There are a number of techniques you can use but I want to share the two basic ways to get you started. I'm using wide lace (available instore HERE) that could eventually be sewn around the neckline of a singlet to create a shabby chic look.
Step 1: Gather your supplies - needle, thread and lace. Cut a long piece of thread about double the length you need your finished product to be (you don't want to run out half way through!). Same goes with the lace, but you can also leave it uncut until you have ruffled it and decided on the finished length.
Step 2: you'll be sewing about 2cm in from the unfinished edge (ie the plain edge that ends up being sewn onto the garment. Start by knotting your thread onto the lace. If you don't knot it here you may end up pulling the thread through and losing all the ruffles later down the process.
Step 3: Now weave your needle in and out of the lace (technical term is 'basting stitch'), keeping the stitches even and in a straight line. The more space you leave between stitches the bigger the ruffles will end up. I try to keep stitches to about 1cm in length. Once you get the hang of it you can weave a number of stitches onto the needle before pulling the thread through. This speeds the process up!
Step 4: Holding onto the needle and thread, and ensuring your thread is secure at the beginning of your piece of lace, gently push the lace along the thread towards the knotted end to create your ruffles. Play around with the ruffles until they're evenly spaced, knot the end of the thread ... and you're done!
You may need to pull out your machine instruction booklet to follow the first 2 steps!
Step 1: Increase the tension setting on your machine. My normal tension is 2 so I turned it to 7 to gather this lace. The tighter the tension, the more it gathers.
Step 2: Increase the length of your stitch. The wider the length, the easier to gather!
Step 3: Back stitch the first couple of stitches to hold the threads in place so your ruffles don't fall off the edge.* Sew along the rough end of your lace. You may need to play with your tension & stitch length settings to get the ruffle the way you want it.
Step 4: Gently guide the lace through your machine so as not not to run the stitch off the edge. Make sure you don't hold the lace tightly so that it hinders 'run', otherwise your fabric won't gather evenly.
Step 5: Is actually just a photo of what you can expect your ruffles to look like! If you decide you want more ruffles you can still achieve this by firstly separating the two threads. Holding the (bobbin) thread firmly, begin to gather the fabric from one side toward the center of the fabric. Your fabric will slide along these threads like a curtain on a curtain rod, forming ruffles. Continue pulling, adjusting and evening-out the ruffles as you go. Hold firmly but don't yank. If you pull too hard, you could pull the stitches out completely or break the thread.
Step 6: When you’ve achieved the finished length needed, knot the thread tails at the ends to hold the gathers in place. Otherwise, your gathers have the potential to simply stretch back out again!
More Machine Gathering Tips:
- * Sometimes, if you’re gathering a really long piece, it can be helpful to start from the center out, instead of from edge to edge. You start the gathering stitches in the center, leaving a thread tails in the middle, then work out to the edges, first on one side, then the other side. This method also makes it easier to match up the center point of your garment with the centre point of your finished gathered lace.
- Backstitch at the beginning isn't always recommend especially not for long pieces of lace because you may wish to add extra gathers after sewing. In this instance it's usually better to work from two directions. ie gather from each end towards the middle.
- Make sure you have enough bobbin thread for the distance you need to sew. If you run out midstream, you'll have to start all over again.
- If the gathering process starts to jam up and the fabric won’t move, you’ve pushed too much into the same spot too soon. Back out the gathers a bit and work in smaller increments; you’ll find the lace starts sliding easily on the thread again.
Other Gathering Techniques
As mentioned, there are loads of ways to gather lace. You can also use specialty sewing machine feet and attachments (most are optional, meaning they do not come standard with the machine) to automatically gather fabric as you sew.
The Ultimate Ruffler is a very scary looking attachment, and just as scary to watch in action until you're familiar with it! The attachment creates different types of ruffles and pleats quickly and easily based on how you set the foot. I use the foot for fabric but not usually lace as I find it is too light to work to the best outcome. Having said that, I did use the foot extensively when making pettiskirts out of soft, nylon fabric.
Hope this helps someone to give 'lace gathering' a go! If you have any other tips to share please leave a comment below. And if you'd like some help on any other topics, please just let me know.
For inspiration, be sure to check out the huge variety of laces stocked in our Little Tee Tee store HERE.