Excess fabric can be worked into different design elements such as darts, pleats and gathers. Gathering fabric is a simple way to remove excess fabric, and it adds to the style of a garment. Gathered skirts are easily in most of our wardrobes.
Gathers are typically sewn into another pattern piece. These can include waistbands, cuffs, collars and bodices. This tutorial will show you how to create gathers in one pattern piece to be attached onto another piece that does not require gathering. I will use a cuff example here.
Consider your seam allowance first. My seam allowance is 3/8". Begin with sewing a basting stitch approximately 1/16-1/8" away from your final sew line, in the seam allowance area. Several sources have you sew your basting stitch in the middle of your seam allowance, but I find the closer you can get to your sew line, with out actually being on your sew line the better your gathers will sit in the end.
A basting stitch is used to temporarily hold fabric together and is sewn using a wider stitch length. I use a 4mm stitch length. A basting stitch is also used to gather fabric. Do not back stitch and leave at least 3-4" tails of thread to pull later.
If the piece you are applying gathers to is really long, I would break it up into 4 equal sections with their own tails. You will thank me when you start pulling threads and one breaks mid way!
Before you start pulling the threads, I suggest marking the middle points on the gathering piece and the cuff (or whatever pattern piece you are attaching your gathering onto). Again, if you are applying gathering to a long area, separate into quarters to manage better. This will ensure the gathering is balanced when sewn into your garment.
Right sides of fabric facing each other, pin marked middle points together.
Starting on one end of your basting stitch, pull at one thread to begin creating gathers. Move gathers towards the middle. Pull until the gathered piece becomes the same length as the garment seam you are sewing it to. In this case, I will pull until my gathered sleeve becomes the same length as my cuff. Repeat thread pulling to create gathers on the other end.
Pin layers together. As you pin, try to re-position each gather to be straight. If gathers are turning diagonal it will show in your finished garment.
Switch you stitch length back to 2.5mm, sew at 3/8" seam allowance. Your sew line should be just to the left of your basting stitch.
When finished, your gathering should look like below.
Press the non gathered side of the seam flat, using the edge of your iron.
Gathering is complete! You can now continue sewing your garment.
Photographed and written by Sheila Wong Studios