Gathers and Ruffles

Because they are so on trend, I’ve been thinking about buying a ruffling foot for my SM.  It is a beast of a foot with an accompanying price; about $80.  The price caused me to hesitate.  I purchased a ruffling foot about 20 years ago for my previous machine the Bernina 1630.  In all the years I owned that foot and machine, I made ruffles but once.  Did I really want to invest again in an expensive foot which I might not use?  I was searching for perhaps a cheaper source when I crossed the idea that a serger, without a special foot, could be used for gathering.  I like that idea, except that a serger gathers only at the edge. Many of the trendy gathers are down the center of a strip. How could I get gathers down the center of a strip?

I moved to the Cover Stitch machine and started playing with settings.   I found that ruffles and gathers can be created on the CS and placed wherever wanted: one-side, center or both sides. Here’s how

  • Using  a strip of woven rayon fabric 2″ wide and 18″ long.
  • Standard thread in needles and looper
  • Set stitch length to 4
  • Set differential to +2.5
  • Tensions 3/3/2 (left needle, right needle looper)

The result was fabulous. I can’t remember when I wanted more gathering than this. I never want to make and then control thousands of little pleats. I admire such work but don’t want to do it myself.  So when I pulled this out of the CS, I was sold. No need for a bulky, expensive foot.  No need for special thread or setup, just crank up the differential and let ‘er rip gather.

Then I sat down to do my first real project which would involve gathers.  For that project I’m using a jersey knit with 25% stretch. It’s not the lightest of jersey knits but certainly not a sweater knit. I also wanted narrow strips but not sure how narrow.  I cut 1″, 1.25″ and 1.5″ strips.  Because this was sample for an actual garment, I finished the edges using a serger rolled hem. Then over to the CS.

Each of the samples are trimmed slightly when the edge is finished at the serger. That was the easiest way to get a clean edge. Trimming both sides reduced the width maybe 1/8″.  I used the same settings as for the rayon and was totally shocked at how little the knit ruffled:

I also disliked the width of the ruffle, for the current project.  Let me correct any wrong impressions.  The first sample of the knit is not the look I wanted, but it could be useful at another time for another project. Since I didn’t care for the width, I didn’t change the CS settings but  switched to using the strip which was cut at 1″ probably finishing at 7/8″.

I liked the width of this ruffle, for my current project, but was disappointed with how little it ruffled. Also, the two needles seemed to take up 1/3 of the width. While not bad, maybe useful for another project, it was not the look I wanted today.

I removed one needle and stopped to do a little research. “Gathering on the CS” produced no search results on Google. “Serger gathering” produced a few which all recommend increasing needle tension. <light bulb>

  • Fabric strip:  jersey knit 1″ and 18″ long.
  • Standard thread in left needle
  • Right needle removed
  • Standard thread in looper
  • Stitch length  4
  • Differential to +2.5
  • Tensions 6/-/2

I’m tickled with this little devil.  He wants to curl up even beneath the scanner lid.  But I do wonder about the effect of using the chain side up.  See, chain side allows for additional embelishments. A lovely thread or yarn on top could be a good thing.  So I ran another strip through the CS, but with the knit side down (laying on the feed dogs) thus allowing the chain to form on the public side of my strip.


The chain is indeed more prominent visually but somehow this flattens the ruffle slightly.  This sample does not want to gather as much as the sample with the thread side up.  I did not make more samples.  Sample #3, the curly guy, is what I want for the current project.  I can easily see testing with more tension on the needles and also changing the looper thread to wooly nylon.  Also the Janome “X” models have a Stitch Tightening System. I used recommended settings of right for 2 needles and left for single needle.  Changing the STS is another option when sampling. For now, this is more than good enough, it is perfect!

Finished project will be shared tomorrow.


Whats In the CookBook

Because of the number of samples, and the differences each setting and fabric produced, I have 5 pages to add to my Cookbook. Each page contains a sample and its settings.

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2 Responses to Gathers and Ruffles

  1. You really are putting me to shame with all of your experimenting. I hope you don’t mind that you are doing all of my research for me! 🙂


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