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How to Sew Your Own Clothes: Garment Construction

Gathering Seam... How to Gather a Seam

A garment showing gathering at the bodice top area.

A garment showing gathering at the bodice top area.

Learn how to gather fabric by a strong zigzag machine stitch.

Learn how to gather fabric by a strong zigzag machine stitch.

     There are several ways to gather fabric. Below is an easy way that your gathering threads are sure not to break. This gathering technique is a stronger method. We use this method in our studio, and it is our favorite. However, if you are using a light or gentle fabric you will want to use a different method. Here are two other methods of gathering fabric:

How to hand baste to gather fabric.

How to machine baste to gather fabric.

     Gathering seams use to mean tedious hand sewing of basting which took up much time, and if you had thick or heavy fabric your thread would break, and you'd have to do it all over again. Those days are done.  Below is a real easy way to gather, in which your gathering comes out perfect and sturdy every time.  Try it on some scrap fabric, you'll never dread gathering again.

Cut a 4" X 8" piece of fabric to practice on.

One of the strongest methods of gathering fabric is through this strong zigzag stitch.

Pull BOTH upper thread and bobbin thread together long enough to cover your piece of fabric as shown in the photo.

Set your machine on the widest zigzag and the longest (baste) stitch length.

Carefully zigzag stitch over the 2 threads.  Do not back-tack. Try not to catch the threads as you sew.

Since this is practice, we are stitching down the middle of the fabric. You will want to stitch using the pressure foot as your guide when you are gathering for making a garment.

Learn to gather by a strong zigzag stitch.

This is what your gathering seam should look like when you are done.  DO NOT cut the threads that you pulled up from the bobbin and top and zigzagged over.

Gathering by a strong zigzag machine stitch.

Pull the two threads that you sewed over and your gathering is done.  It's that easy.

As mentioned before when using this type of gathering on a seam for a garment, use a 1/4" seam allowance (or the pressure foot edge as your guide) so that when you sew your garment together with a 5/8" seam allowance, the zigzag gathering will be hidden.

See other methods of gathering fabric to compare which method works best for you:

How to hand baste to gather fabric.

How to machine baste to gather fabric.


    Gathering plays an important part in garment shaping and making. Many handmade clothes include gathering.  With this method, your gathering can be smooth and even.  You control where the gathers go.  Your goal should be that your gathering looks even.  This give the most professional look.


Two Favorite Sewing & Dress Making Books We Use Here at Love to Sew Studio Are:

Love to Sew Studio Loves Chic & Simple Sewing book.

Christine Haynes book "Chic & Simple Sewing." This is our all-time favorite sewing book to use for beginners to intermediate students in our studio, and full size patterns are included. This book is filled with adorable easy to sew dresses, skirts, and more for the modern hip girl!


Love to Sew Studio Loves "Twinkle Sews" book.

We also have Wenlan Chia's  "Twinkle Sews" in our studio. It's definitely for the more advance student though! The patterns are on a disk and you can print them right on your own computer. We love her designs and youthful spirit in her collection of 25 pieces of clothing to make in this book.


Click here for Photos of Handmade Garments using a Gathering seam


Methods on How to Sew Your Own Clothes - Garment Construction

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