How to Gather Knits: Floss Method
So, I’m on a roll here folks. I'm sewing up knits like its my job. And yes, I suppose it actually is my job. Regardless, I’m learning a ton of new techniques to make this formerly scary, stretchy fabric as easy as sewing with wovens. A little patience and a lot of practice is all it takes. I promise.
Last week I published How to Bind a Knit Neckline and wow! did you all go to town pinning images from that post. Have any of you used that tutorial? If so, how did it go? I want these blog posts to be as useful as possible, so please offer any and all feedback you have in the comments below.
What is gathering exactly? Gathering is the joining of two fabric pieces that are not the same length to account for fullness. Being women, our hips are generally wider than our waists, so gathering at the waist gives our garments some shape, while still fitting nicely over our bottom halves. Gathers look like many tiny little puckers along the length of the seam.
Today, I’m demonstrating knit gathers on my striped, sleeveless Out and About Dress by Sew Caroline. And we’re going to use dental floss to help us out. This method will also work for woven patterns like the Caroline Dress.
Let’s jump in!
1. First, make sure you have some dental floss on hand. I find that waxed dental floss works best, as the fabric slides well along it.
2. Start by placing your dental floss on the wrong side of your fabric about ⅜” from the raw edge. Position your presser foot on top of the dental floss, so that the dental floss travels right under the center mark (mine is a red triangle) of your presser foot. Make sure you have at least 2” of extra floss that extends beyond where your stitch begins.
3. Set your sewing machine to a long and wide zig-zag stitch. I set my Janome to a stitch width of 5 and a stitch length of 3.
4. Begin to zig-zag stitch over the top of the dental floss, making sure not to stitch the dental floss to the fabric. This should create a sort of tunnel for the floss to run back and forth through. Maintain a ⅜” seam allowance. Simply pull the floss from the container as you sew.
5. Once you’ve zig-zag stitched over the width of your skirt top, trim your threads to the edge of the fabric and your floss so that it extends 2” beyond the edge of your fabric. You should have two 2” floss tails on either end of your skirt.
6. Now, take one floss tail and gently pull to gather the fabric around the floss. Then, pull from the opposite end to evenly distribute the gathers.
7. Continue to pull your floss and gather your fabric until the width of your skirt is the same width as your bodice. Make sure to evenly distribute the gathers by gently moving them to the right or left along the width of the skirt.
8. Now place your bodice and gathered skirt with right sides together and raw edges aligned. Pin every inch to keep the gathers in place while sewing.
9. Bring your pinned bodice and skirt to your sewing machine, being careful not to stretch your gathers out of place in transport. Sew a stretch stitch (I use a narrow zig-zag) with a ½” seam allowance, making sure to not stitch over the previous zig-zag stitch (or dental floss). I sew with the bodice side up to avoid getting my presser foot caught in the folds of the gathers.
10. Now that your bodice and skirt are sewn together, remove the dental floss from the garment completely. Simply pull on one end of the floss and it should slide right out, keeping your gathers in place.
11. (Optional) Flip your garment right side out and inspect your gathers to make sure you’re happy with them. If so, simply flip your garment inside out and serge your seam (with bodice side up) along the length of the seam you just sewed. Be sure to serge just to the right of the zig-zag stitch.
12. Press the finished seam up towards the bodice. And you’re finished!
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