What You Can Do With Gathers
You can sew gathers. Or you can gather fabric by sewing.
You can pattern-draft gathers. You can drape gathers on the dress form or mannequin.
You can draw gathers. You can incorporate them into your fashion design ideas and sketches.
But today, we’ve used gathers to create textile art.
All swatches, except for one, were created by gathering the two opposing sides. Single-edge gathering is quite self-explanatory and straightforward to grasp, so I didn’t experiment too much with this. The thinner and longer swatch was created as a single-edge gather.
Tip for trying gathered fabric for yourself
If gathering fabric is something you do try, then I do recommend sticking to a single shape to begin with. The fewer variables you have to experiment with the easier it will be to understand gathers. You want to be at a stage where you start to predict the results of the gather before you create it and see it. And when you do it’s time to progress to other shapes.
The shape I am referring to is the starting shape of un-gathered fabric. As you can see, you can still achieve a variety of different organic shapes (other than a rectangle) in the resulting gathered swatch. So don’t feel as though you are missing out by only using a single shape at the beginning of your learning journey.
What is Gathered Fabric?
“Gathering is the process of drawing a given amount of fabric into a predefined, smaller area, along one or several basting [stitching] lines, to create soft, even folds.”
-New Complete Guide to Sewing – Step-by-step Techniques for Making Clothes and Home Accessories, Reader’s Digest
“Gathering converts the edge of a piece of fabric into mini-folds bunched together on thread stitched close to the edge. Gathering shortens the fabric at the stitching line. Beyond the gathered stitching, the full extent of the fabric erupts into irregular, rolling folds.”
– The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff
Visually, you will probably recognise gathers in Fashion. It will those areas where the fabric is bunched up together on a garment to create visual appeal. Like on a gathered skirt, gathered dress, draped dress etc.
Gathers to me represent an increase in the density of an area using the same or particular element. This is a more generalised way to think of gathers.
Even though I can make this definition more precise and specific to the textile or fashion industries by rewording it – this abstract definition makes me feel more grounded and more aware of the world around me.
With this perspective and point of view of the definition of gathers, I can see that gathers are everywhere around us.
They exist in design with the use of the design principle repetition. They exist in painted art with the gathering or congestion of paint in a particular area. They exist in society with people gathering for an event or cars congested in traffic.
Gathering is there when you tie up your hair, or a bunch of flowers in your hand, or move your vegetables to the side of your plate at dinner time. Taking a moment to see gathers in the world around us may seem like a trivial pursuit but I think it’s quite useful. The ability to generalise a concept you’ve learnt in a particular domain and see beyond it is an invaluable skill to develop.
It will not only allow you to further your understanding of the concept in the original domain but allow you to develop new and creative ideas as you journey through life. You may not know it at the time but your brain will be working away in the background, making new connections and brewing new ideas, all whilst solidifying your understanding of the concept.