Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Shall We Gather?

Welcome to today's Cutting Corners tutorial for Riley Blake Designs! 

Let's explore some ways to make gorgeous gathers!  We'll test some samples, learn some tips for success, and answers to ruffly questions you never knew you had!  Always pretty, ruffles look terrific whether gathered into a seam such as a skirt or apron; sleeves, pockets, bags, etc., or applied as ruffled embellishments at necklines, across a pillow, quilt, bag, shirt - here, there and everywhere!  

     *1 Fat Quarter, cut into four or five 9" x 7" rectangles, 
      and four or five 4-1/2" x 3" rectangles. 
     *Thread, dental floss, Clover Fuse & Gather tape (optional), 
      double needle (never mind).

Here's how I learned to gather:  The "Two-Strand" technique.  Used in garments mostly - with seam allowance no smaller than 5/8".  Set stitch length to the longest possible on your machine (mine is a 5).  Leave a long tail at the beginning and ending of your thread, at least 4", then stitch a line 1/4" from the edge of the fabric; Do NOT backstitch.  Stitch another line of basting at about 1/2", careful not to cross lines.

Separate the top threads from the bobbin threads, and pull together, sliding fabric toward the center of the piece, bunching the fabric together as you go.  Repeat from the other end, again working toward the middle so you don't snap threads or pull the threads loose and have to start again.  Continue sliding the fabric along the threads until you reach the desired width. 

**TIP:  Once the piece is gathered to the correct width, give a little tug on the bobbin threads to lock the ends so the gathers don't slide out.

Distribute the gathers evenly, then pin well and stitch to a base fabric.  I usually divide my base piece and my ruffle piece into quarters or eighths and either clip or pin or mark in some way, then match up the marks and pin together.  That way I know that there is equal distance between the pins to distribute the gathers more evenly.  Then I pin as much as possible to get those gathers to lie flat without folding sideways or bunching up in weird spaces.  I usually flatten and re-distribute the ruffles between each pin as I stitch.

Stitch using a 5/8" seam allowance, keeping edges as even as possible.


And here are some great questions...
?? What about gathering extra long widths, say the circumference of a skirt?       
     Mark or pin at equal divisions on the base piece and on the longer piece, then pin together at those corresponding marks 
before pulling up the threads to gather.   Sometimes, I'll start a gather in each section, which helps to ensure that threads don't snap somewhere in the middle of a long stretch of fabric.  I use a pin to bring up the threads.  

?? My thread always breaks!
     If a thread does break while gathering, just smooth out the piece and re-baste that section, overlapping stitching lines adjacent to the beginning and ending stitches where the thread broke, careful not to stitch over any existing stitches.  Or try using a heavy thread in the bobbin, and pull the bobbin threads to gather.  If it works for 4-H kids at sewing camp, it should work for anyone!

??  How do you calculate how much fabric to gather? 
     A good rule of thumb is 2-1/2 times the desired finished width.  That produces a lovely, full gather, easily distributed and easy to manage.  A slight gather or ease uses 1-1/2 times the desired width, and super-stiff ruffles can use up to 6 times the width (think Tutus).  Today's samples are about 2 : 1.

??  What about other options?  Is there anything easier? 
           So glad you asked!  Try this one - The Zig-Zag technique!  Use a zig-zag stitch over Dental Floss or heavier thread.  Stitch length: average to long.  Stitch width:  4.0 or wide enough to clear the dental floss.

 Anchor one end of floss to a pin in a figure 8,
then pull the other end of the floss to gather.  
Mmmm. Minty fresh!

 Distribute gathers evenly; stitch into 5/8" seamline.

 Result:   A bit more boxy than the 2-strand, but saves time/thread/frustration.

Here's something you should NOT try.  But I had to at least test it out... and since I had a double needle in my sewing kit...

Back:  one bobbin thread - should be easy to gather, right?

Yep. Easy to gather.  Terrible to sew with.  Back:

 Front:  Uhhh, NO.  I tried it so you wouldn't have to.  You're welcome!

Now, here's something terrific to try: Fuse 'N' Gather.  One of Nancy Zieman's newest products from Clover TM, packaged in 6 or 15 yards - enough to gather a 3-tiered skirt or even a bed skirt.  I picked up a package at Fabric Fest, and thought I would test it here.

Cut to length needed, then iron to fuse to wrong side of fabric,
with blue stitches facing up.

 Separate threads at ends for gathering.

 Pull threads from one end and gather to the center of your piece, 
then repeat from the other side to ensure stitches are not pulled out completely.

 Tie a knot or anchor threads at both ends to secure.

 Front side. 

 Stitch into a 5/8" seamline if applied at the edge for gathering.
(NOTE:  Use this product to make a quick double ruffle
by applying to the center of a ribbon or pre-hemmed strip,
then gather and stitch between the two basting lines
to apply as an embellishment.)

 Result:  Quickly done, produces large, loose gathers/pleats.  

And finally, what about this technique? Three-Strand gathers.  This is what they're teaching the kids these days in tailoring classes.  

Stitch two basting rows above the seamline as before, 
then stitch one row below the seamline at about 3/4".

5/8" seamline.

Remove the lower basting line once it is stitched into a seam.  

 Result:  A more refined, neat, beautiful gather.  
Might just be worth the extra effort!

Another option:  There are specialty presser feet made strictly for gathering/pleating.  I've even used a ruffler on a serger. These gather at a certain ratio with a lot of little tiny pleats, but could work well in a lot of cases.

That's it for today - Thanks for joining me for this tutorial!  We'll have more ruffly-gathery techniques to explore soon, including shirring - pleats - rouching - using elastic to gather - and we'll see if we can revive that old art of smocking in a new way!

Meanwhile, keep on stitching!


Comments from RBD

  1. Can't wait to try the floss and zigzag!
    by Jackie Lanphear
    October 08th, 2013 at 9:10 a.m.
  2. Perfect - I'm going for the final version. Thank you
    by Eileen Hollington
    October 09th, 2013 at 5:39 a.m.
  3. I came , i gathered and i must add the last is best...you so rock
    by Mdm samm
    October 09th, 2013 at 12:53 p.m.
  4. Usually my preferred method is zigzag with crochet thread, but I'm going to try the 2 gathered rows with 3rd row stitching beneath the actual stitching row. Looks like it keeps the gathers flatter & more evenly spaced while stitching. Thanks for sharing!
    by Janet Holland
    October 26th, 2013 at 8:07 p.m.
  5. Thanks for all the detailed photos. I am a very visual learner and you make this look sew easy ... :) Pat
    by Pat
    July 10th, 2014 at 8:12 a.m.

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