Saturday, November 21, 2009

How to Sew a Ruffle

Because of my ruffled pillows, I had a request for a ruffle tutorial. I’ll try to explain it as best I can with the terrible photos I got.

Basically, a ruffle is created by gathering up a longer piece of fabric to fit onto a shorter piece.


First, sew a line of basting on the long edge of the longer piece of fabric. Use the longest stitch length on your sewing machine. The smaller the number, the smaller/shorter the length of the stitch.IMG_4569

In general, when following a pattern, the seam allowance (the distance from the row of stitching to the edge of the fabric) is 5/8”. Your machine will most likely have a 5/8” guideline.IMG_4570(The fabric is lifted to show the guideline.)

(In most cases, you would use thread that coordinates with your fabric. In this case for better visibility, I used a spool of red thread, which will be on the top as I sew, and black for the bobbin, which will be underneath.)

Align the edge of the fabric with the guideline, lower the presser foot, and stitch from one end to the other. When you are making a permanent seam, you backstitch a little bit at the beginning and end to keep it from coming unstitched. Basting is not permanent, and especially when you are going to be gathering, do not backstitch. Leave a tail of thread of several inches at each end.

IMG_4571 Keep the fabric lined up with the guideline as you sew.

Now you are going to sew a second line of stitching about 1/4” to the right of the first line. If you position the presser foot so the left prong-thingy is centered on top of the first line, that will give you about 1/4”. Sew a second line in the same manner as the first.


Now there are two lines of stitching. (Sorry about the glare; shouldn’t have used the flash.)IMG_4577

With right sides of the fabric together, line up the edges of the two pieces of fabric, and pin at the ends. Then, at even intervals, pin in several more places. Pins should be perpendicular to the line of stitching.IMG_4584

Next, just pull on the bobbin threads and slide the fabric to gather it up. Think of it like putting a curtain on a rod. The curtain is longer than the rod and bunches up to create gathers/ruffles when you push it all onto the rod.

I do it a section at a time and wrap the long end of the thread around a pin in a figure 8 to anchor it.IMG_4585

When you’re in the middle and don’t have the long tail of thread to pull on, use a pin to get under a couple stitches and pull up until you can grab it with your fingers.IMG_4586

When you’ve gathered it all up, the two pieces of fabric will be the same width.IMG_4587

Slide the gathered fabric along the threads until the ruffles are about evenly spaced (again, think about a curtain on a rod). Now, sew the two pieces together on the 5/8” line. If the pins are perpendicular, you can leave them in and sew right over them. (Do watch and make sure the needle does not hit a pin; it’s extremely rare, but theoretically possible.) When you are doing the permanent seam, shorten your stitch length a little (I use about 3.5 on my dial) and backstitch a little at the beginning and end.IMG_4591

When you are done, remove the pins and trim the hanging threads. The right sides of the fabric will look like this:IMG_4594

The shorter piece of fabric will be basically smooth, and the piece that was originally longer will be ruffled. If you were making a skirt or an apron, the smooth piece would be the waistband, something like this:IMG_4595

Okay, now that is a basic ruffle. My pillows were a slightly different sewing technique, but the gathering technique was the same. I just ran my basting stitches down the middle of the piece I wanted gathered, with about 3/4” between the two lines instead of 1/4”. When I sewed it on, I put the wrong side of the ruffle to the right side of the front of the pillow and stitched right along the basting stitches.IMG_4563

I hope this was helpful. It really is easier than it sounds, it’s just hard to make it sound easy! Please don’t hesitate to ask questions if something isn’t clear.


melissa * 320 Sycamore said...

Holly~thank you so much for a tutorial that even I (very sewing challenged) can follow~I really appreciate it.

Cindy said...

Gret tute! I hate doing ruffles, but the more I do it the less hassle..practice makes perfect!

Destination Seaborn said...

Thanks Holly...please disregard my request on the other post. Question...I used gathering tape to make a ruffle on another project, which method would you say is easier? I am a novice, self-teaching, seamstress in training.

Tara said...

I'm familiar with ruffling but I'm curious as to how you finish the non-ruffled edge? Do you have a serger or do you do a rolled hem? I'm making a pair of pants for my daughter that have 3 rows of ruffles along the bottom of the legs and I'm trying to figure out the easiest way to finish the edges of the ruffles.

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Thank you, Holly!!! :) Love ya!!!

Jo - To a Pretty Life said...

Thanks for the tutorial! I know how to do ruffles, but a few of your steps were new to me and will save me some time/frustration. The next tutorial I want to find is how to make pleated ruffles! I did it two different ways on my current project, but I'm sure there has to be an easier and faster way ;-)
I just love the ruffles on your pillows.

TRICIA @ The Zoo said...

Great tutorial. I am not generally into ruffly, but I have been digging this kind lately. Lovely!


Pam @ bibbidi-bobbidi-beautiful said...

I am so in love with those suede pillows! You are so resourceful!!

Leslie said...

Any suggestions on how to keep the sewing machine from pushing the gathered ruffles? No matter what I do or how slow or fast I sew, it doesn't glide over my perfect ruffles. Instead it shoves them forward and flattens as it goes, until it finally jams because it's shoveled all the ruffles forward into one big lumpy mess!

Justbecauseitmakesmesmile said...

Thank you!!
Your tutorial has made it so clear! I'm off to give it a try.

Our Family said...

Hey, I was just wondering, how did you finish the ends of the ruffle...I'm not a great sewer so forgive my ignorance...did you just zig zag the ends...or did you first sew a 'tube' like thing and then baste stitch and gather?