How to make gathers ?

In this video tutorial, I show you how to make gathers, with a sewing machine and with a serger.

For the English version, remember to activate the English subtitles.


Making gathers is very easy, it's just a matter of technique.
On the sewing machine, you can choose the two-thread gathers technique, or use a gathering foot! Gathering with an elastic band is also very useful when sewing sleeves for example. 
On the serger, a single overlock can be enough to gather a fabric, but you can also buy a gathering foot if you prefer. 

Making gathers on the sewing machine

Making gathers is very easy, it's just a question of method. With a sewing machine you have 3 different techniques.

1) Gathering threads

This involves sewing two parallel lines with a long stitch length and very little tension. Be careful not to make a stop stitch as you will then have to pull on the threads to gather the fabric. Also leave a lot of thread at the beginning and end of the seam, this will make it easier to work afterwards. The first gathering line is usually sewn 0.5 cm from the edge and the second 1.5 cm. Once the two lines of gathers have been sewn, they will have to be distributed: a real challenge. The trick is to divide your fabric into several equal parts (see video) with pins. This will split the strip of fabric to be gathered and allow a better distribution of the gathers. You can now pull the gathering threads and distribute them evenly in the areas previously marked with the pins. You can then make 8's with the gathering threads around the pins to lock them in place. Now it's time to sew the seam (by restoring a standard stitch length and tension) 1 cm from the edge, between the two lines of gathers. And that's it, the trick is done.

2) The Gathering Foot

The gathering foot, as the name suggests, is a special sewing machine foot that allows you to make gathers. You can buy it in haberdashery or specialist shops. Once the foot is installed, you need to set your sewing machine to the maximum stitch length and very low tension. Place the fabric under the gathering foot (not in the slit) and sew. The intensity of the gathers will depend on the stitch length you have set. The advantage of this is that the gathers do themselves, the disadvantage is that you do not control the length of your fabric at the end, which is annoying because most of the time, the gathered piece matches another non-gathered piece with a very precise length.

However, this can be useful for accessories or large strips that would form a ruffle at the bottom of a skirt for example.

The slit in the gathering foot is used to insert the second fabric which is not to be gathered but joined to the gathered piece. In this way, in a single pass, you gather your fabric and join it to another piece of fabric.

3) Gathering with elastic

This method is particularly useful for the bottom of sleeves for example. The trick is not to cut your elastic but to make a mark at the requested size. This will give you a better grip. Then place the fabric on the wrong side with the elastic on top. We advise you to use a few zig zag stitches to join the two materials together. The advantage of the zig zag stitch is that it is elastic. A straight stitch seam could jump at the first tension. Next, you need to grab the two materials after the presser foot with one hand and guide the fabric to come with the other while putting the elastic under tension. The mark you have marked should reach the end of your fabric. Move forward slowly, make a stop stitch and cut your elastic. The secret is to keep the tension in the elastic the same throughout your seam, so that you get very even gathers. That's it!

Making gathers on the serger

1) Simple overcasting

With a serger, you can overcast with a simple overcast. First you need to set the differential to 2, and the stitch length and width to the maximum. You can also lock the knife if you wish. Sew. You get a gathered piece, but just like with the gathering foot of the sewing machine, you do not control its length. You can pull on the needle threads to gather a little more and get the size you want. The advantage is that your gathers are immediately distributed and you only have to join the gathered piece to the ungathered one.

2) Gathering foot for serger

It works in the same way as the ruffling foot of a sewing machine. After setting up the serger foot, you place the fabric under the foot and off you go. The serger settings should be the same as in the previous step. We advise you to move forward slowly as the fabric tends to move a lot. As with the gathering foot on the sewing machine, it is possible to gather and sew at the same time: you slide the fabric to be gathered through the foot and the fabric that is not to be gathered through the slit in the foot and then sew. Again, it is quite tricky to handle all the fabrics at the same time but if you take your time, you should be able to do it.

Which method should I choose to make gathers?

At ikatee we find that a gathering foot is not really essential, although it can save a lot of time when you don't have a very specific length of gathering to do. Again, this depends on your use and your sewing projects.Choose the most suitable method for your project!