Pressing: the Key to Full, Perfect Gathers

There are some things in sewing that are worth taking the time to do the right way rather than the quickest way. One of those things is pressing. Proper pressing technique makes a huge difference in your final product. Today, we are going to look at the right way to press gathers.


You have taken the time to neatly gather your fabric and attach it to its adjoining piece. Need help gathering? Check out 8 different ways to gather!


Now, you need to press the seam so that everything will lie neatly.



In order to understand how to press gathers, you have to think about why we use gathers. It is a technique for creating fullness. As we are pressing the seam, we have to make sure we don’t lose the lovely fullness we just created.


If you press it open flat like any other seam…


…you get flat, smashed gathers. Sad.¬†Instead, do it this way:


Start by pressing the seam allowance up toward the un-gathered side, making sure not to cross over the seam line and flatten your gathers.


Next, flip your fabric over, and work the nose of your iron in between the gathers just up to the seam line. Go slowly so that you don’t iron over the gathers. I prefer to put the fabric on top of my tailor’s ham so that I have a curved surface to work on. In case you are wondering what a tailor’s ham is:


It is one of my favorite sewing tools. It is like a really hard, curved pillow that allows you to press curved seams without making them lose their shape.

When you are done, you should be left with a neat seam, and full, lovely gathers:


See the difference on my model:


Flat, smushed gathers. Boo.


Full, bouncy gathers. Yay!

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