If you are familiar with Striped Swallow Designs patterns, you have probably noticed by now that we adore a good ruffle. Many of our patterns, including the newly released Winter Park, the popular Desert Breeze, and the Willow Raglan that I will be using as an example here all use gathering to create their distinct looks.
Photo credit: Heather Naretto
As much as I love the look of gathers, I am not a fan of the traditional gathering method (basting two lines of stitches and pulling the bobbin threads to gather the fabric). If something involves gathering, I can just about guarantee you that I will be using clear elastic to do so--and today, I want to share this method with you! I am using our Willow Raglan in this post, but you can use it with any pattern that calls for gathering.
Let's get started!
You'll want to have your clear elastic, a pen or marker, and of course the pattern pieces that you are both gathering (in this case, the skirt) and attaching the gathered piece to (the bodice). Don't forget to use some amazing fabric. the fabric used in this tutorial is the Sharks Organic Jersey by Jumping June Textiles.
You will want to use 3/8" clear elastic, which I have found for sale at both Hobby Lobby and Joann Fabrics. 1/4" clear elastic can also be found, but I do not recommend it for gathering.
Start off by prepping your clear elastic. Do this by stretching it out repeatedly; it will loosen up in your hands.
Leaving a little tail to hold onto the elastic with, lay the elastic across the pattern piece that you will be attaching the gathered piece to (the bodice in this example).
The elastic should be taught but not stretched. Mark the elastic on either side.
Set your machine up for a zig-zag stitch, increase the stitch width and length a little. With the wrong side of the fabric facing up, tack the first couple stitches at the beginning of the gathering piece.
Note: Use matching thread as it can sometimes show through the gathers.
Holding on to both ends of elastic, stretch it to fit the gathering piece. It may be easier to do this in halves or quarters, or to stretch as you go. Elastic may slide around during sewing; go slowly and readjust if necessary! Be sure to leave a seam allowance between the elastic and the raw edge of your fabric.
For some pieces, stretching the elastic as much as you need may seem near impossible! But 3/8" clear elastic can stretch up to around 400% of it's original length.
Once the gathering is finished, the gathering piece will be perfectly gathered to the correct size of the garment! Attach as normal and continue on with the rest of the pattern.
Here are a few more examples of using elastic for gathering in SSD patterns:
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