Quick & Easy Gathering with Dental Floss!

At last!  A quick and easy way to gather long pieces of fabric with out breaking the gathering threads, ever.  The secret is in the dental floss!

I nearly went crazy today.  I'm working on a new pattern and it requires gathering a longer fabric into the shorter piece of fabric.  Lots of it, lots of times in very long lengths.  The end result is going to be very pretty I know, but I wasn't sure I would get there.

No matter how careful I was, how slowly I did it, I kept on breaking my gathering threads.  Over and over again.  And I'd have to unpick and start again.  And again.  My fabric was starting to fray and really suffer and I was getting no where.  That's when I threw it all the floor in disgust and took a break for coffee and a Creme Egg.  I like to brush after eating sugary snacks, and when I opened the bathroom cabinet to get my toothbrush I had a eureka moment!  My eyes fell on the dental floss.

I'm not sure where I saw this, but somewhere in the back of my sewing brain, I remembered seeing someone using fishing line to gather fabric.  Well, I didn't have any, but I did have dental floss and it's long, thin, waxy – it should be perfect!

How to do quick and easy gathering with dental floss

You will need to check on the width of your seam allowance and make sure, as usual, that your gathering stitches are within this allowance so they won't be seen on the front of the fabric later.

I set my machine to a zig-zag stitch, 2.5 long and 5.0 wide.  That seemed to work just fine.  I wouldn't go any narrower than that in case you snag the floss.

I started out securing my threads with a couple of reverse stitches, then lifted the presser foot and placed the dental floss in place, lined up with the central mark on the presser foot.  I left 3 or 4 inches hanging out the back to tie off later.

At last!  A quick and easy way to gather long pieces of fabric with out breaking the gathering threads, ever.  The secret is in the dental floss!

Then I sewed, zig-zagging my way down the fabric over the dental floss in the middle.  It was really quick.

At last!  A quick and easy way to gather long pieces of fabric with out breaking the gathering threads, ever.  The secret is in the dental floss!

Once I got to the end, I left a length of floss and cut the threads short.  I tied the start of the floss to the threads left at the start of the stitches and then simply pulled on the dental floss to gather up the fabric.  Because it waxy and slippery, it was SO smooth.  It pulled up so easily, I almost sobbed after my previous frustrations.

At last!  A quick and easy way to gather long pieces of fabric with out breaking the gathering threads, ever.  The secret is in the dental floss!

Once I had it to the right length, I just wrapped it round a pin a few times to hold the end of the floss in place.  Then I matched up my raw edges and stitched the gathered fabric to the adjoining piece, just outside the zig-zag stitches.

At last!  A quick and easy way to gather long pieces of fabric with out breaking the gathering threads, ever.  The secret is in the dental floss!

Once it was done, it was a simple snip to cut the end of the dental floss and pull it back out again.  I wound it back in the container for next time and remembered to put it in the drawer with my threads, not back in the bathroom cabinet!

At last!  A quick and easy way to gather long pieces of fabric with out breaking the gathering threads, ever.  The secret is in the dental floss!

Next time you have gathering to do, especially if its long pieces like mine, consider giving the dental floss trick a try.  Saved me hours or frustration.  Look out for the gathered skirt pattern coming soon for summer….

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89 Responses to Quick & Easy Gathering with Dental Floss!

  1. Lorraine Taylor says:

    That’s ingenious! Don’t you know st love receiving little inspirations like that? Thanks for sharing!

  2. SylvieC says:

    Excellent! Love this trick!

  3. Adriana says:

    Great trick!!

  4. ChristineM says:

    A good idea, but I have always used crochet thread which, being round, is less likely to get caught in the zigzag stitching.

  5. Angela P says:

    Dental floss is also fantastic for cutting cinnamon rolls prior to baking.

  6. frances colon vega says:

    awesome idea! I hated gathering, but not anymore!

  7. Jan says:

    It is also great for car upholstery repairs – so much stronger (and waterproof) than other threads, and knots better than fish line. Extra gathering trick for netting: tie the floss onto a button before gathering to keep it from munching then net or pulling through.

  8. Marie says:

    Just in time for an upcoming project. Thank you

  9. What a great idea! Why haven´t this technique been out to us all earlier??? So much wasted sewing-time and now I feel doing the project that had been around for years. Because of this and now going to be done easily. Thank you!!!

  10. Ethel Mecklem says:

    I’ve been using this system with fishing line for years (about 50) but even better, I learned from being in the Wedding Gown design and creation business that putting a double row of gathering line in really works well as it creates a much more controlled edge to attach to the base on which you are sewing the gathers to. I put one row just inside the 5/8ths inch seam allowance and the the second one on the 3/8s to 1/4 inch line. Pull both gathering threads together and they make beautiful little pleated gathers. Makes life so much easier.

  11. Suzanne says:

    Great idea, I appreciate your sharing. Wish I knew a few weeks ago when I repaired my daughters dress, it would have been so much easier.

  12. Sandy says:

    I definitely will be using this trick from now on to make gathers. Genius!!!

  13. Melanie says:

    This is one to remember. I think I’ll purchase a package for my sewing room.

  14. Jaine says:

    Isn’t this great? I think I first tried this when my girls were in grade school – they just turned 48 and 50!

  15. Jan says:

    Great tip. Can’t wait to try this.

  16. Barb says:

    Super idea, did you thread the floss thru the sewing machine like thread? Where/How did you keep the container so it would continue to give you the floss you needed while sewing?

    • Lesley says:

      Please re-read the instructions above! You DO NOT want to thread your machine with waxed dental floss!!! It will distribute wax all through your machine threading and be near impossible to remove!!!
      You pull out a length of dental floss that is a equal to or a bit longer than the length you need to gather. Get your machine set-up for zig-zag and place the floss underneath your presser foot and ZIG-ZAG OVER the floss to the end.

      OR, You could always use Nancy Zieman’s technique which is to pull a length of bobbin thread to the top from behind the presser foot and pull it over the top of your length to be gathered and zig-zag over that. I’ve found that one to the best for me because the beginning is secured when pulling it from the bobbin.

  17. Joan says:

    Young lady you are a sheer genius!!!
    I have been sewing forever and had the same gathering issues you had. However I am the weirdest person on earth as I am not a chocolate fan and even though I am constantly brushing and flossing (using the dental picks), this trick never popped into my sewing brain.
    I do however have tons of dental floss that I use for beading and other crafts but now it’s going to be a staple in the drawers of both my sewing desks and the drawer on my craft/ sewing board!
    I love all your ideas and admire your creativity!
    Joan southern Alberta Canada

  18. Colleen Carbery says:

    I love, love, love this gathering tip! Thank you so much!

  19. Kathleen D says:

    Thanks for this wonderful, simple idea (gathering fabric w dental floss)! I so wish I’d known about it years ago!

  20. lleescott says:

    Awesome trick and tip ~ Thanks

  21. Lalon Opheim says:

    Such a great idea! Thanks for the tip.

  22. MA says:

    Good tip. If your child or you had a coat button that comes off, sew it back on with dental floss.

  23. pattyprit says:

    Thanks for the info! I’ll give it a try. If regular thread is too thin to support gathering long legths of fabric, one can use quilting thread, which is far stronger. Also, I always run two lines of parallel stitching when gathering. it is far stronger than a single row and makes for a very neat gather. When you go to sew it to other fabric it lays flatter and you don’t run the risk of accidentally catching a gather sideways in the seam.

  24. Misty Harris says:

    I am making some comforters for my girls and when I tried the traditional way of gathering, the thread broke 8 times!
    I scoured the interwebs and found your tip, and THANK GOD, after 5 days of “tips and tricks” that didn’t work, I came back to your site and decided to try it out.
    I cannot thank you enough for your sage advice and will send you pics when I am done!

  25. Maria says:

    Please don’t brush directly after eating, it’s bad for your teeth. Wait at least 30 minutes. If you want to get the taste out of your mouth, then you can rinse, floss and/or brush your tongue (but NOT your teeth).

  26. Kai' says:

    I was taught this method using fishing line but I must admit that I am still a ‘traditionalist’ and tend to use the method you describe here – https://so-sew-easy.com/how-to-gather-fabric-add-ruffles-properly/?utm_source=So+Sew+Easy+Newsletter&utm_campaign=19a0c02d73-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_181615727c-19a0c02d73-117748377

  27. tammy says:

    thanks for sharing…im going to try this!

  28. Lois Cain says:

    So simple..soooo clever…thanks for sharing !

  29. anne says:

    I wish I had found out about using Dental Floss to gather material earlier, rather than wasting so much time with threads constantly snapping.

  30. jupe77 says:

    I’ve done the same thing but with crochet thread.

  31. tcartpilot says:


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