How To Do Gathering Stitch By Hand

Sewing by hand is an age-old method of sewing torn clothes and doing fancy thread work like applique and embroidery.

There are many different types of stitches that make sewing with hand fun and efficient. Gathering Stitch is one of the sewing techniques that help to create creases on a cloth by drawing the fabric together.

It is also how you can create pleats in a skirt or a pant. Let’s learn how to do a gathering stitch and also learn its nuances in the process. 

How To Do Gathering Stitch By Hand?

Gathering is a sewing technique that is used to reduce the length of a fabric. It is also known as ruching and it is what helps you create waves on the fabric.

How To Do Gathering Stitch By Hand

It is also a general practice followed to attach a longer piece of clothing to a shorter piece. Gathering is commonly done to attach a skirt to the bodice, or to attach a full sleeve to the cuff of a shirt.

This technique is quite easy to practice. You just have to ensure that your stitches fall in line and your fabric doesn’t get stitched wrongly.  

Gathering by hand is a time-consuming process but it gives you more control on the fabric to be gathered and the size of every pleat.

Hand gathering works with small cloth projects and is also ideal for extremely heavy fabrics like burlap or canvas. Here’s a step-by-step illustration of how you can gather fabric by hand. 

Step 1. Choose a Fabric

Thinner fabrics result in beautiful gathers while thick fabrics create bulky gathers that do not look neat. Choose a simple fabric with an average thickness. A fabric that has a design will help you guide your needle at equal gaps. 

Step 2. Thread two Needles

Thread two Needles

Thread two needles using double thread to create two rows of parallel stitches. Use a double thread in each needle and secure them with a knot. Keep the thread as long as the fabric.

Step 3. Sew the Cloth

Pick one needle and stab it into the edge of the fabric. Start ¼ inch from the edge. Now sew a basic running stitch while keeping a distance of ¼ inch between every needle stab.

You will notice several tucks gathered around your needle, pull them as you move ahead. Stretch the fabric once you reach the end. 

Step 4. Sew with the Second Needle

Sew the Cloth

Now keeping the first line of stitches as your guide, start with the second needle. Keep ¼ inch of distance between the two lines. Sew similar to the first thread.

Again, straighten the fabric to see if your stitches are line. If you find your parallel line to be wonky, you can cut the stitches and start again. Running stitches are easy to cut and redo.

Step 5. Gather the fabric

Pull the needle to gather the fabric at the starting knot. Tie a tight knot with the help of the needle to secure the gather. Repeat the same with the other needle and thread set. Your gathering project is done.

You can create fine gathers by using smaller stitches. This might take time but the end result is worth the effort. You can create finer gathers by using a stitch length of 1/8 inch. You can secure your gathers by sewing them with a machine at the end. This will hold every pleat in place and will give you a nice finished effect. 

What is a Baste Stitch or a Tacking Stitch?

A baste stitch or a tacking stitch is a temporary stitch made to hold a seam, a pattern or a trim, in place. This is a temporary stitch that is replaced by a tight machine stitch or a more sophisticated hand stitch.

Running stitch is an easy to use tacking stitch that can be quickly made on a fabric and removed easily when its purpose is done.

All sewing machines come with the option of tacking stitches. You can easily do it by hand as well. Basting is also used for gathering, wherein gathering is done using a running stitch and then it is replaced by a permanent stitch. 

How to Gather with Elastic?

Want to sew an elastic to a cloth? This is usually done when you want to make a skirt or a pant with an elasticated waist. Working with elastics is generally tricky, but here is a simple method that you can use to apply elastic to different types of fabrics. 

Step 1. Measure and Shape the Fabric

Measure and Shape the Fabric

You will have to first ready the fabric on which you have to attach the elastic. The fabric has to be bigger than the elastic. If you are making a skirt, the fabric should be 3-4 inches larger than your waist.

Also, make sure to leave 2 inches extra in length so that you can hide your elastic once it is attached. Please note that this is not the only method of attaching an elastic to a skirt. This is one of the simplest methods though. 

Step 2. Measure and Cut the Elastic

A thumb rule for elastics and skirts is that the elastic should be 6 inches less than the actual waist size. This is important because the elastic will stretch and fit on your waist.

The extra 6 inches will give it the tightness it needs to stay on your waist. Too short an elastic will result in a very tight waistband and a long elastic will not give you the right fit. Measure your elastic and cut it.

Step 3. Sew the Elastic

Now place the elastic on the waist. Place it on the edge and 1-3 inches below the top. When you leave space at the top you get a seam to tuck in the elastic later. Now, sew the elastic at the edge of the fabric, you can sew using your hands or by machine.

Step 4. Pull and Sew the Elastic

Pull and Sew the Elastic

Once the edges of the elastic and fabric are joined, pull the elastic till the end of the skirt fabric and start stitching. Put a running stitch at the center of the elastic.

Once done, check the position of the elastic. Your fabric will automatically shrink according to the elastic, and create a neat gathered stitch. If all looks well, pull the elastic again and stitch the edges of the elastic on the fabric, width wise.

Cover both the top and the bottom. Three running stitches should be enough to secure the elastic properly.

Step 5. Sew the Seam

Now is the time to stitch the seam over the elastic to cover it. Fold the seam neatly and stitch it around the elastic.

Step 6. Sew the Sides Together

To finish your skirt, sew the two sides of the skirt together. Cover the whole length of the skirt to completely close it from the side. Apply a second stitch to give the skirt more strength. Your skirt is ready.

How to Use a Gathering Foot?

A gathering foot is a special sewing foot that has been designed only for gathering. With this foot, you can gather a single fabric or you can attach a gathered fabric and a plain fabric. It works best with softer, light weight fabrics. This is quite a handy tool that can make gathering an easy process.

In order to attach this foot to your machine, you will have to remove the regular foot. Once you tighten this foot, you will have to check the alignment of your needle and ensure that it goes inside the gap, at the top of this foot. 

Gathering is a delightful method that glams up any fabric. While it can help you create waistbands and sleeves it is also a good method of adding puffs, creating pleats and rendering waves on a fancy fabric like a curtain. This method of stitching needs some practice but once you have mastered it, you will be able to do it in a jiffy for your sewing projects.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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