How to do a Gathering Stitch: Sewing Tutorial

Today, I am going to show you how to do a gathering stitch. A gathering stitch is one way you could create a soft ruffled look for aprons, dresses, shirts, or anything you want. It’s one of the most basic techniques for sewing (plus, it just makes dresses and aprons that much cuter!) so you should definitely learn it. Below are the written instructions and I have also included a short instructional video.

Before you get started, I just wanted to include some tips for sewing gathers because these tips aren’t always mentioned in tutorials but I find them very useful. So, here they are:

  1. Use a contrasting thread. When you go back to pick out the threads, this will make it much easier and will help make sure you aren’t pulling out the wrong stitches.
  2. Sometimes it can be easier to sew three lines of gathering stitches instead of the standard 2. It just makes gathering the fabric easier and provides a ‘back-up’ in-case one of your threads break.
  3. If you’re gathering a large piece of fabric, it can get tricky when it’s time to gather. To make it easier, you can also do your stitching in separate sections. For example, if you’re making a full skirt and you want to gather it, you could divide the skirt into 2 sections (each starting at the center front). This way, you won’t need to pull the fabric into gathers all across the entire skirt (which can also help avoid breaking your threads).
  4. If you’re attaching a skirt to a bodice, it might be helpful to first baste the skirt onto the bodice. This way, you can make sure you spread all your gathers evenly. If you didn’t, or you don’t like the look of the gathers, you can easily pick out the basting stitches and try again. If you’re happy with the way it looks, you can easily apply your regular stitches without un-picking the basting stitches (if you used matching thread).
  5. If you’re sewing machine has this option, you can also lower the pressure of the presser foot to help avoid flattening the gathers while you sew.
  6. Press your seams gently! If you press too roughly, you could flatten the gathers.
  1. The first thing you will want to do, is thread your sewing machine using different colors for your spool and bobbin. This will help you determine which thread in your stitches comes from the bobbin which will come in handy in later steps.
  2. Next, you will need to change the stitch length on your sewing machine to the longest stitch length possible.
    It can also be helpful to lower your thread tension.
  3. Sew a straight line 1/4 inch from the edge of your fabric.
  4. Stop about 1/4 inch from the end of the fabric- it’s best to get as close as possible to the edge without going over it.
  5. Keeping the needle down in the fabric, raise the presser foot and slide the fabric over to the right, making it so that the bottom edge of the fabric is on the right.
  6. Lower the presser foot and stitch one stitch. This stitch will ensure that you won’t be able to accidentally pull the fabric out and lose the gathers.
  7. Raise the presser foot again, leaving the needle down in the fabric.
  8. Pivot the fabric to the right and lower the presser foot.
  9. Stitch a line parallel to the first one.
  10. Once you reach the end of the fabric, lift the presser foot and needle and pull the fabric from the machine until you have a thread tail that’s about 7 inches long.
  11. Pull on the bobbin threads evenly to gather the fabric (I have been told that only pulling the bobbin threads will ensure the best results). This is why it’s useful to use different colored thread for your bobbin. Tie the ends of the thread.
  12. Press the gathers.
You’re Done!
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