How to Ruffle Fabric

Ruffling or gathering fabric is a useful skill to master. For one, you’re likely to come across it when sewing garments (setting sleeves might require a bit of gathering, or you might see it in the waist of a skirt or dress). Additionally, it’s a technique you can use to add interest to your garments or home decor projects (ruffled pillows come to mind!). Ruffling fabric is actually very simple. In fact, it can be done in 4 easy steps.

Ready to learn how to ruffle fabric? Let’s test it out!

1. Set your machine to the longest stitch length.

2. You’ll be sewing two rows of basting stitches, parallel to the edge you want to ruffle. Your seam allowance will be determined by what you are working on; I’m currently working on a tunic pattern where the basting stitches were at ¼” and ⅝”, so that’s a good place to start if you’re practicing. If you are sewing a garment, the instructions will probably have you placing the basting stitches between two marks on the pattern. Very important: don’t backtack at the beginning or end of your stitching. Also don’t clip your thread too close to the fabric; you’ll need a couple of inches of thread for step 3.

How to Ruffle Fabric

3. Once you’ve got your basting stitches in place, gently pull on the top two thread tails. Your fabric will begin to gather. Repeat with the bottom two thread tails. If you are ruffling a slippery fabric, you might run into the gathers falling out on one side while you are trying to pull on the other side. The solution is to knot the thread on one side after you’ve finished gathering.

4. Evenly distribute the gathers across your fabric. You should now have a nice ruffle.

Sew Ruffles

Ruffling the fabric is the easy part. Attaching whatever you’ve ruffled to something else is a little bit trickier. If you are sewing from a pattern, the pattern will most likely have some notches you can line up. I like to pin in about 3 to 4 places (one on either end, one or two in the middle) to begin with and then adjust the amount of ruffle as necessary, pinning in place and then sewing as usual. This part might require a bit of patience to get the perfect amount of ruffle; don’t give up! Particularly if you are working on sleeves, the amount of gathering will be pretty noticeable if it’s not even on both sides.

You can also try ruffling your fabric with your machine. I think this method works better for creating a ruffle that you will attach to something, not when you need to gather your fabric for sleeves or on a skirt. Again, set your stitch length to the longest length. Also adjust your tension to the tightest (highest number). Sew as you normally would, and the fabric will ruffle up automatically. Don’t be afraid to play around with the stitch length and tension to vary the amount of ruffle.

Ruffle Sewing

Ruffles can add a lot of personality. Have you added ruffles to any of your sewing projects?

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