Sewaholic has written a recent post on the usual method of gathering fabric, as often descibed in pattern sheets. This is not my favourite method, because I have trouble gathering the fabric evenly. Also, I used to get unwanted tucks, but this is because I didn't realise that you were supposed to sew between the 2 rows of basting stitches and not below them. All those wasted years of frustrating gathering because I never learnt the technique properly.
I was given ruffle-y ballet costumes to sew because the person who designed them decided that she did not have enough time to sew them! When I started the gathering, I tried using the zig-zag over dental floss method, as posted here. Only I used cheap cotton instead of dental floss because I had so many ruffles to do. This was not working so well, because the "dental floss" was not staying anchored, and I was pulling the gathering thread out too far and losing gathers.
So then I moved onto a modified zig-zag technique. This was not the final method I used, but it is so interesting that I thought I would document the process here.
In the following photos, the upper thread is light blue and the bobbin thread is red. (A big thanks to my photographer. This method takes 2 hands, so I had to enlist the services of my photographer, who interrupted his rugby viewing to take photos).
Hold the end of the upper thread and take a single stitch. I use the hand wheel to take this stitch.
First I looked up my Elna manual. Elna does make a gathering foot, so I went to see my local Elna man. He could not help me out, so then I went to Spotlight (all the time wondering if I would be better off staying hojme and just getting on with the ruffles). No gathering foot for Elna and none listed in their catalogue. I was just about to leave when the ANGEL behind the counter pointed me in the direction of the generic sewing feet. I have not tried generic feet on my machine before, but the Sewparts low-shank gathering foot only cost $3.99, so I thought it was worth a try.
I was so excited, I finished off the ballet ruffles and then began gathering everything in sight. Some samples are shown below. The fabric for these samples were harvested from the floor around my sewing machine, so you can just imagine what my sewing room looks like (and after a week of focussing on ballet costumes, the rest of the house does not look too much different to my sewing room)! The gathering foot seems to work best on lightweight fabrics. From the left, there is a synthetic georgette, a lightweight cotton, a quilting cotton, a bias strip of Liberty fabric, a synthetic organza and a lightweight stretch denim.
gathering knit trims. The following sample was made using the regular sewing foot, a stitch length of 4 and an upper thread tension of 9.
After all the ruffles, I used the gathering foot to gather the tops of 14 pairs of green organza harem pants, that were then attached to a lycra waistband. For a one-off garment, the basting / gathering method would most likely still be my method of choice, as it takes a bit of fiddling to get the right amount of gather with the gathering foot, but when sewing multiples, I am definitely a fan of the gathering foot. I forgot to picture of harem pants before I gave them all to the studio.
I hope that ruffly, gathered things stay in fashion for a while longer, now that I am so proficient at gathering.
Here is a photo of the leggings for the ballet costume. For my records, I used Jalie 2920, shortening the legs to below the knee. The lycra had only 50% stretch, so I went up 2 sizes. I didn't use the waist elastic measurements recommended by Jalie; instead, I measured the girls' waists and cut the elastic 3 cm shorter than this.