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Gathering fabric is really simple on a sewing machine! Much easier than doing it by hand with a running stitch, and also easier to control.

I guarantee you'll know how to gather fabric in no time! :D
 
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Step 1: What you'll need:

Picture of what you'll need:
  • a sewing machine
  • a piece of fabric
  • a ruler (if you're wanting to gather it to a certain size)
You can do this on any sewing machine because all you need is a straight stitch! I am using my slightly terrible Brother than I have worked nearly to death. You will notice the tension is not quite right in the photos.

At the beginning of this year it decided it didn't want to do much of anything right, especially when it involves sewing through a single sheet of fabric. ;)

Step 2: Sewing

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Set your machine to a long stitch length - anywhere from 3 to 4. Make sure you have long tails on the thread in the machine.

Sew one straight line 1/8 inch from the edge of the fabric. Don't backstitch at the beginning or end and make sure to stop sewing right at the edge of the fabric so you don't get any knots.

Then sew another line another 1/8 inch in from the line you just finished.

Leaving long lengths (3-4 inches at least!) of thread at both ends of the fabric is vital to your success here, as well!

Step 3: Gathering

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You will want to do this from both ends - do it from only one and you'll end up pulling the strings out!

You'll be using the top strings - grab both of them with your right hand and pull the fabric towards you with your left hand. You'll see it start to gather up. Do this on the other side now, and keep going until you reach the length you want.

Don't worry too much about the gathers and how they're laid out, we'll fix that in a moment!

Step 4: Tie it off and adjust the gathers

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Once your piece of fabric is the right size (or gathered enough!) tie both sides of it. You'll want to tie all four strings together. This will keep the gathers from coming out while you adjust it. :)

After it's tied securely, feel free to cut off the ends.

Now you can move the gathers around to create the look you want.

Step 5: Sew it to finish

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Once it's all gathered properly, you'll want to sew back over the 1/4 inch stitches with a normal stitch length to secure everything. Take it slow and guide the fabric so it's straight and the gathers don't catch on the presser foot. :)

Step 6: And you're done!

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This technique can be used in so many ways! Depending on how you'll be using a gathered piece, you might want to remove the initial gathering stitches or sew the securing stitches closer to the edge of the fabric - it all depends on your project. :)
SeraP14 days ago

Hey thank you for this! I've been having trouble with my string breaking and not gathering properly as I attempt to gather but if I have 2 parallel lines I feel like it will be a lot easier!

seamster2 years ago
I had no idea this was how it was done. I usually just wander around for a while and put the stuff I like in my cart...

Ha, just kidding. This is really clever.
SHIFT!2 years ago
Oh so that's what gathering fabric means! I remember seeing this similar technique for ruffled streamers in a paper crafting forums- very cute!
HollyMann2 years ago
I just have one question - do you increase the tension? I usually to do to a 8-9 depending on how much I want it gathered and it tends to gather it for me so I don't have to do as much manipulating with the threads. Either way works fine!
HollyMann2 years ago
Jessy - Love this instructable and LOVE your sewing machine! I have the same one - it's the best!!!
I am frequently called upon to make doll dresses and repair childrens' clothes, and this will be very useful! I share this, although it will appear to be at odds with the image my gruff demeanor and bushy mustache project. Thank you!