How to Add a Lightweight Ruffle to Any Pattern

There is more that one way to make a ruffle! Here’s one that may come in handy: the circular ruffle. A round ruffle adds a different kind of flair to your garment without adding bulk to seamlines.

Flounce Skirt with Circular Ruffle

When to use circular ruffles

Some patterns have the ruffle piece included, especially on sleeves and flounce skirts. 

Circular ruffles are not limited to a garment hem or edge — they work well applied diagonally on a lightweight knit t-shirt. Another option is to place them vertically on the garment…and they look great on the dance floor!

vertical version of circular ruffle

Adding a circle ruffle to any pattern is simple. Essentially, you’ll draw the ruffle using circles — a smaller circle makes a fuller ruffle and a larger circle makes less full ruffles. Before you cut into your actual fabric, do some tests on fabric scraps to see what you will like for both width and fullness of your circular ruffle. 

In the example above where the ruffle is at the flounce skirt’s hemline, I measured the circumference of the finished garment to determine the length of ruffle. 

As for fabric: Circular ruffles work well on most lightweight woven fabrics and they are nice on knits where they will likely need no hem treatment.

How to add a circular ruffle to any pattern

Step 1: Draw the circle pattern

make circle pattern on paper

Draw your circle pattern in the center on a large piece of paper. You can use a compass or even a plate or cup to draw the circle. Be sure to leave room for the width of ruffle you want. Then mark the outer circle. The width of the ruffle here will be 3 inches when finished, having a 1/2 inch seam allowance to attach to the garment and 1/2 inch hem allowance. 

Step 2: Cut along radius

cut pattern piece along radius

Draw a straight line from the center along the radius to the outer edge. Slice here and then cut out the inner circle. 

Step 3: Cut out your fabric

cut out fabric

Cut out your circular ruffle, placing the slice opening along the straight of grain of the fabric. This edge will likely be sewn to other circles so it is best if you are sewing on the straight of grain. 

If more length is needed for your ruffle, cut out the rest. You can also cut out half circles, which will have more seams but work well and can be placed on smaller pieces of fabric. 

cutting out half circles

Step 4: Join the circles and hem

sew circles together

Join the circles together by sewing the seams along the cut straight edge. If your fabric is sheer, you can use French seams to enclose the edges.

Now is also the time to hem the ruffles — it is easier to work with the fabric before it is sewn onto the garment. For sheer fabrics, a rolled hem works well. For more substantial fabrics, you can serge along the outside edge and then press and stitch. For a wool fabric, you could actually line the ruffle by cutting out matching circles of lining fabric, sewing them together at the hem edge and then turning and press. 

Step 5: Staystitch the inner circle edge

stay stitch the inner circle

Staystitch just inside your intended seam allowance along the inner circle. I have used contrasting thread here to make it visible. You can staystitch each circle separately or after you have joined them together. 

Step 6:  Snip along seam allowance

snip along seam allowance

Once you have staystitched the inner edge of the circle, cut snips perpendicular to the stitching to allow the curved edge to straighten out. Now you can join the seam allowance of the circular ruffle to a garment.

Step 7: Double check your measurements

measure seam edge

Once you have sewn the ruffle and snipped the edge, it is much easier to measure the amount of ruffle you have.  At this point re-measure the garment edge where you will be adding the ruffle as well as your finished ruffle to be sure that they will join properly and adjust or add to your ruffle if needed. 

Step 8: Sew the ruffle to the garment

Sew ruffle to garment edge

Here is an example of the circular ruffle being attached to a straight garment edge, like a hemline or sleeve. These ruffles can also work on a curved area like a neckline. 

finished circular ruffle

Once you have sewn on the circular ruffle, press the seam allowance upward toward the body of the garment. You can apply any finish your prefer, such as serging the seam allowance or topstitching the seam flat.

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