Gathering presser foot {Shirring foot}

The Gathering foot is a very convenient foot to have on a low, vertical shank sewing machine, if you are a person who sews a lot. If you do not regularly sew, you can do with the simple zig-zag stitch gathering to make frills, and ruffles. But if gathering fabric is a routine job for you, you can make this job a lot easier with a Gathering foot.

sewing machine feet

Learn more about sewing ruffles without a gathering foot here and how to sew flounce. 

It is best to use it with light to medium weight fabrics. You can make the biggest of tiered clothes, curtains with allover ruffles, puffiest sleeves and cuffs, ruffled fabric flowers easily with the help of this foot. 

The 3 main things this foot can do are

1. Make a gathers on a single fabric piece

2. Sew two layers of fabric together while making gathers on one of them

3. Shirr with elastic thread.

To attach the gathering foot on your sewing machine, remove the shank and the existing foot and then keep the gathering foot on the machine and screw it up. Your gathering foot has a raised channel on the underside which makes the gathers.

You will be sewing with a straight stitch with this foot ; and the most important thing 


Increase the stitch length (to 4) and increase the tension this is what will give you the gathers. Choose the crosswise grain to make gathers.


Make gathers on a fabric with the gathering foot

After you have threaded the sewing machine, insert the thread from the needle through the hole in your gathering foot. Take the fabric to be gathered – it should be at least 1.5 times longer than the length of the ruffle you want. For a good ruffle take 2 times longer fabric ; for a fuller ruffle take 3 times longer.

Keep the fabric to be gathered right side up on the machine under the presser foot. You may want to experiment with the stitch length and tension to see the type of gathering you want finally on your fabric. 

shirring foot

Hold the top and bobbin thread to the back and start sewing – Your fabric will start making the gathers. 

gathering foot

Sew two layer of fabric together while making gathers on one of them

You can use a gathering foot to gather a single layer of fabric and at the same time stitch this to another layer of fabric. No need to make the gathers and then attach, as two steps.

Increase the stitch length and tension of your sewing machine. Keep the fabric you have to gather on the machine under the foot, right side up. Now keep the straight fabric you have to join on top of the fabric for gathering, right side down. That is the two fabrics will be kept right sides to the inside together. Align the edges.

Now start sewing. Pull the fabric to be joined (the top), as you sew – this will make the gathers on the bottom fabric better. The lower layer fabric will be gathered and stitched to the top fabric.

How to shirr using the Gathering foot

sewing with elastic thread

This foot is also called a shirring foot because it creates the shirred effect easily when you use thin elastic thread on your bobbin. You can check out this post on sewing with elastic thread and shirring for more details on this. Shirring adds a beautiful texture on fabric – the puckered effect is created with rows and rows of stitches.

Hand wind your bobbin loosely with the thin elastic thread – do not stretch the elastic thread. Insert the top thread through the hole and bring up the elastic thread and take it to the back. Start sewing. If you want small gathers use a short stitch and if you want full gathers use a longer stitch length.

After you have done the stitching, use steam from a steam iron over the rows of stitching – just keep the iron with steam on over the fabric and the shirring will shrink up very nicely to a good effect.

A waffle effect is achieved by first shirring crosswise and then doing the shirring lengthwise.

I would advise you to experiment first with fabric scraps before doing the gathering on the final fabric – this is to determine how much fabric will be needed to achieve the gathers/shirring you intend to create – record the stitch length and tension and then replicate this on the final fabric.

Related posts : List of all the Sewing machine feet you need ; Sewing tips and techniques

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