How to Gather Fabric When Sewing Doll Clothes

Gathering fabric to create ruffles and skirts is perhaps one of the steps you will be doing a lot when you are sewing doll clothes especially with skirts and dresses.  If you are familiar with my patterns, you will notice that I like adding ruffles and making the skirt puffy in most of my designs.  So it is safe to say that I have gathered a lot of fabrics ,  so in this post, I will be sharing with you my favorite ways of doing it.

Method 1 - The Traditional Method

  1. Set your sewing machine to the longest stitch length.  Mine is at 5 so I am setting my machine to that. I would also advice to iron your fabric first to remove any wrinkles or creases.  
  2. Before you start sewing, make sure that you have a thread tail for both your main thread and bobbin thread.  


3. Sew a straight long stitches ( basting stitches)  from the top edge of the fabric with a ⅛” seam allowance.  Don’t backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitch.  And at the end of your stitch, leave long tails of thread (about 3-4 inches long).


4. Sew another basting stitch ⅛” away from the first stitch that you did. Remember to not backstitch and leave long thread tails at the end. Since we usually have a ¼” seam allowance for doll clothes, the second row of basting stitches will still be inside the seam allowance.


5. You now should have two rows of basting stiches by now.


6. With the help of a pin or seam ripper, separate the bobbin threads from the upper threads.


7.  Then gently pull the bobbin threads to gather the fabric. The bobbin threads are looser so it’s easier to pull them when gathering.  Be careful when pulling the threads so as not to break them.


8. Continue pulling the threads until you gather to the center of your fabric.  Repeat the same steps 6-7 on the other side of the fabric until the gathers meet in the center.


9.Move the ruffles that you formed and adjust them accordingly to fit the width you are going after. In this demonstration, I am gathering the fabric to the width of my waistband. Slide the gathers around for even distribution.


10.Tie the other ends to hold the gathers in place. You can keep the other side untied so you can still do some adjusting if needed.


11. Once you are happy with the gathers, you can now sew your gathered fabric to its flat piece, whether it be a bodice, waistband or sleeve. If some of your basting stitches are showing on the right side, you can easily just remove them with a seam ripper. 

Above is a photo of the finished skirt gathered the traditional way.


Method 2 - The Faster Method

Gathering with shirring/gathering foot

Using a gathering foot (or shirring foot) is the method that I use a lot to gather fabrics especially when I am sewing in bulk.  It's definitely the fastest way and a real time saver.  So if you are sewing a lot, this is my most recommended method of gathering fabrics. 

I have a Brother sewing machine that I specifically use to gather fabric.  I can't do an exact tutorial on that because it differs a lot depending on what sewing machine you use.  With my gathering foot, I did a lot of testing with the tension and stitch length to determine what setting would work best for me.

So if you are open to this option, I suggest doing a research on a gathering foot that is specific to your sewing machine model. Amazon is the best place I can recommend to find a gathering /shirring foot for your specific sewing machine model.


I know that there are other ways of gathering fabric that are being shared in the sewing community but these two methods are the ones that work for me best.  I suggest go explore and see what other methods are out there until you find out which ones best work for you.



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