How To Gather On A Sewing Machine

Understand Basic Fundamentals

Gathering is one of the basic sewing techniques that help create fullness and shapes in fabrics. Before embarking on your first project, it is important to understand the basic fundamentals of gathering on a sewing machine. Sewing machine gathering involves a thread that is loosely looped through the material, then gathered and tightened with a second thread. It is commonly used to shape and gather different fabrics, or to combine several pieces of fabric together.
How to start gathering on a sewing machine depends on what type of fabric you are working with and what look you are trying to achieve. Some fabrics, such as velvet and felt, can be easily gathered, but require a different technique from lightweight fabric such as chiffon and muslin. Before gathering, it is important to make sure that your fabric is clean and wrinkle-free, and that your seam is straight. If you are using a double needle for gathering, you should also make sure that your two needles are placed in the same position and distance apart.
Gathering stitches are typically done with a straight stitch, which consists of parallel lines of stitches on each side of the seam. Different stretches might require longer or shorter lines of stitches. To ensure your stitches are even, use a seam guide on your sewing machine. Once the gathering stitches are complete, gently pull on the bobbin or gathering thread. This will form the gathers in the fabric, creating pleats or curves as needed.

Get to Know Specialized Feet

Getting acquainted with specialized feet can also help while gathering on a sewing machine. Gathering foot attachments are available that allow you to create uniform gathers quickly and easily. A gathering foot guides the fabric under the foot as you sew, making it much easier to keep an even line of stitches. This will also help avoid uneven gathers in the fabric.
An adjustable gathering foot can also be helpful for fabrics that are too thick or too slippery for ordinary gathering techniques. This foot allows you to adjust the amount of fabric gathered with each stitch. It can also be used to create gathers that look like shirring or ruching. Once you are comfortable with the basics of gathering, this is a great way to add a unique look to your sewing projects.

Create Manually

It is also possible to create gathers manually on a sewing machine. To begin, stitch two parallel lines of stitches just as you would for an ordinary gathering stitch. Instead of gently pulling on the gathering thread once the stitches are complete, leave the bobbin thread as it is. This will create loops of thread that you can manually use to create your gathers. Once the loops are evenly distributed, adjust the top thread and secure it in place. This is a great technique for creating smocking and heirloom sewing.

Create an Elastic Gather

An elastic gather is a unique type of gather that uses an elastic thread in the bobbin. This creates a textured and elastic result that gives your fabric a special look and feel. To create an elastic gather, make sure the elastic thread is located in the bobbin, and that the correct tension is set. This is important, as too much or too little tension can affect the finished look. Once the fabric is ready, begin stitching the same way as before. The elastic thread will create gathers in the fabric as it is sewn.

Adjust Gathers as Needed

Although gathering can help create beautiful shapes in fabric, it is also important to be able to adjust the gathers as needed. Depending on the fabric, this can be done either manually or with a ruffling foot attachment. A ruffling foot fits onto the sewing machine and helps to evenly distribute the gathers as you sew. It also helps to adjust the width of the ruffles and the distance between them. Once you have finished the gathering stitch, the fabric should be gathered evenly and securely.

Use Thread Recommendations

The type of thread you use for gathering has a big impact on the finished look of the fabric. For lightweight fabrics, thread weight is important – choose a thread that is thin enough that it won’t create extra bulk in the fabric. For heavier fabrics, choose a thread that is strong enough to securely hold the gathers. Depending on the thread, a special type of bobbin might be needed. Be sure to always follow the thread manufacturer’s recommendations when selecting the right thread and bobbin for your project.

Gathering Techniques

Gathering can be done in a variety of ways, depending on the desired look and on the fabric used. Some fabrics are best gathered with a traditional straight stitch, while others look better when gathered using an elastic thread. Different gathering techniques can also be combined – for example, using a gathering foot and an elastic thread for a unique look. With a little practice and the right techniques, gathering on a sewing machine is easier than you might think.

Use Maintenance for Smooth Seams

In order for gathering to be done properly and easily, the sewing machine should be well maintained. When gathering on a sewing machine, the needle should be sharp and straight, and the tension should be properly adjusted. If the tension is too high or too low, it can cause inconsistencies in the gathering stitches. To make sure the gathering stitch is secure and even, use a seam ripper to adjust any uneven stitches.

Needle and Thread Settings

The type of needle and thread used for gathering has a big impact on the results. On lightweight fabrics, use a smaller needle and thin thread to avoid bulkiness. On heavier fabrics, a heavier needle and thread is needed to securely hold the gathers. To control the size of the gathers, the needle position should be adjusted according to the type of fabric used. Change the needle position to make smaller gathers for lightweight fabrics, or to create larger gathers for heavier fabrics.

Preparing the Fabric

Preparing the fabric before gathering is also important. If possible, use tailor’s chalk to draw a line along the seam and mark the desired length of the gathers. This will help make sure that the fabric is evenly gathered and that the stitches are even and consistent. Ironing the fabric before gathering can also help, as it will help make sure that the fabric is wrinkle-free and will prevent any shifting of the fabric as it is being gathered.

Gathering Tips

Overall, gathering on a sewing machine is not a difficult technique to accomplish as long as you keep a few tips in mind. Be sure to double check the thread and needle settings, adjust the needle position as needed, and always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Additionally, be sure to use the proper technique for the fabric being gathered, and use a seam guide to ensure even stitches. With a few basic tools and some practice, assembling beautiful and unique gathers is easy.

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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