“When Would I Do That?”

In this blog, we’ve talked about the technique of gathering fabric in a number of ways, but what if gathering the fabric is just too much for what you want as an end result in your project?  What if you want a hint of gathering without the tucks that go along with that technique?  What if you just want to make sure the fabric in your quilt, garment or home décor item fits in and lies flat with the surrounding fabric in the project?  This is where the “art” in the art of sewing comes in.  The art is not only the creative possibilities that are open to the sewer; it’s knowing how to achieve the desired results using the correct technique.  Let me give you an example.

I am making an open-front cardigan made from knit fabric for my oldest niece’s birthday next week and the sleeves fit into openings that have no side seam underneath them.  This is a very simple pattern that has only one seam; in the center back, so the sleeves must be put into the garment as a circle of fabric that fits into a circular opening.  I don’t want any tucks in the sleeves from traditional gathering and the pattern does not call for gathering, but the sleeve is larger than the opening.  What to do?  Use the machine’s feed teeth to ease the sleeve fabric into the sleeve opening.  This is done by sewing with the sleeve against the feed teeth without any IDT System or walking foot system engaged.   It usually doesn’t take anything but this change in which fabric is against the feed teeth to achieve this type of easing of fabric.  The rule for easing is:  the fabric that is the largest, that is meant to fit into the smaller space, must be against the feed teeth with no other fabric moving technology employed while sewing.  Let me show you what I mean.

This is the cardigan I’m making. Notice in the pictures that the sleeves have no gathers at all.
The instructions do not mention gathering, or easing for that matter, and the illustration shows no gathers in the stitched sleeve.
This is the sleeve, folded at the seam, that needs to fit into….
…this much smaller opening.
This is how the sleeve looks pinned into the opening, matching all notches. Doesn’t look as if it’s going to fit, does it?
First thing at the machine is to disengage the IDT System, which is the built in walking feature so the sleeve and the opening do not move through the feed teeth evenly.
Next is to expose the free arm so the sleeve opening will move freely without bunching up. You cannot stretch any of the fabric as you baste the sleeve. You will want to stretch the opening to help everything fit, but if you do, the finished product will be unattractively wavy. (Wonder how I know that!)
I used my 5/8″ seam guide foot but moved my needle position to the right so I could baste the sleeve with a 1/2″ seam. When I move this basted sleeve to finish the seam with my serger, I will simply cut off the basting stitch and not have to use my seam ripper to remove it. Remember, the sleeve opening is on the top against my presser foot and the sleeve is on the bottom, against the feed teeth.
This is the basted sleeve in the opening. I know you can still see where the sleeve is larger than the opening, but there are no tucks or gathers on the right side. On to the serger!
Since I already have the sleeve basted, it doesn’t matter what runs along the feed teeth. I’m simply cutting off the fabric here and finishing the seam. No easing is taking place in this step.
Here’s how the finished sleeve looks on the inside of the garment. Very different that it was, isn’t it? No tucks, no gathers, just a smooth seam. It’s just like magic!
This is how the sleeve looks on the right side of the garment. No tucks or gathers on this side either. Once it is on an actual body instead of on a dress form, it will fill out beautifully.
The finished product, ready to keep my niece warm on a brisk day!

Remember, this easing technique can be used for any type of sewing, not just for making garments. It is a go-to technique anytime one fabric is larger than another and they both need to fit together as if they were the same size. Happy Sewing!