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It’s time for a new tutorial! This one is all about ruffles and will hopefully give you some ideas on how to add these beautiful details to your garments.

I was originally going to write one article that contains both ruffles and flounces, but as I started preparing the material, I realized it was too much. And so I had to separate the two.

You know the difference between ruffles and flounces btw? Well, ruffles must be gathered at the seamline, while flounces remain smooth. Usually ruffles consist of a straight rectangular piece and flounces have more like a spiral or round shape.

Some general tips

First of all, hem before you gather.

As for the types of hems, you have a couple of choices: make a normal hem by folding the edge, a rolled hem with serger or bind it with bias strip. But of course you could just leave a raw edge, too.

Here’s an example of the bias binding. It makes the waves of the hemline larger.

If you like a flare such as that but not the bias binding, you could add a fishing line inside the hem.

Just a few words on the gathering process. The easiest way is to stitch one row of long stitches with the sewing machine. But if you think the thread will break, you can always stitch 2 rows instead.

With particularly heavy weight fabrics you can enclose a cord by zigzag stitching over it like this:

Then pull the cord to gather the fabric. Once you’ve attached the ruffle, you can take off the cord.

There’s also such a thing as a gathering foot for the sewing machine.

I prepared some ruffle examples and the 3 different fabrics you see are chiffon (greenish), light weight cotton (white) and medium weight cotton-polyester mix (turquoise).

Basic ruffles

Let’s start with the most simple case of ruffle; the one gathered along the upper edge.

Measure the area you want to place the ruffle. This will be the final length. Then decide how full you want your ruffle to be, and make the calculation. You could for example count 1,5 – 2 or 3 times the final length.

Then there’s of course the width of the ruffle. Just add a seam allowance, and a hem allowance if needed.

Remember to take into account your choice of fabric and the width of the ruffle. So, if you’re using a more heavy weight fabric, you might not want to gather it as much as a chiffon, because it would become really bulky. And a narrower ruffle will look more full at the hemline than a wider one even when gathered the same amount.

Here are my 3 example fabrics, gathered 1,5 – 2 and 3 times the final length. These ruffles are 10cm / 3,9in wide.

1,5x
2x
samples of wide, basic ruffles
3x

And here are their 5cm / 2in wide counterparts.

1,5x
samples of narrow, basic ruffles
2x
3x

The rest of the examples will be done with 2x the final length -gathering.

Folded ruffle

Here’s a slightly different looking ruffle you can make simply by folding the strip of fabric in half. No need to hem it either!

folded ruffles

Double edged ruffles

To make this one, the calculation procedure is the same as with the basic ruffles. Now you have two hemlines, but no seam allowance needed. This ruffle will be stitched and gathered at the centre.

After you’ve attached the ruffle, you can remove the gathering thread so you’ll only have one row of stitches in the centre.

Here are the examples in the 3 different weights.

double edged ruffles

Besides attaching these ruffles in single or multiple rows to decorate garments, you could also do spiral-shapes.

ruffle spiral

Double edged ruffle with a tuck

To make the previous ruffle more interesting, you could add a tuck to the centre.

You just need to add twice its width to the calculation. For example 4mm x 2 = 8mm.

When stitching, fold the strip of fabric in half and stitch at 4mm from the edge:

The result:

Pattern stitched ruffles

What if instead of stitching a straight line you do zigzag or other shapes?

Well, you’ll get a more interesting ruffle! Check out these ones and then try your own versions, too.

pattern stitched ruffles

Double edged pleated ruffles

A rather different effect can be achieved by pleating the strip of fabric instead of gathering.

You have quite a few choices here. There’s the knife pleat and the box pleat, but you can also alternate between them or make knife pleats randomly.

I prepared 2 patterns for you, one for knife pleats and one for box pleats. I noticed they require 3x the final length of fabric.

For double edged ruffles the pleats will be stitched in place at the centre. But you could also make single edge ruffles and stitch on one side.

This is what the previous knife- and box pleats look like.

pleated ruffles

Here I folded the edges of the knife pleats to create chevrons. And next to it you can see randomly folded knife pleats.

Ruffles in practise

So far, the ruffles in this article have been just samples. I thought it would be nice to give you two examples on how to use the ruffles in practice. Here are 2 simple skirt projects you can try. They are based on the skirt patterns I’ve posted previously.

Flared skirt with a ruffle

Starting with the more simple example. This skirt will have a ruffle attached to the hemline.

You can take any skirt you have, measure the hemline and then prepare the ruffle. But that would be even Too easy. That’s why I decided to instead first eliminate the amount of ruffle-width from the skirt hem and replace it with the ruffle.

As a base, I’m using the flared skirt pattern you can find here.

So I want to have a 16cm / 6,3in wide ruffle at the hemline of this skirt, but maintain the same length it originally had. Here’s how to do that:

adding a ruffle to a skirt hem

Once I’ve redrawn the new hemline, eliminating 16cm / 6,3in from the skirt length, I measured it, to know the final length of the ruffle.

The (whole) skirt front: 82cm x2 = 164cm

The (whole) skirt back: 76cm x2= 152cm

Then remains to be seen how the strips fit on the fabric. You might have to divide them into more pieces.

As for the width, I’d add 1cm / 0,39in of seam allowance and 1,5cm / 0,59in of hem allowance, making the ruffle strip 18,5cm / 7.28in wide.

Btw, if you find you have too much bulk at the seam line after having attached the ruffle, you can always top stitch it.

Here’s my resulting skirt.

flared skirt with a ruffle

Pencil skirt with a ruffle

This example will also show you how to use the slash and spread -method for creating ruffles. It’s how you need to proceed when dealing with irregular shapes. But also, when you want to have more fullness at the outer edge without having to gather so much (and create bulk).

To be honest, I’m not sure if this would technically be a ruffle or a flounce, but I’m going to count it as a ruffle…

You can start from the basic skirt block.

Copy left and right side of both front and -back pieces and place them next to each other like this:

ruffled skirt pattern

Separate with a curved line the area you want the ruffle to be in. Add a few tacks so it’ll be easier to sew the pieces together and to arrange the gathers evenly.

Divide the lower piece into slices and separate each of them completely, but don’t mix the order. Add numbers if you prefer.

Then tape/glue them on another piece of paper leaving more space between the pieces at the lower edge. Re-draw both edges.

If you want more flare or gather, feel free to leave even more space between the pieces.

This is how the skirt looks like:

skirt with a ruffle

Check out also the gypsy skirt here. It’s a perfect example of a ruffle skirt.

For more ideas on ruffles, here’s my new Pinterest board.

Next time it’s going to be flounces then!

Stay tuned and Subscribe to my Newsletter if you haven’t done that yet. 🙂

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10 Comments

  1. wilkista Jacob Reply

    Thank you for share your knowledge…your such a wonderful person!

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Glad to hear that. 🙂 Already working on the next one!

  2. I began seeing at a young age but haven’t sewed much since my girls left home. I’ve been watching to see if there have been different and new ways of sewing to incorporate into my sewing. This article along with your dart manipulation article were some of the best I have seen. Thank you an I hope to read more of you articles in the near future.

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Oh thank you so much! That’s good to hear. You’ll surely be seeing more articles. I have quite a few lined up to be prepared. 🙂

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