How to Gather Fabric: The fastest and easiest technique


Gather fabric is a beautiful technique, but it is also time-consuming. In this article, you will learn how to gather fabric with the easiest and fastest technique.

Whether you need a princess tulle skirt for your little girl or you had a party and decided to look fabulous with a skirt made by yourself, I just know it.

Now you will be able to gather all your fabrics in fast mode.

Any kind of fabric!!

Effortless Gathering Technique Tutorial. With this Videotutorial you will know How to Gather Fabric Fast. Use this technique on any kind of fabric.

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At least, once in your life you have been in the position to gather, gather, and gather. Maybe you are making a ballet tutú for a Halloween Costume. Or you might be, like me, sewing a super full petticoat.

After a while, you can only think if there could be an easier way to do all this.

What a pain!!!

But don’t get me wrong…

Gathered fabric is beautiful.

I know this better than anyone. It is a fantastic and very feminine detail for any type of garment.

Whether it’s blouses, skirt dresses, it’s something we absolutely love.

But the truth is, that doing the action to gather itself, is not as fun or easy as the end result is …

But luckily for all of us, I recently had the wedding of my best friend and I got a good amount of gather tulle (I’m talking about +40 yards of strips panels).

Learn this too: How to sew a zipper. 3 ways + Free Bonus Pattern.

Gathering Technique Tutorial
Gathering Tulle

The smile you see in this picture is staged. I was really on the border of collapsing due to the big amount of fabric I have left to gather laying on my floor.

I love to be efficient with my time. This is why when I encounter a difficult task I always try to look for alternatives to improve my productivity.

This made me rethink many times the usual techniques of pleating and gathering. Finally, I found a quick and effective technique for any fabric.

Do you want to know what it is? Keep reading.

It turns out that my best friend celebrated the happiest day of her life this past October 6.

So, as the wonderful best friend I am, I offered a gift for her wedding: the wedding dress.

I will not lie … This is definitely the most complex design and project I have made to this day.

Effortless Gathering Technique Tutorial. With this Videotutorial you will know How to Gather Fabric Fast. Use this technique on any kind of fabric.

And one of the most difficult things was to gather the huge amount of fabric strips for the mermaid tail and for the petticoat on the inside of her dress which made it a very beautiful volume.

So I needed to make about 40 yards worth of gathered strips like the ones you can appreciate here.

So, as I was sewing my strips of gathered fabric, I turned to the floor only yo find the rest of that yards that I was yet to finish.

I began to test the different sewing techniques I knew to do this…

But it turns out that in reality none were faster than the other.

So I decided to try something new.

How to Gather Fabric. The actual quickest technique:

What I did was to take my seam ripper sharpest point and as the fabric was fed with the machine I began to push the fabric that was on my side towards the foot of the machine, forcing, in this way that a fold was made in it.

You can get this ergonomic Purple Seam Ripper here.

The best part is that this seam ripper has a hidden secret… The silicone end is great to “erase” loosen threads from your fabric!!

This is definitely one of my favorite Beautiful Sewing Notions that I totally recommend to anyone who asks.

But back to the gathering…

The fast and lazy gathering technique in action.

(Here is the written explanation but you can also watch it on video at the end of this post.)

Effortless Gathering Technique Tutorial. With this Videotutorial you will know How to Gather Fabric Fast. Use this technique on any kind of fabric.

Is really easy.

Start at the beginning of your fabric and make a backstitch approximately 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric. If you want to have greater space to be safe do it at 3/8″ or 1/2″.

Basically what you do is guide the edge of the fabric with your left hand and start to sew a straight line. Just sew a couple of stitches.

gathering fabric technique
Step 1: Backstitch

Then with your right hand and the help of the pointy end of the seam ripper, you are going to start pushing small amounts of fabric towards the feed.

Don’t apply too much pressure. Just enough to push that area of the fabric through the feeding.

gathering fabric technique
Step 2: Apply Preasure

This will create small “pleats” or gathers, and you can control the size of them by pushing the fabric nearer or farther from the foot.

gathering fabric technique
Step 3: Push forward

Just after the pleat gets “trapped” by the sewing machine’s foot you are going to take away the seam reaper.

Is always better safe than sorry. Pull it out just before it gets trapped under the foot because this could cause an ugly accident.

gathering fabric technique
Step 5: Release and repeat.

And that is all about it. Repeat this technique until you are done with your gathering.

As a tip, try to measure the same distance each time you push the fabric in so the gathers are more-less balanced.

If you are finding this technique some sort of confusing I also made a quick video tutorial so you can just sit and watch.

Check this video tutorial to see the technique:

Click to play


Effortless Gathering Technique Tutorial. With this Videotutorial you will know How to Gather Fabric Fast. Use this technique on any kind of fabric.

I hope this works for your future projects with pleats and gathers.

If you have tried this technique at home please let me know in the comments how it went!!

Gathering Technique Tutorial


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Happy sewing!

Effortless Gathering Technique Tutorial. With this Videotutorial you will know How to Gather Fabric Fast. Use this technique on any kind of fabric.

How to Gather Fabric Fast

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Beginner

How to gather fabric really fast with only one seam ripper as a tool.



1. Back Stitch.

Set your stitch length to the longer setting.

Place your fabric under the presser foot and make a backstitch.

2. Apply Pressure.

Start sewing while you use the seam ripper to apply slight pressure to the fabric.

3. Push Forward.

Use the seam ripper to push the fabric through the presser foot so the gathers can start forming.

4. Release.

Take out the seam ripper to avoid it getting caught under the presser foot. Repeat as many times as needed.

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19 thoughts on “How to Gather Fabric: The fastest and easiest technique”

    • To calculate gathers I usually take a 10-inch strip and gather it. After gathering I measure it and see how much percentage did it “shrink”. Then I cut my lengths accordingly.

  1. Another way I like to sew gathers – even easier – is to lengthen your stitch a bit, tighten your top tension, start with a little back-tacking as you did, then stitch away! The gathering happens automatically. This technique DOES take a little testing at first, but once you’ve got it, it’s very fast!

    • Can’t wait to try this! I have been using the zig-zag over string technique for years, and love it. However, my favorite technique is a ruffler foot, (I don’t have one yet for my current machine), it’s a fascinating little bit of machinery that you can adjust to make different size gathers. Just talking about makes me think that I better get another one! Nice video!

      • Hi Gail! Thank you so much! Yes the gathering foot is indeed a great tool, I have one and love it. But you know, there are always lazy days when you don’t even want to change feets LOL

  2. Got to give you credit girl, you’re courageous. I’ve made three wedding gowns in my lifetime and the first one took me SIX MONTHS! (good thing I started very early).
    I refuse to ever make one again – too much work!
    Your gathering technique is very clever. But have you ever tried the narrow zig-zag over string (or heavy thread) technique? After zig-zagging over the full length of your piece about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the top edge, secure the string at the far end. Leave your fabric with the needle down and simply pull the string, adjusting the gathers as you go, until it’s the length you want (have your measuring tape handy), then raise your presser foot, flip your fabric over to the opposite side, pivot the whole thing back to the front of your machine and straight-stitch back over the gathers to secure them. Avoid catching the string so you can pull it out. Might sound cumbersome, but it’s actually easy and fast! Ask me how I know after making three wedding gowns!! And if you have 40 yards to gather, do it in increments. Mark your fabric in 1 to 2 yd (longer if you wish) segments. Do NOT cut your fabric, let the unstitched portion “follow along” as you go. Complete a segment, secure and cut your threads, then repeat the process on the next segment. Gathering one 2 yd segment at a time is a LOT easier than attempting to create evenly spaced gathers on 40 or more yards all at once. Believe me – I’ve tried it!

    • Hi there! No, I know I don’t I am making another wedding dress anytime soon!! I almost went crazy over this one.

      I do have tried (and loved) the zig-zag technique, it looks so much better. But as this was on the petticoat under the garment I wanted ULTRA FAST!
      Thank you so much for your tips though! 3 wedding dresses make you an expert on gathering!

      • You’re welcome!
        I’m not expert on anything – I’m just old and have been sewing for l-o-o-o-o-ng time. Which brings me to my next topic – there’s one more FAST way to gather that I enjoy using, I just forgot to mention it (I’m old, remember?) As long as you’re confident with your gathering math, it works like a charm. I generally go with about 2.5X the length of the item to which the gathers will be attached.
        I set my upper tension high, loosen my bobbin tension a little, set my stitch length to 4 to 6mm, and put my fabric under the needle. I stitch 3 or 4 stitches, back-stitch a little to secure the ends, then start stitching forward and the fabric automatically gathers as I sew! Nope, I’m not nuts, it really works. You’ll need to do some testing on scraps first to get the tension set for the density of gathers you want, but once this is done, the results are almost magical.
        There is only one caveat; for some unknown reason, it doesn’t work on all machines. It works beautifully on my vintage Kenmore, but not so much on my big Brother Dreamweaver. Who knew? But if it does work on your machine, it’s an amazing time saver. I just finished making an apron with gathers all around it and the gathering took me only about 5 minutes.
        I’m delighted to know you’re not making anymore wedding gowns!

    • Your method is the best ever!

      I discovered the zig-zag technique after making a square dance skirt, with multiple gathered tiers many years ago. Your suggestion of marking segments within the yardage needing gathering is priceless.

  3. This is a really interesting idea. Can you explain to me how you’re getting your end result to be the correct length? I always adjust my gathering along a baste stitch to be the length of the seam I’m stitching it to.

    • Hi, absolutely.

      All tought I use this technique mainly to first gather and then meausure. But you can figure out the end length once you have some expirience with this technique and you push your fabric at a fair equal distance each time.

      Then you can take a piece of fabric let’s say 5″ long and gather it, then measure how much % it reduced.

      But again, this sewing technique was created to take away the trouble and make things fast, when you can.


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