Sewing Perfect Gathers - Gathering On A Curve

Hi Everyone! I'm Shari Fuller, the designer behind Thimbles and Acorns! Welcome to Part 3 of this month's topic, Sewing Perfect Gathers. I am glad so many of you found last week's gathering technique helpful. The fuss of gathering long stretches of fabric neatly and evenly has always been a challenge for me, figuring out how to do it with flat elastic was a real game-changer.

This week, I have a special technique that makes it easier to gather curved edges. Gathering along a curve presents a unique challenge, especially when working with narrow seam allowances. Because the inside and outside row of gathering stitches are different lengths, they draw up unevenly which can cause the fabric to twist. All too often, the twisting will pull a small tuft of the raw edge down between the gathers in the fabric where it will remain hidden until it rears its ugly head in the seamline. Sewing I love, seam ripping... not so much.

A while back, I decided enough was enough and figured there must be a better way. After much trial and error, I discovered using a zigzag stitch for the top row of gathering stitches helped to stabilize the raw edge of the fabric so that it didn't get pulled down into the seamline. This method is perfect for making puffed sleeves and works best on light to medium weight fabrics.

We'll be demonstrating these methods as basic tutorial exercises on small scraps of fabric to help illustrate how the basic techniques and methods are used at a smaller scale. Follow along to understand the process, hopefully watching us in action will clarify any concerns or issues you may have with these types of techniques.


I encourage you to watch the video for a full in-depth look at the technique!

Here's a brief summary of the technique:

Gathering on a curve can be a bit tricky, especially when you are using narrow seam allowances because the basting lines are different lengths inside and out. The problem this creates is that the gathering stitches can't be drawn evenly so the top edge of the fabric is prone to twisting, creating puckers and pulling raw edges of the fabric into the seamline. Using a zigzag stitch in place of the top straight stitch can help alleviate this problem. How does this work? When the zigzag thread is drawn, it creates create a push pull effect that helps to keep the top edge of the fabric upright while the lower straight basting stitch keeps the gathers closest to the seamline straight and even.

Here is how you do it. Set the width of your zigzag between 2 and 2.5 mm and the stitch length to half of what the lower basting stitch will be. For example, if your straight basting stitch will be 4 set your zigzag stitch length to 2.

Stitch using the ¼ inch seam guide. The zigzag stitch should be centered inside the ¼ inch seam allowance.

Set your stitch width back to zero and your stitch length to the proper length for your project. Stitch just inside the seam allowance underneath the zigzag stitch. Do not stitch over the zigzag stitch.

Draw the bobbin threads of both rows of stitching. You will need to draw the zigzag more to straighten the bobbin thread and create the push-pull effect.

Arrange the gathers evenly. That's it! Try it out and tell me what you think. 


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Suggested Patterns For this Topic: 

  • LJ Blossom
  • LJ Picture Day (Skirt and Top)
  • LJ Boomerit Falls
  • LJ Bubble Skirt
  • LJ CA Cami
  • LJ Catalina
  • LJ Cortina Top
  • LJ Faraway Downs
  • LJ Harajuku Skirt
  • LJ Kimberley Dress
  • LJ Maxi Dress
  • LJ Peplum Top
  • LJ Salina Dress
  • LJ Shinjuku Starlet Jacket
  • LJ Summer In Paris Top
  • LJ Ruched Hoodie
  • TA EnForreau
  • TA Irish Kinsale Cloak
  • TA Young Martha 
  • TA Underpinnings
  • TA Unmentionables 
  • TA Fancy Shift
  • TA Saque Back Gown 
  • TA Bib Front Regency 
  • TA Sarah Hale 
  • TA 1860 Civil War Era Dress 
  • TA Prairie Rose 
  • TA Country Girl 
  • TA Mary and Laura  
  • TA Gigot Sleeve Dress 

 Week Three Task:

  • Watch the Gathering On A Curve video. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Show us what gathering project you're working on this month!
  • Check out the Ultimate Resource Guide for fabric and supply sources. (Find this in the SWC Bonuses section)
  • Jump over the SWC Facebook Group for conversation and project sharing.


1 Comment


October 23, 2019

I have the Sara Hale and Gigot Sleeve dresses, as well as the Pemberly Threads Mollie and Victoria (I think) dresses ready to cut out. I can’t wait to try this on the sleeves!

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