Gathering fabric is a very handy skill to have. However, it can sometimes seem daunting and time consuming! 

There are many methods of gathering fabric, some involving a lot of pulling and tugging at threads by hand.


This method of gathering is quick and easy! Sometimes called the "cheating way", this process of gathering is good for a long piece of fabric that needs to be gathered fast and stress-free! 

This way of gathering is perfect for long ruffled trims, or dresses and skirts that would otherwise take forever to gather by hand. 

Let's get started!

1. Set your sewing machine 

Sewing machines have settings for Tension and Stitch Length. To gather fabric, we want these on their highest settings. 

Tension determines how tightly your tread will be pulled as you sew.

Normally it is set around a low or medium tension:

For gathering, move up to a high tension setting. The higher you set it, the more gathered your fabric will be. Lighter fabrics will not need much tension to gather, but medium and heavy fabrics will probably need to be at the highest settings. 

Stitch Length changes space between each time the needle pokes through the fabric. 

Short stitches:   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Long stitches:  __   __   __   __

Normally stitch length is set at something small or in the middle:

But to gather, set the stitch length as high as possible.

How it works: A long stitch will grab a section of fabric and

the high tension will cause it to pull together, creating a gather.

2. Sew

(Note: Of you have a serger, it is best to serge the raw edge after you gather, though it is also okay to do it before. If you use a zigzag stitch to finish raw edges, zigzag before you gather.)

To Gather: 

Put your fabric under the foot. You will want to sew about 1/4 to 1/2 inch away from the edge. 

You have a choice: back-stitch or not? 

If you want to be able to spread the gathers out when you finish sewing:

Leave the end strings about 10 to 20 inches long and do not back-stitch!

If you want the gathers to stay in place, and do not wish to spread them out later, do back-stitch. 

Now, start sewing! I have found that for me, it is best to sew continuously at a consistent speed. Sewing as fast as possible produces the best results, however it's a bit tricky to control the fabric and takes some practice. Just pick a comfortable, fast paced speed and stick with it!

It's almost like magic! The fabric just ruffles up beautifully behind the foot!

When you reach the end, either back-stitch or not, depending on what you did in the beginning. 

If you planned to spread these gathers out, be sure not to back stitch, and pull the strings out about 10 to 20 inches and then cut them. 

You can scoot the gathers out evenly over the long strings you left on the ends of the fabric until it is the right size to fit your project. 

If you have a serger, go ahead and serge the edge of the gathers. If you make the stitch wide enough, it will encase your gathers and hold them in place. Be sure not to let the knife cut the thread that gathered the fabric, or else it will all unravel.!

Beware: Once you know how easy it is to gather, you will want to gather everything ;)

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