Gathering Fabric With a Serger/Overlock Machine the Easy Way

gathering fabric serger

When it comes to gathering fabric, if you have a serger or overlock machine, you’re in luck because I’m going to show you how to do it the EASY WAY. All you really need to do is adjust a few settings and you’re good to go.

There are a few ways to create gathers or ruffles with your serger/overlock machine. I’m going to show you two ways and give you some tips to make the process real simple.

Gathering Fabric Method #1

The first thing you’ll need to do is adjust a few of the settings on your machine. Note: you can use either 3 or 4 threads




I recommend cutting some strips of scrap fabric to practice sewing on. Different weights and textures of fabric will gather a little differently.

gathering fabric reg foot

This first method does not require a special presser foot. Just leave your regular presser foot on.

  1. Place the fabric under the presser foot with the fabric edge along the edge of your presser foot. You’ll be cutting off just a little bit of the fabric as you sew.
  2. Start sewing. Hold the fabric loosely and allow it to slide under the presser freely. Guide the edge of the fabric along the edge to keep it aligned and straight.

With the machine at these settings, the fabric will generally gather up to ½ the length that you started with. If you want the gathering to be tighter, simply find the needle thread (which is the thread between the looper threads), and using a seam ripper, gently pull on it to gather more.

What I love about using a serger for gathering fabric is that it not only gathers the fabric, but it finishes the edge so it won’t fray.

gathering fabric foot

Gathering Fabric Method #2

This method requires a GATHERING FOOT. Some machines will come with this foot, and other models don’t. You can purchase one separately. If you do have to purchase one, it is well worth the money.

This is what the gathering foot looks like. Depending on the model of your serger, they may look a little different, but most of them will have this little spring plate on the bottom. Remove the basic presser foot and apply the gathering foot.

gathering fabricYou can create gathers by simply running a strip of fabric under the presser foot as you did with the other foot.

The cool thing about this gathering foot is that you can gather AND attach the gather to a non-gathered piece of fabric. For example: if you want to add a ruffle to a pillowcase, skirt waistband, apron, etc., it makes this task a SNAP!

Gathering Fabric and Attaching

To practice, cut a strip of fabric say 20 inches in length. Cut another piece of fabric 10 inches.gathering fabric

  1. Place the long strip (ruffle fabric) under the presser foot and take 1-2 stitches only. Grab your short strip and slide it into that little slot on the presser foot until the edge is lined up with the ruffle strip.gathering fabric hand position
  2. Take a few stitches only so the needles grab both pieces of fabric. Adjust your hands so the left hand is holding the top piece of fabric and the right hand is holding the ruffle fabric.
  3. Continue to sew letting the fabric slide easily and feed into the foot freely. While you sew, keep the two edges of the fabric lined up with each other and in alignment with the edge of the presser foot. (It takes a little practice, but you’ll get the feel for it quickly).
gathering fabric and attaching

Tadah! Open up the two pieces of fabric and look how cool that is! Such a faster and more efficient way to go about gathering fabric.

So, if you have a serger/overlock machine, adjust a few settings and have fun making ruffles!

What if you don’t have a serger?

No worries. Stay tuned because I will be showing you how to easily create ruffles and gathers on a regular sewing machine.

Have fun sewing!





Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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