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