How To Gather Fabric With A Sewing Machine

Essential Tools For Gathering Fabric

Gathering fabric with a sewing machine introduces a range of possibilities and benefits in the world of sewing projects. When it comes to gathering fabric, the right tools make all the difference. In order to effectively gather fabric with a sewing machine, you will need the following basic items: a sewing machine, threads, scissors, and the fabric you plan on gathering.

Prepare Fabric

Preparing the fabric is essential in any sewing project, as it is what provides the basis for the final product. When gathering fabric with a sewing machine, be sure that the fabric is clean, wrinkle-free, and securely on the sewing machine bed. Depending on the material, you can prepare the fabric by pressing with a steam iron or, for delicate fabrics, using a pressing cloth.

Choose Straight or Zigzag Stitch

When gathering fabric, sewing machines often offer a choice between two main stitch types: a straight stitch or a zigzag stitch. A straight stitch is ideal for lightweight fabrics and sections of fabric which are not too wide, as it provides a neat, straightforward gathering. On the other hand, a zigzag stitch is perfect for thicker and heavier fabrics, where the stitch provides more flexibility and conformability to the fabric structure, allowing it to stretch and bend more easily.

Adjust Tension

To get the best gathering results, it is important to adjust the tension of the sewing machine. The tension should be set to a lower level than normal to ensure that the thread is not pulled too tight. The lower tension also ensures that the fabric stays in place while being gathered.

Choose Needle Size

The needle size you choose depends on the materials and threads you are using, as well as the tension. Generally speaking, lighter fabrics such as chiffon or silk will require a smaller needle size, while heavier fabrics such as corduroy or wool should be matched with a larger needle size.

Gathering Stitches

When setting up your sewing machine for gathering, use a stitch length of 3.5–4.0mm. Start with a single line of gathering stitches, and move the fabric over to the right by the same length of stitches. Gently pull the upper thread and this will create the gather. Once you reach the end, backstitch to lock the stitches in place. If necessary, you can use a zigzag stitch for added strength.

Finishing Touches

Once the gathering is complete, remove the fabric from the sewing machine bed and press with a steam iron. This will help make the fabric look neat and prevent any areas from puckering. It is also a good idea to trim off any extra threads from the gathering stitch.

Gather Without Sewing?

If you’re looking for an alternative to gathering fabric with a sewing machine, it is possible to use a wide range of tools such as gathers and pleats to achieve the same effect. This type of gathering is often used in quilting and home decor projects, as it allows for a more professional result. However, gathering fabric with a sewing machine is the best option if you want to create a neat, tidy and uniform finish.

Stabilizing the Gather

Gathering fabric with a sewing machine can create delicate, lightweight fabrics which can easily be distorted over time. To prevent this, a stabilizer can be used to add stability and strength to the fabric. This is especially useful for fabrics such as tulle or chiffon which are prone to easy distortion and stretching.

Gathering With an Embroidery Machine

For more intricate or decorative gathers, an embroidery machine is an ideal option for creating unique and complex gatherers. Embroidery machines have a wide range of decorative stitches which can be used to create intricate and beautiful gatherers that are sure to impress.

Making Gathered Ruffles

Gathering fabric is often used in the creation of ruffles and flounces. To make a gathered ruffle, simply sew a gathering stitch along the top and bottom of your fabric and gently pull the threads to create a ruffled effect. To add an extra touch of elegance and style, sew lace, beading, or frills along the edges of the ruffle.


Gathering fabric with a sewing machine is a great way to add texture, dimension, and style to any sewing project. By following the tips above and using the right tools, you can create beautiful gatherers with ease. With a little practice and patience, you can master the art of gathering fabric in no time!

Geoffrey Kirby is an experienced author and sewist who has been creating sewn projects for over 20 years. He has a passion for teaching beginners and inspiring more advanced sewists both online and through his writings. Outside of writing about sewing, Geoffrey loves to explore new techniques and styles of sewing that incorporate upcycling fabric remnants into sweet items with personality.

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