Monday, July 20, 2009
I recently purchased the gathering foot (above right) and also the ruffler (above left) for my Kenmore machine, and as I am avoiding finishing Lori's bag, I've been testing them out. The grand total for both attachments via Sears.com came to about $40 (including shipping), so it wasn't a huge investment. For me, LazyBones Holland, there is undeniable appeal in gathering a piece of fabric all in one step, as opposed to my usual laborious Stitch-Twice-Draw-The-Gathers-Up-By-Hand-Cry-When-The-Thread-Breaks-Method.
First I tried out the gathering foot, which was the cheapest and most low-tech option ($11.99). All you have to do is pop it on in place of the regular foot and adjust your tension and stitch length. Here's what I got on muslin fabric:
As advertised, it yields soft gathers. The instructions specify a stitch length longer than 3. The gathers become more pronounced as you adjust your tension. In the photo above, more gathers occur with tension set at 7, and less occur with the tension set at 3.5.
I'm really pleased with it, and I think it might be very useful on the gathered sundress I'm working on now, however, there is a dilemma: since pattern pieces are cut to certain sizes with the idea that you'll be gathering them by hand and adjusting it to fit, how in the wide, wide world am I going to know if the gathering foot will gather it to the right length? Trial and error? Math? (shudder) Anyone have one of these things?
Now for the ruffler, $21.99. This was a bit more difficult to figure out because the 'instructions' included with the part were a study in minimalism. I finally got it attached correctly to the machine and very cautiously experimented with different settings.
It works by tucking the fabric automatically under the needle as you stitch, so you get neat, regular pleats as opposed to gathers. It is mesmerizing to watch. If you set it on a frequency of 1, you get one tuck per stitch. If you set it on a frequency of 6, you get one tuck every sixth stitch, and so on. So you can vary the effect by also varying your stitch length.
Now that I know what I'm doing, the ruffler seems like it would be a great tool as well, but the same stinkety problem. How do you know how long to cut your fabric so that the finished product is a certain length? I think that I'm going to have to break out my math skillz for that one, since the ruffler can be counted on to make fairly consistent tucks.
For instance, the length of a test piece was 23 inches, and after it was beruffled it measured 11 inches. So if I want to produce a piece that measures 50 inches after being ruffled, I could use a proportion, yes? Watch out, art major about to do math:
Where 'x' = the number of inches of unruffled fabric. So, in theory, and if my math is done correctly, I'd need to cut a piece that is 104.5 inches long if I wanted to end up with 50 inches of ruffled fabric. (Which, as I think about it, is not the best example since that is very close to 2:1 and even an art major like me can ballpark that. But just pretend that ratio was from a sample ruffle that was not 2:1.)
Anybody have a cheat sheet for this? I think I may go troll around YouTube and see if someone has posted a helpful ruffler video. (LATE NOTE: Yes, there is a cheat sheet for this, and even better, it is free. Thanks, Mary! That is a link to a 30 page PDF file that will tell you all about your ruffler and the cool things you can do with it, plus a couple of calibration sheets that will help you know which setting to use so your patterns come out right.
A couple of helpful readers suggested that instead of messing with any of the above gadgets, I should just zig zag stitch over thin cording and pull on that to gather by hand. They say it is ever so much easier than gathering the other way. Thing is, I'd still have to do all that pesky distribution of gathers around the whole piece. It may be just me, but that drives me CRAZY trying to get it all even. However, I have never tried the zig zag method, and there is no math required, so I'll have to at least give that a go.