How to gather fabric using a sewing machine

Before stepping into the sewing field, people usually think that sewing is just a normal activity where you can simply cut the clothes and make the stitches.

However, there is a lot more than that because with time, you come to know about new things that need to be learned so that you can get versatile clothes with different designs of your desire. It doesn’t mean that sewing is difficult but you need to keep on updating your knowledge and skills to be better.

How to gather fabric using a sewing machine

One such technique is gathering fabric using a sewing machine which is widely used for clothes, wedding dresses, upholstery designs, decorative items, and much more. Some people ask, do we need industrial sewing machines for this purpose?

Well, the good thing is that gathering fabric using a regular sewing machine is not that difficult only if you know the right techniques.

In this article, we will talk about how you can gather fabric using a sewing machine along with many other methods that can also be used to make gathers. So, let’s just dive into the useful information.

How do you gather the fabric on a sewing machine?

How to Properly Gather Fabric | Sewing Machine Tutorial

Gating the fabric on a sewing machine can be done in various ways. It mainly depends on the type of gathers, fabric, sewing machine, and the areas where you want to have the gathers.

Some people go with by hand method but making gathers on a sewing machine is perfect specially if you are working on a fine, thin, delicate, medium weight, woven fabric.

Almost all the garments’ manufacturing companies use sewing machines for gathering fabric.

What stitches can you use to gather fabric?

You can use any stitch you want to gather fabric on a sewing machine. The technique does not lie in the stitch but how you feed the fabric under the needle. However, if we talk about the most commonly used stitches for this purpose, zig zag will come on top of the list.

Zig zag stitch leaves a space to stretch which means that if you simply make stitches and then pull fabric from both ends, gathers will form in between. However, this may work a bit but you need to go through special procedure to make gathers in the best form.

What tools do you need to gather the fabric on a sewing machine?

You don’t need any additional tools or equipment to make gathers in most cases, however, adding some tools can make the process easy for you. The main tool that can help you get better at gathering fabric is gathering foot.

The Gathering Foot:

Gathering foot is a simple replacement of presser foot which gathers the fabric while sewing. All you need is to increase the stitch length to 4.0 and start feeding the fabric as you normally do. You don’t need to go through any processes as gathering foot will gather the fabrics by itself.

How to gather fabric using a regular sewing machine?

Gathering fabric using a sewing machine requires some tweaking at first. You need to increase the stitch length to 4.0 or even more depending upon the fabric type and required fabric gathers.

  1. Start by sewing a straight line of stitches along the outer edge of the part where you need to gather. If it’s an edge, you should sew stitches about 3-4mm away from the boundary.
  2. Don’t secure the stitch at the end of the straight line. Also, leave a long tail so that you can pull the thread in the end.
  3. Sew another line exactly parallel to the first row of stitches while leaving about 5-7mm space in between.
  4. You may sew another row as well with the same distance and method as step 2 as it will bring extra fairness to the gathers.
  5. Now pull the long tails of the bobbin threads that you left at the end of each row as it will start making the fabric gathering.
  6. Once you have achieved the amount of gathers you need, secure the threads by sewing stitches or simply tie the threads properly.

You can make gathers using this method either for external parts that will be attached to the garment or directly on any part of the dress as well.

Can I gather fabric using a serger machine?

Yes you can gather fabric with a serger machine but need to make some adjustments.

  • You need to increase the tension setting of the needle while adjusting the differential feed as well.
  • Stitch the outer row at a bit high distance from the edges. This is essential because the serger machine has a pre-built phenomenon that it cuts the fabric edge to a certain extent. So, your first row should be far enough to stay safe from the serger blade.

Apart from these adjustments, you don’t need any additional effort and can make fabric gathers by following the same procedure as we do with a sewing machine.

Once you have made gathers with a serger machine, change the tension and other settings back to normal levels.

How to gather fabric by hand?

Making fabric gathers by hand is no different than gathering using a sewing machine. All the procedures are the same, only the tool being used changes. The process is as follows:

  1. Start by sewing lengthy stitches in a straight line.
  2. Leave a long tail at the end of the row without securing the stitch.
  3. Stitch another line parallel to the first row with a distance of about 5-7mm.
  4. Now pull the tail ends of both rows at the same time. This will gather the fabric along with the stitches.

In simple words, lengthy stitches will do the same job as a shoelace. You will pull the long tails and gathers will be formed.

How to gather fabric using elastic thread?

Elastic thread or shirring elastic thread is a great technique to make fabric gathers but it requires a little bit of skills and knowledge. The method is as follows:

  1. Start by wounding the shirring elastic thread only on the bobbin.
  2. Set the stitch length at the largest level suitable for making gathers on  the sewing machine.
  3. Start stitching a straight row on the fabric. Once the row is complete, the elastic thread will gather the fabric on the opposite side of the fabric.
  4. While sewing the next row of stitches, you are required to pull the fabric so that there shouldn’t be any gather, pleast, and puckers while sewing.
  5. Applying this method will result in a smoked effect and its intensity will increase with the higher numbers of rows sewed with the shirring elastic thread.

How to gather fabric using clear elastic?

Getting gathers with simple elastic is more than easy. You don’t need any additional skills to get things done.

  1. Start by securing the one end of elastic on tha fabric. It should be done with proper care so that it doesn’t get loose while doing further process.
  2. Let the fabric go normally but keep the elastic stretched towards you all the time while stitching on it.
  3. Once you reach the other end of the fabric, secure the elastic while it’s being stretched.
  4. Once you have done this, the elastic will get back to its original position and gathers will be formed.

This is a great method especially if you want to gather fabric all around an item. You can make fabric gathers using this method for your shoulder, waist, sleeves and many decor items as well.

How to gather fabric using cord/string/lace?

While sewing a stiff, thick, or difficult-to-sew fabric, gathering fabric using a cord, string or lace is probably the best suitable option.

The process is extremely simple and looks attractive as well. You can use this method to throw pillows, bed sheets, sleeves, and sometimes waist as well.

  1. Start by laying a string, cord, or lace on the line where you want to gather the fabric.
  2. Now start sewing the zig zag stitches right over the string. You need to ensure that cord is in between the stitches so that you can pull the string out of the stitch when you need.
  3. Once the stitches are completed, secure one end of the string using stitches or any other means.
  4. Now pull the string from the other end and it will cause the whole fabric to gather along with itself.


Where can you gather fabric using a sewing machine?

Gathering fabric is an activity which is done in various areas while doing sewing projects.

You may need to make fathers for home decor, garments, dresses, accessories, heirloom, and sometimes for quilting as well. As far as areas or parts are concerned, you can gather fabrics using a sewing machine to make designs on:

  • Shoulders
  • Waist
  • Shirt bottoms
  • Between seams
  • Around the edges of throw pillow
  • Around blanket
  • Around bed sheets
  • Decorative items
  • Dolls clothes
  • Sleeves
  • Trousers bottoms
  • Pockets
  • Collar

What is better, gathering fabric by hand or using a sewing machine?

It depends on the requirements of your sewing project. Some gathers can only be made by hand while others can only be achieved using a sewing machine.

Where gathering fabric by hand allows you to make traditional designs, sewing machines help you to choose from a variety of stitches’ options and make modern designs of different types and patterns.

In a nutshell, hand gathers are good for decors, pillows, and blankets while sewing machine gathers are good for dresses and garments.

Was this helpful?

You may also like