How To Gather Knits: Elastic Method
I’ve had today’s tutorial stored away in the back of my brain for months now. Since June, I’ve sewn my fair share of knit items with gathered waists including this Penelope Peplum and this sleeveless Out and About Dress. With the launch of the Winter Collection last week it seems only appropriate to finally show you my favorite method for gathering knits. In my opinion, this is by far the easiest and the most fool-proof method out there. The elastic method, that is.
Awhile back I showed you how to gather knits using the floss method. That’s a great method for beginners who haven't sewn with elastic or people who achieve perfectly spaced gathers despite any method they choose (mom, I'm looking at you). But I found that method isn't entirely reliable and without a lot of redistributing and patience my gathers wouldn’t always stay evenly spaced. The solution for evenly spaced gathers? Elastic! It does the work for you. Let me show you how.
Today I’m demonstrating this method on a modified Out and About Dress pattern. I’ve been dreaming of an elbow-sleeve, flowy peplum for winter that can be layered under sweaters, like this. To achieve this look, I’m simply adding width to the bodice pieces and shortening the skirt to hip height.
First, take out your two pattern pieces that will be sewn together once the skirt is gathered. For this pattern, I’m using the back bodice and one skirt piece. This is what they should look like after being cut on the fold. For this top I’m using a ponte de roma knit.
Now measure the length of the bottom of your bodice with fold over elastic by simply laying it over the raw edge. I use fold over elastic for this method because it’s considerably stretchier and less bulky than traditional elastic.
Trim your elastic to the same length as the bottom of your bodice.
Now, pin both ends of the elastic to the opposite edges of the skirt. Your elastic piece will be much shorter than the width of your skirt, this is normal. When using fold over elastic, you'll sandwich your fabric so that the raw edge aligns with the "ditch" of the elastic. Then fold over each side and pin.
To evenly distribute the elastic on the skirt waist we’ll be using the four corners method. Fold the skirt so that both pins are aligned and mark the halfway point on both the fabric and the elastic with a pin or tailor’s chalk. Align both half-way marks and pin.
Now divide that smaller section in half and mark with pins.
Continue to mark and pin your sections in half until you have eight evenly spaced sections pinned. Your pinned elastic should look like this.
Sew Elastic to Skirt
Now bring your skirt with pinned elastic over to your sewing machine and set your stitch to a narrow and long zig-zag stitch. You may want to practice stitch widths and lengths on a scrap piece of fold over elastic to ensure you have the right stitch settings.
Insert your skirt with pinned elastic under your presser foot, centering the stitch down the center of the elastic. Put your needle down into the fabric. Stretch the elastic so that it lays flat with the fabric and tuck all fabric up into the ditch of the fold over elastic.
Start sewing along the length of the elastic, stretching as you sew. I like to hold onto each pin as I sew, so that I know I’m stretching the elastic evenly along the length of the seam. You can see the fabric gathering behind the presser foot as you sew.
Continue to sew along the length of the elastic until you reach the end. There’s no need to backstitch as the end of the elastic will be enclosed in the seam. Your new skirt piece should look like this:
Look! Gathers already! No basting stitches, or tugging threads required.
Sew Skirt to Bodice
Now align your gathered skirt with your bodice right sides together. Some fold over elastic doesn’t recover 100% after sewing, so your skirt piece might be slightly longer than the bottom edge of the bodice. That’s okay! Simply trim off the extra width of the skirt with your fabric scissors. Once trimmed up your bodice and skirt should align like so:
Now pin your skirt to your bodice.
Bring your two pinned pattern pieces to your serger or sewing machine. I’ll be demonstrating this technique on a serger. If you’re using a sewing machine just remember to use a stretch stitch. Serge or sew your skirt to your bodice, making sure your stitch extends beyond the left edge of the fold over elastic.
Your finished seam should look like this, if serging:
Flip your skirt and bodice right sides out and inspect your seam. You can see below where my stitch didn’t extend beyond the left side of my fold over elastic and the elastic is peeking out of my seam on the right side.
This is an easy fix. Simply sew or serge back over that portion of the seam.
Now, press your seam allowance up towards the bodice of the top or dress. This is important to avoid bulk at the waist seam.
Admire your handiwork. 100% evenly spaced gathers. Am I right?
Let’s take a closer look. Ah, yes. Such satisfaction
For the Out and About Dress, you’ll repeat these steps with the front bodice and skirt pattern pieces. Once you sew up those side seams you’ll be itching to show everyone your perfectly gathered waist.
I’ll be sure to show you the Out and About peplum top when I’ve finished it. For now, go browse the Out and About Dress creations to gather up some sewing inspiration. Make sure you sign up below to receive these posts straight to your inbox!
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