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The How to Gather Fabric Tutorial



I’ve always avoided sewing garments that had lots of gathering, it seemed like such a lot of work. But with my next pattern release, The Wendy Artisan Smock, I couldn’t really escape it as the whole neckline is gathered and then bound – talk about facing your sewing demons – I’ve now made so many samples, that gathering necklines has actually become quite therapeutic!

So anyway, there is always more than one way to stitch anything, but this is my straightforward method for how to gather fabric using a sewing machine.

Maven Patterns - gathering tutorial

Set your stitch length to the LONGEST possible stitch length for your machine.

You need to stitch 2 rows in the seam allowance, parallel to each other, the first about 3mm from the edge of the fabric. These MUST NOT CROSS each other! Leave long ends to the threads.

Maven Patterns - gathering tutorial

In the case of The Wendy Smock, we’re gathering a neckline that is to be finished with binding, so it’s quite a long run of gathering. I found the best way to manage this was to work in sections (front, back and shoulders), stopping and the restarting at each seam. If your run of gathering is too long, the threads break – trust me, that can be just a little bit annoying.

Pull up the two long threads that are facing you (ignore the ones at the back) and gently slide the fabric along until gathers form, you can work from both ends.

Maven Patterns - gathering tutorial Continue pulling up the threads until your fabric is gathered to the correct measurement, then wrap the excess fabric temporarily around a pin to hold. Continue along the neckline until it’s all gathered.

Maven Patterns - gathering tutorial

Double check your gathering is pulled up to the correct measurements, try your Wendy Smock Top on and see if it sits right on you. More gathers will make a smaller neckline and less will make a wider neckline, remember to make a note of the new measurements if you change them! When you are happy tie the threads securely together to fix them – you could stitch them in place by hand if you prefer, especially if you are not finishing your garment now.
Maven Patterns - gathering tutorial Then all you need to do is make sure all your gathering is spread evenly before you finish your neckline. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to set your machine BACK to normal stitch length, it’s not like I’d forget to do something like that…

Happy sewing! Mrs M x