Come Together Now: Fabric Gathering Techniques

Gathering is a basic sewing technique used in all types of crafts, garments and home decor projects. Gathered full skirts are popular once again in part due to the popularity of sewing vintage-style clothing. They’re featured extensively in children’s clothing and are a typical technique for creating the fullness in shirred curtains or drapes. But, how do you know how much gathering is needed for your specific project? We’ll guide you through this fabric gathering technique so you know exactly how to estimate gathering fullness for your next sewing project!

How to Estimate Fabric Gathering on

Here’s a fabric gathering technique you must-know: how to estimate gathering fullness

In the case of a simple gathered curtain, determining the amount of fullness, or gathering, is a necessary first step in order to determine the final yardage requirements for making the curtains.

There is an easy technique that can be applied to determine the amount of fullness desired for any project. Fullness is typically stated as a multiple to a fixed measurement. Using a curtain as an example, the fullness is measured as it relates to its finished width. If a finished width is to be 36″ and fullness 2 times that width is desired, the fabric width before hem allowances are applied is 72″.

The type and/or weight of the fabric plays a huge role in influencing how much fullness will look best in a project. For items using lightweight fabrics, gathering looks best with a greater multiple of fullness. In contrast, heavier weight fabrics, such as many materials used for drapes, a lesser multiple of fullness is sufficient.

A simple yardstick and some fabric is all you need to determine the appropriate fullness for your project. Here is the technique…

Step 1:

Grab a yardstick and place it on a worktable or flat surface with the 1″ mark to your left.

Step 2: Measuring Fabric for Gathering

Step 2:

Take a piece of the fabric, either a sample of the material you intend to use, or something of similar weight and drape that is at least 36″ long.

Step 3: Fold and Pin Fabric for Gathering

Step 3:

Fold approximately 4″ of the fabric (lengthwise) over the yardstick, so it covers the full length of the stick. Secure it in place with pins.

Step 4:

Now, carefully hand-gather the fabric by sliding it over the yardstick.

Step 5: 3 times the fullness slide to the 12" mark

Step 5: 2 times the fullness slide to the 18" mark


Step 5: 1 ½ times the fullness slide the fabric to the 24" mark


3 times fullness  2 time fullness 1 ½ time fullness 

Step 5:

To determine the desired fullness (looks and works best) slide the fabric over the stick in the following increments:

  • for 3 times the fullness slide to the 12″ mark
  • for 2 times the fullness slide to the 18″ mark
  • for 1 ½ times the fullness slide the fabric to the 24″ mark

Step 6:

Examine how the fabric gathers at each increment to determine which fullness multiple looks best. That becomes the multiple you apply to determine the length of fabric to be gathered.

Now your ready to use your fabric fullness measurement techniques to make fantastic gathered fabric projects!

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Eager to learn more? Check out this step-by-step tutorial on how to gather fabric and then follow along with this guide to make your own lovely shirred skirt!


What’s your favorite project to make using gathered fabric?

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