A while back, when Ebay was a kinder and gentler place, I used to design and sell doll clothes for adult collector dolls like Himstedt, Sissel Skille, Gotz, Tanner, Creedy. All of the outfits were one of a kind and many hours went into the creation of each. One of the things that buyers loved were full skirts and layer upon layer of fabrics I would often gather skirts the width of the fabric - 42" to an 8" waistband. Needless to say, creating even and straight gathers became quite a challenge.
My favorite method for creating perfect gathers is to use a Gathering Foot on your sewing machine. A gathering foot can be a bit tricky to figure out to start but once you get the hang of it you can create beautiful gathers. However, it can be even trickier using a gathering foot on multiple layers of fabric.
Since that time I replaced my sewing machine with a Bernina. Bernina only uses Bernina feet. Bernina probably makes a gathering foot but I never looked into it as I don't create gathered garments much anymore and Bernina feet can be on the pricey side.
So when it was time to gather the waistband for the apron I recently made I thought I would share with you the method I use for gathering multiple layers of fabric to one waistband. There are several methods; this is just the way I like to do it. (I did not invent this method but I don't really know where I learned it from.)
Place your fabric layers together. Take care to line them up evenly. (They are not lined up in the photo so that you can see there are multiple layers.
You are now going to zig zag stitch over a piece of cord. In the photo I am using a piece of DK weight cotton yarn. (I don't recommend wool as the wool yarn hairs may get caught in your zigzag stitch.) When I gathered often I had a ball of crochet cotton and used that. It was just the right weight.
Set your machine for a wide zig zag stitch. Leaving a long end hanging, place the cord in the center of your foot and zig zag over the cord. Take care not to catch the cord in the zig zag stitch.
I stitch in the upper 1/2" of the waist edge. Normal clothing construction uses a 1/2" to 5/8" seam allowance. By stitching in the top 1/2" you shouldn't have to take out the zig zag stitching as it will be in the seam allowance.
Photo of cord zigzagged at upper waist.
Find the center point of your skirt (ungathered) and the center point of your waistband. With right sides together, pin together at the center point.
Pull one end of the cord to begin gathering one half of your skirt to your waistband. (If this was a full waistband, not a half apron, I would mark it again at the 1/4 mark.) By gathering halfway (or by quarters) and then gathering the other half, you will have even gathers all the way around your skirt.
The skirt will slide easily along your cord and you can evenly space the gathers.
When you are satisfied that one half of your skirt is gathered evenly to the waistband, place a pin at the end of the skirt and wrap your cord around your pin to "lock" your gathers in place. Repeat for the other half of the skirt by pulling the cord on the other side. When everything looks evenly gathered, pin in place.
Change your sewing machine to a straight stitch and sew your waistband to your skirt using the seam allowance required by your pattern.
Remove all your pins and pull the cord. It should pull right out. You now have a neatly gathered skirt.
(Note: In the photo above you will see areas where there are no gathers. This was where the casing was on the front of the apron and I did not want that area gathered. By using this zig zag/cord method I had full control over the way my gathers lay.)
This method works when gathering a single layer as well. I like to use it for multiple layers as it allows the fabric to gather evenly together and the skirt(s) to lay nicely.
Let me know if this is something you will use. I'd love to hear from you.