More Fabric Manipulation

Now to the serious bit
The best book there is for this is The Art of Manipulating Fabric which covers so many different techniques.

However I did find myself getting confused over the difference between all the terms, and realised for years I've thought shirring was called smocking... So here are simple terms.

Gathering (mini folds bunched together)

gathering.jpg  gathered2.jpg

I used my gathering foot (Bernina 1008 no. 16 / stitch setting 5) which amazingly gathers the fabric automatically. It also allows you to slide a piece of fabric on the top and it stitches the gathered fabric onto the top fabric at the same time. So I cut out a circle and gathered onto it.

I also gathered 2 strips both sides, and then stitched them onto another piece of fabric, the first one was straight, and the second skewed to give a diagonaled gathering.

Shirring (to gather (cloth) into decorative rows by parallel stitching)

shirring.jpg  shirring2.jpg

I stitched really loose (stitch length 5) lines, then pulled the threads to gather the fabric - this has a much more random effect than gathering with a gathering foot.

I also experimented with shirring using elastic. As i didn't have any proper shirring elastic (to use on the bobbin) I just sewed a really thin piece of elastic very tight in a grid.

Ruffle (strip of frilled or gathered or pleated fabric)

ruffle1.jpg  ruffle2.jpg

I used the gathering foot, then attached the fabric to the base fabric. The second ruffle was made using as above but folded in half - this gave a really nice twist to the fabric ruffle.

Flounce (circle of fabric spilt open to create floaty waves)


The pink flounce was made from a complete circle, which I cut in a spiral then stitched onto the base fabric - starting on the left, going up, then down on the right (the middle of the spiral was on the right - hence it's more wavy). The checked fabric is cut from a circle with a hole it in the middle - which makes the whole thing more wavy and even.

This is a great diagram (from shows how the waviness works!

Pleat (measured folds)

pleats4.jpg pleats6.jpg
I sampled a double pleat, and then did the same, but attached it to a circle - which opened the folds. I then stitched some tiny knife pleats (pink checked fabric) and then stitched over again, change the direction of the pleats, to create a more textured effect.

Here is a useful pleat diagrams


Smocking (stitches to secure and adjust folds of pleated fabric)

I found a cute blog that showed how to make a plain knit more intereting by smocking, so I played around with a few stitches on an old jumper. I would also like to experiment with some more stitches, as in The Art of Manipulating Fabric - as there are some amazing effects in there.

Cording (inserted channels in raised linear design)


I used a pintuck foot (and double needles) on my sewing machine to create this corded sample.


  1. Dear Sarah,

    Congratulations on a well deserved feature about your blog in the OCA email bulletin and website

    Janet :o)