Random Thoughts on Pattern Gathers

image source

This might be a subject of disinterest and possibly even ridiculousness for some. Maybe. Maybe not. But I’ve been thinking about gathers alot lately. You see, I love gathers. Small gathered details on clothing makes me go a little weak in the knees. I personally prefer understated gathering and its had me contemplating the amount of gathering in sewing patterns vs. RTW clothing. Have you ever thought about this?

Have you noticed that when a sewing pattern calls for gathering, it seems that the maximum amount of gather has been added to a pattern? So much so that the gathers look poofy and overdone. Now I realize that some of this has alot to do with the type of fabric you select, but what about when you’ve selected the perfect fabric for a sewing pattern and the gathers still look exaggerated? Let’s look at some exhibits, shall we?

I’m a big fan of Jcrew. I am. I don’t actually shop there because nothing in the shop ever fits me very well, but this does not mean that I can’t appreciate and incorporate that preppy style into my sewing and style. I’m particularly smitten with many of their blouses as of late. I’ve got my eye on this silk blouse, imagining myself making one soon. See those lovely gathers at the shoulder? They look just right. Not overdone and not too little either.

OK, now I realize this is not the same shirt like blouse, but I would like to point out a pattern that has an excess amount of gathering (I feel) and one that I’ve sewn. The more I’ve worn this top, the more I’ve come to realize that it has alot of gathering at the bust and shoulder – much more than I need or feel is flattering really. And its not that the gathers in this top are ill placed either, because I like both the bust and shoulder gathers. Its that there’s just too much poof going on.

Just so you know, I’m not trying to criticize sewing patterns either – because I have a deep respect for how much work goes into pattern drafting. I’m just wondering if anyone else has noticed this or even cares about it. This is also not to say that every single pattern out there has too much gathering when there is a gather. I’m just curious about it, that’s all. Do you personally do anything for it? What do you think about gathers? Have you ever felt that there was a garment you made that just had too much gathering and if say, the amount of the gather was lessened, you would like the finished result better? Let’s discuss!



23 thoughts on “Random Thoughts on Pattern Gathers

  1. I have noticed this. I assumed that RTW was trying to use as little fabric as possible. Patterns have gone in the opposite direction with too much gathering. I guess we need to find a happy medium. I don’t find this problem with Burda patterns as much as I do with the big 4.
    Happy gathering.

  2. Yes, I’ve made a few Simplicity skirts that use way too many gathers. It tends to lead to an effect I like to call “Teletubby bum.” I made a gathered tulip skirt that made my bottom half look huge! I learned the next time to eliminate several inches of fabric at the top before gathering. But I also think there’s such thing as not enough gathers. I tried adding gathers to the shoulder seams of a pattern that didn’t originally have them, and they ended up just looking like a wrinkled mistake!

    1. Yes, I’ve seen the “not enough gathers” you’re talking about too. Especially with the wrong pairing of fabric this can also look just as wrong. A great tip to keep in mind. Thank you!

  3. I have been contemplating making a simple gathered skirt from a spare yard of fabric, and have been stopped by exactly this–I associate gathers with too much poufiness and too little actual shape. That being said, I love that top, and I suspect that degree of gathering would be just right for someone with a significantly larger bust. Maybe the excess of gathering there has to do with trying to fit a wider range of women’s figures?

    1. You are so right! I actually love the top too and considering just how much I wear it, you would think I didn’t have a problem with it. But every time I wear it, I’m always reminded that the gathering “feels” too much. Instead of enhancing my bust line, it juts feels too poofy. I think if I were to eliminate an inch or so from those areas – shoulder and bust – it would be more fitting for my particular shape.

  4. I think Colette patterns have a good handle on gathering ratios – take a look at the tiny gathers on the skirt of the Peony, or the shoulder gathers on the Ceylon. There is a small amount of gathering, but not enough to actually add bulk… just a little design element, if you will. When I first started making up those patterns, I was actually pretty surprised at how little fabric there was to gather (in comparison to, say, the Big 4) and I was afraid it wouldn’t even show up on the finished garment. Ha!

    With that being said, I don’t think you can really compare shoulder gathers to bust gathers. Shoulder gathers are more of a design detail, so yes, you want them to be fairly subtle and not poofy. Bust gathers are there to make the 2-D fabric fit a 3-D profile, and depending on the size of the bust, there may be lots and lots to gathers to get everything to fit right. If it’s too poofy, you need to work a SBA in there somewhere.

    1. Yes! I noticed this on the Violet in the back. It almost seemed like there wasn’t enough to be much of a gather right underneath the yoke, but magically after I had stitched it together, the gathering effect was just enough.

  5. I love that top blouse! And I haven’t done a ton of gathers in *anything* recently because I hate gathering! Better a little than a lot, IMO.

  6. “I like gathers, but they don’t always like me.” Unless you’re aiming for an historical silhouette for a period costume drama — or, I suppose, unless you are a very dramatic dresser — the same amount of gathered fullness you’d normally use a dart to control is plenty for everyday garments. I’ve seen a rtw woven tee shirt recently where the side bust darts were not sewn, but the fullness of the base of the dart was gathered tightly into the side seam. Cute, fresh, different — and the fit was more relaxed than is usual in a woven tee. I plan to blatantly copy this detail for some wash-and-wear cotton tops this summer.

  7. I actually think the gathering on your top is beautiful! Of course, you look gorgeous in everything… I do think that being moderate with gathers is key. Otherwise one does start to look a bit costumey.

  8. Excessive waist gathers are a big problem for me. I’ve pretty much stopped using patterns that require them because they make my waist and botton look enormous!

  9. Your blouse is gorgeous Sunni, the fact there is slightly too much gathering is something few would notice, so never fear there!
    My Juliette Dress has far too many gathers in the skirt – I can’t wear it on a windy day, lol!

  10. I’m a fan of gathers when I sew. I always feel like I’m getting away with something–like usually, I try so hard NOT to let fabric get bunched up as I sew over it, but when I’m making gathers, I get to do it on purpose. 🙂 Having said that, I think there are a lot of patterns out there that call for too much gathering. On skirt waistlines especially, I find that a very gathered waist just isn’t flattering (at least on me). I like gathers more as a detail, like around a cuff, or to shape the bust like on the top you’re wearing here.

  11. I love gathers! But then, I’m pretty obsessed with 40’s patterns which feature them a lot. And it does really depend on the fabric – but I know what you mean on using them sparingly and correctly 😀

  12. I have to admit this is something I have never thought of, not being a ruffle/gather sort of person myself. I think that may be because I sew many with the big 4 and they seem to feel with gathers go big or go home. I am gonna go and have a look at Burda after this. FWIW, I like the blouse you made, the gathers don’t look like too much at all.

  13. I’ve always just figured that sew-at-home patterns do gathers because they’re an easy way to get rid of fullness. Pleats can be hard to do, but any fool can do gathers. The trick, of course, is to use them where they’ll look good. Sewaholic tends to use them a lot, but sparingly enough that they’re feminine without being fussy. I was a bit iffy about the Minoru for that reason, but I found myself liking the effect.

  14. Perhaps the fullness of gathering is dictated by the áverage reductions that can be achieved on a domestic machine. I agree that Burda are a bit more realistic with the gathering ease.

  15. Really liked this post! Two of my recent makes, a McCalls Palmer/Pletsch pattern and the Wiksten Tova threw this issue into sharp relief for me. I loved having less gathers on the Tova pattern at the cuff, and no fullness to be gathered into the armhole after what felt like the poofy, party dress feel of the sleeves on the McCalls design. Maybe it’s all about where you’re happy with some extra volume? At the waist, the bust, the sleeve cuff?

    1. I know, I know! I think there is something to be said about the elegance and “just right amount” of gathering on several of the indie patterns I’ve used. Maybe because I love gathers and tend to drift towards patterns with gathers that I notice this problem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s