Stitch & Gather

Part two of Fabric Manipulation book previews.

It is quite hard to define and name this group of techniques – Stitch & Gather is the best I’ve come up with. This part of the book covers a wide range of techniques where thread is used to create shape and structure, often by gathering with simple machine or hand stitching.

Monumental Folly frame, detail

Monumental Folly frame, detail

As with pleats, gathering techniques have been used to create decoration on 18th century gowns. Wide strips of bias-cut silk fabric with decorative pinked (zigzag cut) edged are swirled and stitched down the front of gowns and stomachers. Using bias-cut strips allows you to curve the fabric beautifully, See Single Edge Gathers p78 for how to achieve this look.

Rutfle scarf pattern

Rutfle scarf pattern

I’ve played around with this technique many times and have found bias-cut fabrics to be perfect for making draped scarves and ruffles. The scarf on p81 is made with 3 different fabrics layered up together before gathering. I’ve also used the technique to make embellishments for cushions and interior décor.

The Pattern Stitched Ribbon Ruffles (below) technique as shown on p82-83 is traditionally used to make fabric flowers and I first saw it in a 1920s book on ribbon art. I found the same technique, used on fabric as a detail on a couture dress made by Mainbocher for Wallis Simpson in 1937 and now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collar centre-back seam is gathered using the Zigzag shirring technique on p87.


Other well-known techniques in this section include Suffolk Puffs, shirring and smocking. I love Suffolk puffs immensely and have used them for several years in my own work, creating new ways of using them in textile artworks. I like to create the puffs in fabric that matches the background and hand stitch them to create a seamless effect. I enjoy creating movement and variation in a repetitive design by using different sizes of puff and added stuffing behind some of them to create added dimension.

Betty Panel (sold)

Betty Panel (sold)

I created the Circle Edge Gather (p103) technique as a development of Suffolk puffs and have used this technique to make the draping scarf below.

I came up with the idea of Stuffed Bobbles (p106) in the same experimental phase and later discovered that it is very similar to the effect created by Japanese shibori stitching. I enjoy the organic, irregular quality of this technique which I have used on wall panels as well as garments and accessories.

Buy individual patterns here.

One thought on “Stitch & Gather

  1. Pingback: Apply & Layer | Ruth Singer

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