Sewing small scale designs often requires a little ingenuity. I like ruffles, puffed sleeves, and full skirts…. but when it comes time to add them to doll clothes, the process always begins with a long sigh. Creating a nice neat gather begins with sewing two rows of gathering stitches, one just inside the seamline and the other 1/4-inch above it, which work together to stabilize the seam allowance. Herein lies the problem, doll clothes only have 1/4-inch seam allowances. Because of this, the space between the two rows of gathering stitches and the raw edge of the fabric is greatly reduced… and so is the stability of the seam allowance. Hence, the reason for my sigh. In drawing up the gathering stitches, the narrow seam allowances twist and the raw edges have a tendency to get pulled under… often tucked between folds so they aren’t noticeable until AFTER the final seam has been sewn. It is so frustrating to finish a project, only then to find raw edges poking intermittently through a seam line. Well, I have been doing a lot of thinking on this problem as of late, and think I have come up with a solution. The problem to solve was how to stabilize the seam allowance while drawing the gathering stitches. Widening the space between the stitching lines was the most obvious choice, but to do that would mean sewing outside the seamline and risking marring the fabric. After a bit of head scratching, I thought, why not use a zig zag stitch? Now, using a zig zag stitch alone presents other problems in that the opposite sides would push and pull on each other creating a rippled effect. However, when paired up with a straight stitch the two work together. The straight stitch stabilizes the effect of the zig zag and the pushing and pulling of effect of the zig zag stitch keeps the raw edge of the seam allowance from getting pulled under… is anyone else sensing a great marriage analogy here?
Step 1: Set the stitch length on your sewing machine to the proper length for gathering your fabric. Shorter stitches make neater gathers, so it is best to keep the stitch length as short as possible, but long enough to draw the bobbin threads easily. Generally, the lighter the fabric, the shorter the stitch length you can use.
Step 2: Sew a stitching line just inside the seam allowance where you want your gathers to be.
Step 3: Set the zig zag stitch to the widest setting and adjust the stitch length to match the stitch length of the first stitching line – remember, stitch width and stitch length are two different settings.
Step 4: Sew a zig zag stitch following the 1/4 inch seam allowance. The stitches should fall between the raw edge of the seam allowance and the first stitching line. If necessary, adjust the width of the zig zag so that it does’t cross the first stitching line.
Step 5: To gather, draw the bobbin threads from both rows. Because the overall length of the zig zag stitching line is longer, you will need to pull on that one more to get the stabilizing effect.
Step 6: Arrange the gathers evenly and stitch in place. That’s it! Try it out, and tell me what you think…