Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to Gather Over a Cord/ Finishing the T-shirt Dress

Yesterday I started to show you how to make a gathered dress for a little girl from an old t-shirt, but then I got tired so I quit.

Well today Cordelia and I are back to finish up thee tutorial and you should probably pay attention—at least to the first bit—because I’m going to share a really cool trick with you today that I just know you are going to love, love, love, LOVE!!!!

So yesterday we cut the dress out and sewed and hemmed the skirt.
Today we will start with gathering the skirt.

Those of you who have ever gathered anything before are probably moaning to yourself right now…
“Ewww….Gathering….I HATE gathering. It’s such a pain…”

Well I’m here to show you an easy peasy, fool proof gathering technique you will adore.
Forget those basting stitches, we are going to gather over a cord.

Here’s how you gather over a cord.

Step 1:
Find a cord to gather over. This can be any kind of thin inexpensive cord—just make sure it’s strong or it will break on you and then you will get frustrated. I like to use crochet thread or a heavy hand quilting thread.

Step 2:

Cut a strand of thread the length of the item to be gathered, or, to help prevent tangles, put the spool of thread on your knee-lift if you have one.

Step 3:

If you use a Bernina, I suggest using a #6 foot which has a small hole in the front of it. Put the thread through the hole to help keep it in place. If you do not have a Bernina, or the # 6 foot, you can use your regular foot, you’ll just have to pay a little closer attention.

Step 4:

Place the thread on the wrong side of the fabric in the seam allowance (I usually line up the edge of my presser foot with the edge of the fabric). Select a Zigzag stitch and set the width and length to about 2.5 mm. Sew the zigzag stitch right over the cord making a tunnel.

Step 5:

Continue sewing the zigzag stitch all the way around the fabric to be gathered down.
Clip the sewing threads but not the cord to be gathered over.
Pull on the cord ends to gather up the fabric.
See how easily this gathers up! So smooth, so easy, no broken threads!

Step 6:

Gather the fabric up until the skirt circumference is the same as the t-shirt circumference.
Pin the skirt to the t-shirt making sure to evenly distribute the gathers and fullness.

Sew the skirt to the t-shirt with a ½” seam allowance.
I like to finish this seam with a surged or zigzagged stitch.

!!!!Important note: You will be working with a knit fabric and a woven fabric so I recommend using a universal needle! It’ll work great with both types of fabric!!!!

Whew, now that we got through the dreaded gathering, it’s time to make the waist tie.

Start by sewing the two strips together, with right sides together, along the short ends. Press the seam open. With right sides together, fold the strip in half lengthwise.

With a ½” seam allowance sew the long seam.
Press open.

Use a safety pin to turn the tube right side out.

Press so the seam runs down the center of the tube. This will become the back side of the tie.

Lay the tie on top of the dress where you want it to hit. I like to line up the seam of the tie with one of the side seams of the dress.

Pin in place.
Edge-stitch the top and bottom edges of the tie to hold in place. You only need to sew from side seam to side seam across the front of the dress. Do not sew the back down.

Tie a bow to determine how long you want the ties to be. Trim off the excessive length. Finish the raw edges by folding them in and edge-stitching along the short sides.

And there you have it!

Check out this little t-shirt dress a student made. Aren’t you impressed with how she lined up the monkey fabric on the tie?

Happy Wednesday
~Melisa & Cordelia


  1. Thank you for this gathering tutorial! I will definitely be trying it out :) I haven't sewn for any children as of yet (a little intimidated :/ ) but this looks like a very do-able project. Thanks! :)

  2. I love your tutorial .. thanks for sharing

  3. This is a really nice dress. I haven't been sewing much as of late however I have been looking for a new project to do. I think I found it.

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