applique. Yet, a lot of people, including myself cringe at the thought of a gathered dress. For example, take the Girls' Halter Maxi Dress, it is a beautiful dress. But, oh my, those ruffles!!

Moana inspired Girls' Halter Maxi Dress
fabric from Snowy Owl Fabrics

There are several ways to achieve a gather. There is the standard method of sewing two parallel rows in the longest stitch and pulling the threads. You can also do three rows of gather stitches. This can cause a problem if the threads break. I am sure we have all had this happen at least once. You can use a third row for more control. I use it when I am gathering three times the length, it creates a beautiful gather. However, that is the only time I use it because it is very time consuming and uses a lot of thread. There is also the serger method.  But, not everyone owns a serger. Another method is to use a ruffling foot, but that requires additional hardware.  Fear no more, I am here to show the easiest method to gather !!

Three rows gather stitch fabric from Snowy Owl Fabrics

I accidently discovered this technique. Actually, my 4 year old discovered it.  She was pretending to sew, as she does often. And although, I have told her a million times not to touch my setting, she does not listen. (Guess who is getting her own sewing machine from Santa this year lol.) Well, I sat down to sew, did not check the settings and started to sew.  Suddenly, much to my surprise, I had ruffles.

Very simply, just set your sewing machine to the longest stretch length (basting stitch) and highest tension (9 on my machine) and start sewing. Make sure to leave a long tail at the beginning and end so you have room to adjust ruffles as needed. Remember to iron your gathers after you have them the way you want them.  This will set them and make it easier to sew without much movement.

Sewing machine settings


And best of all, it works great with both woven and knit fabrics.


There you have it, perfectly even ruffles and easy as pie. Hope you all try this method out and love it as much as I do.  Now go forward with confidence and ruffle all things!!!

Written by: Maggie Bernabe

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