Ruching Fabric Gives Garments So Much Fullness — Here's How to Do It

ruching skirt

Ruching is when fabric is gathered along a seam to provide decoration or fullness. You may have seen it before on sheers (like in the skirt pictured above) or swimsuits, but there are so many opportunities for ruching in patternmaking. The technique looks particularly great on a fitted garment, where it accentuates your body’s curves.

Good to Know: While you can add ruching to nearly any seam, this tutorial demonstrates ruching fabric on a skirt.

Ruching Fabric

Level: Intermediate

What You Need

  • Pattern piece
  • Pattern piece, traced onto paper
  • Large piece of paper
  • Fabric
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Tape
  • Thread
  • Good to Know: This is a simple overview of ruching fabric. For more in-depth details on how ruching is done, check out our class, The Essential Guide to Sewing Sheers.


    1. Mark Your Pattern Piece

    mark pattern piece for ruching

    Draw the seam lines on your paper pattern piece where you’ll have radiating gathers. Because we’re working on a fitted skirt, we’re using the hip line as a reference point and adding pencil lines on either side where we want our fabric to drape.

    2. Grow Your Pattern

    growing pattern

    Cut the seam allowance of each line, then cut your pattern pieces along each pencil line. The pattern should be connected by a small amount of paper between the line and seam allowance.

    Place the pattern piece on a large sheet of paper. Open the pattern to add your desired inches, tape to the paper and cut around the perimeter.

    Pro Tip: Do this step before purchasing your fabric, as your yardage can change dramatically.

    3. Cut Your Fabric

    cutting fabric for ruching

    Place your fabric on the manipulated pattern piece and cut.

    4. Baste

    basting fabric for ruching

    Baste along the edge with the excess fabric, from the first notch to the last. The fabric will begin to gather naturally — that’s the desired effect.

    5. Gather

    gathering fabric

    Pull the basting threads so the fabric bunches up. Adjust until you have the right amount of gathering. You know you’re finished when the ruched fabric piece is the same size as the fabric cut from the unmanipulated pattern piece.

    6. Sew

    sewing fabric for ruching

    Keeping the seam allowances together, pin the ruched fabric to the fabric underneath. Sew together, then continue sewing according to your pattern’s instructions.

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