Thursday, 12 August 2010

G is for Gathering

G is for Gathering

Gathering is a way of reducing a length of fabric along threads to create a shorter length of fabric with soft folds. Gathered fabric creates fullness, essential for creating a 3D element in clothing. Gathering can look soft and draped, or crisp and folded depending on the fabric used. Its many uses include not only clothing, but soft furnishings and many small projects. Gathering is often used at waistbands on skirts, cuffs and on the headers of curtains.

To illustrate some uses of gathering here are some costumes I’ve made.

This empire line dress to the right was gathered over the sleeve head and sleeve cuff, creating a “balloon” like shape. The back of the waistline between the side seams is gathered creating a full skirt at the back, whilst the front remains flat.

< These fun “80’s” skirts from “Godspell” are gathered all the way around the waist, giving them a very full hem, and a small neat waistline.

The skirt on this dress is actually 5 layers of super fine chiffon individually gathered onto the satin bodice. Using many layers of gathered panels on top of one another created a lovely depth at the hem, but was very time consuming!

The simplest way to gather is by hand using a running stitch set within the seam allowance. Gathering by hand is time consuming and is suitable for small projects only. A quick and fun project is to make a Yo-Yo. Use a running stitch around the circumference of around piece of fabric starting with a backstitch which will stop the thread from being pulled out. Once the stitches are in place, pull the thread and begin moving the fabric along it creating little folds.
Keep pulling and sliding the folds along until the outer circumference has turned inwards and created a small hole. Finish off with a small backstitch hidden into one of the folds. If you don’t finish off your end, the gathers will unravel! In historical costumes these were called ‘suffolk puffs’ and were used to add texture on sleeves and the front of skirts.
Gathering on a sewing machine is quicker than by hand, and gives a much more even result. Using the longest stitch on your machine stitch a straight line just inside your seam allowance. Stitch a second parallel row closer into the seam allowance. Pull the bobbin thread through to the right side at one end. Secure this end by either knotting the 4 threads together or wrapping around a pin in a figure of 8.

Working on the right side,pull the threads carefully, sliding the gathers along until your fabric is shortened to the desired length. being seamed to, and pin the ends. Before knotting off the open threads, ensure that the gathers are evenly spread out, and that it fits.

Another quick way to gather is to zig zag over a type of cord called gimping cord. The cord is then pulled to create the gathers, not the threads. This type of gathering is useful when gathering lots of fabrics, like wide curtains. However the gathers don’t sit as neatly, and it requires very good sewing machine skills.

Fabric is usually gathered to about a half/ third of the original length. This will depend however on the effect you wish to achieve and your choice of fabrics. Heavy fabrics won’t gather into as small an area as fine fabrics. If gathering very long sections of fabrics, it’s best to divide it up into smaller sections to ensure your thread doesn’t break. I usually divide up into quarters.

This post has been provided by The Thrifty Stitcher.  The Thrifty Stitcher offer a range of sewing classes for all levels of skill. Find out more by visiting their site:  

1 comment:

The undomesticated scientist said...

very useful! i really should try it (or i could try the garthering foot on my old singer machine!)

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