How To Gather Fabric With A Sewing Machine: 2 Steps

Last Updated on 6 months by Susan Mayrich

If you want to know how to gather fabric with a sewing machine, here are two steps. We’ll also share the best stitches to use for this practice. And as a bonus, you’ll learn various techniques when gathering fabric with and without a sewing machine. 

how to gather fabric with a sewing machine

Are you new to sewing as well? Please browse our blog for various sewing techniques, such as how to make tack stitches and more. 


How Do You Gather On A Sewing Machine?


Step 1. Mark the fabric and set the machine

  • Mark the fabric according to where you want the beginning and end for the gathers
  • Set the sewing machine to the longest stitch length
  • Lower the sewing machine tension as much as possible
  • Pull the upper and lower thread tails for about 5 inches and have them under the presser foot and towards the rear of the unit


Step 2. Sew two stitch rows and pull on thread tails to make gathers

  • Align the fabric edge with the presser foot edge and sew inside the seam without backstitching
  • After the first row of stitches, move the fabric over for a bit and sew another row without backstitching 
  • Insert a pin at one end of the rows
  • Wrap the sewing machine thread tails around the pun
  • Separate the threads and pull one of them
  • Slide the fabric over and pull the thread tail in the other row
  • Slide the material over and repeat the process of pulling the thread tails and moving the fabric over to continue gathering
  • Adjust and distribute the material gathers so they are evenly spaced
  • Sew the gathers in place with a stitch row 


How Do You Gather Fabric Easily?

Do you know what is a serger sewing machine? If you have this type of machine, you can gather fabric much quickly and efficiently as a beginner. The technique doesn’t require you to gather the fabric little by pulling on threads. Instead, you will gather the material densely and then lose them bit by bit. 

  1. Set the serger’s stitch length as long as possible and raise the differential feed ratio as high as you can
  2. Increase the thread tension to 8
  3. Serge the fabric edge
  4. Mark the center and quarter of the gathered and non-gathered material with pins
  5. Loosen the gathers little by little


How to gather fabric with differential feed

Check if your serger has a differential feed option. You can use it to gather the fabric and then adjust the sewing machine accordingly. Make sure to test the settings on scrap fabric before gathering your project directly. 


How to gather fabric with a ruffler presser foot

You can get a ruffler presser foot on your sewing machine. It is an easy way to sew gathers permanently, such as attaching a ruffle to a project. First, however, ensure that you’re using the correct ruffler foot for your machine by contacting your dealer. 


What Stitch Do You Use To Gather Fabric?


Zigzag stitches

Gathering heavy fabrics is manageable with zigzag stitches. Set your sewing machine to a wide stitch setting and thread it with the proper thread for your material. With this technique, the tail of the thread will be at the beginning and end of the stitch row similar to when gathering with running stitches, but the zigzag stitch is not visible in the seam line. 


Basting stitches

Do you know what is baste in sewing? This temporary stitch is a helpful technique for gathering light and medium fabrics. You will also tug the thread to gather the material and for a more professional-looking finish, use the thread the same color as your fabric. 


How Much Fabric Do You Need To Gather?

The amount of fabric required for gathering depends on the type of material and project. The gathering ratio will also be affected by where you’ll place the gathers. You generally want a ratio of 3:1 for lightweight fabrics and about 5:1 for medium to heavyweight materials. 

Remember that lightweight materials require more fullness compared to heavier fabrics where you only need to gather to at least one-third of their original width. If you’re still confused, a valuable tip to keep in mind is that you want the panel you’ll gather to be twice or thrice the length of where you’ll attach it. And when pressing the gathers to finish, only use the working point of the iron to avoid flattening the gathers. 


How Do You Gather Fabric Without A Sewing Machine?

  1. Double thread two needles and tie the thread ends
  2. Sew two rows of running stitch starting ¼ inch from the edge and  ¼ inch of space between the stitches  
  3. You can sew with the two needles simultaneously or sew one row at a time
  4. Pull the threads gently to gather the fabric 
  5. Distribute the gathers accordingly and double backstitch at the ends to finish



And that’s it! To recap how to gather fabric with a sewing machine, you only need to sew two rows then pull the thread tails. You can do it by hand or even with a serger as well. 

And as for the stitches you can do to gather fabric, you can try running stitch, basting stitch, and zigzag stitch. We hope this was easy to follow. Leave us a question below if you have any. 

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