Take the pain out of mindless gathering and give the #16 Gathering Foot a try!
I love consulting FEETures, BERNINA’s presser foot and attachment reference volumes. Researching is something I love to do and I appreciate that BERNINA has taken the time to document, explain, demo, AND cross-reference every presser foot they make. They explain what makes the Gathering foot gather–the foot doesn’t rest evenly on the feed dogs and that unbalance causes the fabric to feed unevenly and “pucker” or gather.
There are two #16s–the extra wide is for machines that can sew with a 9mm stitch width and therefore have feed dogs further apart, like the 450, 580, or 8 series.
Always be sure to adjust your stitch length to its longest setting (typically 5) and sometimes increasing your upper thread tension can help the gathering along. You could also execute imitation smocking and elastic shirring this same way by simply sewing multiple rows. There will be more gathering on a lighter weight fabric.
The amount of gathering produced is affected by the fabric weight, stitch length, and needle tension. You can see here where I used a heavier weight muslin which produced much more subtle gathers though the settings stayed the same.
You can also gather one fabric and simultaneously stitch it onto a flat piece of fabric. The secret is separating the layers, keeping the fabric intending to remain flat in the cleft of the foot and allowing the feed dogs to gather the other piece. Talk about a time saver! Little girly dresses, home dec, and long maxi dresses with a ruffle detail could all benefit from this technique. For applications where exact control of the gathering ratio is required or a more deliberate look is desired, consider using the BERNINA Ruffler # 86.
The #16 Gathering Foot is on sale for 25% off through the rest of March! I found a sweet Gathered Clutch Tutorial to inspire your gathering opportunities. Other fun tutorials to practice your gathering might include Gertie’s Full Gathered Skirt, this Jersey Skirt Tutorial, or a Gathered Bag featured on BERNINA’s We All Sew blog.