Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tutorial: Gathering and Ruffling the QUICK Way!

We all know gathering and making ruffles are a basic sewing skill. However, sometimes making them can be a tad time consuming. We also all know that you see ruffles everywhere right now. So with that being said, I am sharing my 'little secret' to quick gathering and making ruffles. (It probably isn't that much of a secret, but it sounds much more intriguing when I put it that way.)

I am a proud owner of a ruffler foot for my sewing machine. I love it, it is handy, and is perfect when I am doing loads of ruffling. However. My one miff with the ruffler foot is that it's not at all conducive for a 'quick' project. Meaning, I wish I could have a dedicated sewing machine for just my ruffler so I didn't have to take it on and off, adjust the settings, etc. All of you who have a ruffler are nodding in agreement.

So. When I need to gather or make a ruffle in a flash this is what I do. Oh..and say bye bye to double rows of long stitching and pulling thread.

1. Set your stitch length to the longest length on your machine. (Same as regular gathering.)

2. Increase the tension. This is where it becomes a little 'dependent on your machine'. You may want to play for a few quick minutes to play around with the tension to see the outcome.

This is how it works on my machine:
increase my tension to + 1 = a light gather
increase my tension to + 2 = a good ruffle, the fabric comes out to be just about half it's original length
increase my tension to + 2.5 = a fuller ruffle, the fabric comes out to be a little less than half it's original length
increase my tension to + 3 = very full ruffle

You can see the gather/ruffle getting tighter and fuller as I increased the tension.

I should also add that this way of ruffling is VERY forgiving. You can always pull the strings to make the ruffle fuller.  You also can push the ruffle around to redistribute the placement or to reduce the fullness. (Just make sure you leave nice long thread tails on both ends!)

3. Once you've increased the tension and set the stitch length the longest it will go, the fun begins! First, pull your machine threads so you have a nice long tail.

4. Start ruffling your fabric using 1/4" seam allowance.  (If I need to fold under the edges of my fabric later, I start ruffling about 1/2" in from the short edge.)  IMPORTANT: Hold on to those long thread tails for the first few stitches so they don't get pulled into the bobbin causing a royal mess! (I always hold the thread tails when I begin sewing anyways but it is especially helpful in this situation.)

Start sewing and watch as the gathers appear!!! WOW!!! (Do not backstitch.)

5. Stop gathering about 1/2" from the edge of the fabric again. Do not backstitch. Remove the fabric from the machine and again leave a long tail of thread. 

6. Depending on your project you may want to secure the ruffles at this point. Do that by setting your machine for regular sewing. Then just sew on top of the stitching line for the ruffles. Or you can simply tie off the long thread tails at either end of your gather or ruffles. Once you do this, you will not be able to adjust the ruffles.

 Result: Quick and easy ruffles! Ta-da!

 The end. Like the pictured project?  Don't worry, it is coming. :)

Thanks for reading,

LeAnne ;)


  1. I am definitely going to try this. I am pretty new at sewing still and my one experience with ruffles was pretty frustrating!

  2. Oh my God!! Thanks for this, i was having problemas with the gathering before reading this.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! I never thought about just changing the thread tension. I'm off to ruffle! :-)

  4. Gotta try this today!!! I love me some good ruffles, and the quicker the better.

  5. That was really interesting, my gathering foot is different. I got my first gathering foot almost 20 years ago and when I got it (a gift) it looked like something the denist would stick in your mouth and I was so afraid to use it it took me 15 years before I had the guts and Oh My Goodness I was ruffeling everything I put my hands on. My daughter was then 15 and no longer wanted ruffled panties! lol I do have two machines that is a great idea so because I agree it is a hassle to take it off and on.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this tip! Worked perfect and saved me so much time on my most recent project (tiered peasant skirt).

  7. Love your site!!! Bought a couple of 18 gal totes of somebody's Gramma's sewing room and lo and behold brand new ruffler foot that fits my machine!!!! Can't wait to try it out!!!! I had been using the gathering foot on my serger... Thanks for your time and great tutes!!!

  8. What does your gathering foot look like? I have several different ones and I am not sure which one is the specific sheering foot. Thanks

  9. that's great! thanks
    (I will say though, it makes me a tiny bit nervous fussing with the tension on my old machine. sometimes it does not want to things right when I put it back).
    Maybe just some sweet talkin' to it and it will cooperate. =)

    blessings and thanks


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