Tutorial: How to tame your gathers

Now that you know how to gather successfully, the next challenge is making sure that your gathers are straight and even when you are sewing big onto little. Easier said than done, right? How often have you ended up with a full skirt stitched to a bodice and the gathers look like Indiana Jone’s snake pit ? Don’t sweat it; I got a couple of tricks for you to tame that fabric fullness. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to read to the end to learn my tricks. 😉

Trick # 1: Double up! Run 2 parallel rows of gathering stitches, using whatever gathering stitch method is appropriate for your application.

Trick # 2: Fractions are your friend. No worries, this math is easy and not scary at all.

OK, now that you know all my tricks, let’s walk through the steps to attach a skirt that needs to be gathered onto a bodice. I know you are going to want to know what dress I made for my DGD, so I will just come right out and tell you it is Lauren Dahl’s awesome new pattern for little girls, the Soleil dress. Too stinking cute!

1. Construct bodice and skirt per pattern directions.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
2. Run 2 parallel rows of gathering stitches (straight stitch length as long as possible, or at least 5). One row should be less than the garment seam allowance, and the second row should be more than the garment seam allowance. At a minimum, break your threads at the side seams. If you are working with a large amount of fabric, break your threads more frequently. Be sure to leave long thread tails on both ends!

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
3. Divide both sections of the garment into at least quarters, and place a pin at each quarter mark. If you are making an adult size garment, you might divide it into eights, or or sixteenths, or whatever is manageable. What I mean by “manageable” is you can easily distribute the fullness evenly in each fourth, eighth, or whatever fraction you used. In this toddler sized garment, I divided both the bodice and the skirt into quarters because I was able to easily distribute 1/4 of the skirt fullness onto 1/4 of the bodice.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
4. Connect each of the quarter mark pins of the skirt to the corresponding quarter mark pins of the bodice. Notice I have not pulled up my gathering stitches yet. Also, make sure you are connecting the front of the skirt to the bodice front, etc. But you know that already! 😉
5. Now pull both rows of gathering stitches at the same time. The idea is to work only on one quarter of the garment at a time, and to pull until the length of the skirt edge is the same as the length of the bodice edge. Continue until all the sections of the skirt are gathered and the skirt circumference is the same as the bodice circumference.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
6. Take your time in this next step. Distribute the gathers evenly, and also be sure to get the gathers straight and perpendicular to the cut edge of the skirt. This is where 2 rows of gathering stitches really really helps. Pin as frequently as necessary to hold the fabric in place, and a shot of steam wouldn’t hurt either to tame those gathers into place.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
7. Now you can serge or stitch your skirt to the bodice, but you are still going to need to “manage” those gathers as you stitch. Keep them straight and be careful the presser foot doesn’t smoosh them all out of shape and position as you sew.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
8. Voilà! You have a nicely gathered skirt!

Happy sewing!


14 Responses to Tutorial: How to tame your gathers

  1. Thanks for another great tutorial. Just in time for me to make some baby dresses! I don’t do much gathering and occasionally need to be reminded.

  2. This is just on time! I’m about to sew my first gathered skirt and I was a little worried about how I was going to make the pieces fit neatly 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for posting this, my gathers always seem out of control , taming it 1/4 at a time instead of all at once is the way forward for me.

  4. Love love love it!!! Finally, I won’t have one part of my garment with bunches of gathers and other parts of the same garment wanting for more! Pinning this (pardon the pun…) – so helpful – thank-you!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I gather all the time and feel like i’m always battling against the fabric! I’ll certainly be using your tips next time 🙂

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