How to Gather Fabric

Gathering is a common sewing technique that allows a longer piece of fabric to be attached to a shorter piece.  Gathering is used in a number of Twig + Tale patterns including the neckline and sleeve of the Driftwood Blouse and Dress, the cuffs of the Pixie Pants and Shorts, and the gathered yoke option of the Barefoot Romper



We will be using a sewing machine, set to a long basting stitch, to gather our fabric.  Let's get started...


1.  Adjust stitch length

Set the stitch length on your sewing machine to the longest length available, usually 5 or 6.  This long stitch length is called a basting stitch.  This will look different on every sewing machine, but as an example, mine adjusts with a basic dial.

2.  Sew first line of gathering stitches

Making sure to leave a long thread tail (about 4" or 10 cm), sew a straight line of stitches 1/8" from the edge of your fabric that you wish to gather.  Leave a long tail at the end of your line of stitching.  Do not backstitch at the beginning or end of your line of stitching. 

3.  Sew second line of gathering stitches

Now, sew a second line of stitches 1/8" over from your first line of stitches.  It is important that the lines are parallel and do not cross. 

4.  Separate top and bottom thread tails

You will have two sets of threads - the tails from the top threads (aqua in this photo) and the tails from the bottom threads (orange in this photo).  Separate the threads so that you are holding either the two top threads or the two bottom threads.

5.  Gather the fabric

Holding a set of thread tails in one hand, use your other hand to shift the fabric over, to make the fabric gather.  Then repeat, holding the thread tails on the other end.  Move the gathers around a bit so that there are no bunchy areas and the gathers are distributed evenly. 

6.  Pin and sew

Continue gathering until your fabric is the desired length - you may be matching it to another piece of fabric or markings on a pattern piece.  In this case, I have matched the width of the gathered polka-dot fabric to the width of the pink fabric underneath.  Pin and sew as outlined in the pattern instructions.  If any of your basing stitches show on the outside of your garment, they can be removed with a seam ripper. 


*Tip for securing thread tails

To secure the thread tails so that the gathers do not come out, place a pin in the edge of your fabric and wind the thread tails around it in a 'figure 8' pattern.  This will prevent the gathers from slipping out, but the pins can still be removed if further adjustments are necessary. 

 ... and that is all there is to it!

Join us in the Twig + Tale Facebook group to ask questions, look for inspiration, and of course to share photos of your lovely T+T creations.