How to: Sew a Ruffle

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When I first started sewing, the idea of sewing a ruffle or gathering fabric seemed daunting to me. It looked so complicated and difficult that I assumed it was a technique for more experienced sewers. I was proven wrong, however, when my grandma ignored my misgivings and insisted I try it. It turns out that sewing a ruffle is one of those things that looks really hard to do but is actually very simple! In fact, It might be one of the easiest sewing techniques there is. I mention how to sew ruffles in the 4th of July Fashion post, but I figured you guys could use some pictures.

Step One: Cut out a strip of fabric

The length, width, and type of fabric you use will depend on your project. I cut a strip of arbitrary size from a vintage sheet I thrifted.

Fabric Fabric

Step Two: Set your machine to sew on the largest stitch.

This will keep your stitches large enough so that you can easily gather your fabric later. If the stitches are too small it will be hard to do without snapping your thread.

Machine

Step Three: Sew a straight line down one edge of your fabric.

Leave some extra thread at the beginning and end. Don’t go over your ends in reverse to finish them or you won’t be able to gather the fabric.

Sewing Extra Thread

Step Four: Gather your fabric.

Pull on one of the threads (either the top or the bottom thread, not both) and watch the fabric gather. Slide the gathers down the strip to keep them even, and make sure your gathers don’t “un-gather” off the other end of the strip. You can gather as much or as little as you want, depending on how ruffly you want your ruffles to be.

Gathering

The Finished Product:

Ruffle 1 Ruffle 2

If you were adding this to a piece of clothing or gathering a skirt, you’d need to go over your ruffle using a smaller stitch, because basting is only temporary.

Variations:

You can baste both edges of your fabric strip and gather both edges for a ruched look.

Ruffle Variation

Or baste down the middle of your fabric strip (instead of the edge) and you’ll get a double-edged ruffle.

Double Edged Ruffle Double Ruffle 2

Now that you know how to sew a ruffle, go make a Girl’s Ruffle Dress, a Sassy Apron, or a Summer Scarf!

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Comments

  1. Jane says

    I like to sew two rows of large stitches along the edge, about 1/8-inch apart. That way, I get more even gathers, I have more control over where they’re positioned and if one thread breaks while I’m gathering, I have the other still holding the gathers in place. You just have to pull both threads at the same time, selecting either the top threads (on the right side of the fabric) or bottom threads (on the wrong side) as you mention. I slide the gathers in from both ends, so I don’t run the risk of pulling the thread out.

  2. Karisa says

    That is a great tip, Jane! I tried to make a gathered skirt using prehistoric thread once and it literally broke about 10 times before I gave up on the project. I wish I’d had the foresight to make 2 rows (or not use thread from the 70s)!

  3. Just Wondering says

    I want to know how you took the 4th picture from the top if both of your hands are in the picture…? Haha
    Thanks for the tutorial though,I just made some very lovely ruffles!

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