It’s been a while since the last time I dedicated a blog post to fabric manipulation. My previous two tutorials, on flounces and ruffles, have been quite popular, so let’s see what you think about tucks with this how-to manipulate fabric with tucks tutorial.

I prepared lots of examples to give you ideas on how to use this technique to manipulate fabric. First I’ll show you how tucks work in general, and then how to add them to a garment pattern.

Tuck or Pleat?

Tucks are kind of like pleats. The only difference is that tucks are stitched at their base so that the folds remain secured. You might be most familiar with the tiny pin tucks, but there are actually various different kinds of tucks as you’ll soon see. So this is a pretty versatile way to manipulate the surface of the fabric.

How to Draft and Sew Tucks


Let’s first take a look at how this technique works in general.

To add tucks to a pattern, you do exactly like with pleats. I have a couple of tutorials on pleats, too, so you can check out the basic technique for example here.

But to summarize, you draw lines where you want the tucks to go and then add a desired amount of volume.

The volume needed is twice the size of the final tuck. So if you want the tuck to be 0,5 cm, you add 1 cm, etc.

The space in between the tucks depends on the look you want: if you want the tucks to cover the area completely, the maximum distance should be the same as the width of the single tuck (which in this example is 0,5cm). But if you want them to be further apart, you can leave more space. You could try 1,5x the width of the tuck.

Here’s an example of a pattern:


To sew the tucks, I recommend you first pressing all the folds in half.

This gives you a straight line to follow when stitching. Stitch at a distance of the chosen tuck width with the tuck folded. So for 0,5cm tucks you stitch at 0,5cm from the fold.

To manipulate fabric with tucks, you have to be precise, because if you don’t respect the measurements, you might alter the fit of your garment. Except of course if you work the other way around, and prepare a piece of fabric with tucks before cutting.

It’s easiest to place the tucks in the direction of the grain line.

Types of Tucks

Ok, now that you have the basics, let’s see some different kinds of tucks you can create.

Wide – Narrow (pin-tuck)

Here are a couple of examples of how you can achieve a different look simply by changing the size of the tuck.

Wide tucks look like pleats. These are 2cm wide.

The really narrow ones are called pin tucks. These ones are 0,5 cm wide. Colette Wolff says that pin tucks are max 0,3cm wide, though, so not sure if these count! But nevertheless, they look rather different from the wide tucks.

Either press them flat on one side or leave them”standing” as in the picture above.

You can also create surface patterns to a garment by alternating between different widths or sewing tucks in groups at random distances apart. Kind of like stripes.

Here’s an example of alternating widths…

..and the pattern.

Centered Tucks

You know box pleats? Well, also tucks can be done in the same way. It’s just that you stitch them at the base first.

And then if you feel like it, you can top-stitch them, too. My sewing machine doesn’t have many decorative stitches, but you get the point.

Cross Tucking

This example has tucks going both horizontally and vertically, creating a cross in the middle. You get different results by changing the order in which you sew the tucks. In my example, I stitched 2 rows at a time vertically and then 2 horizontally.

how to manipulate fabric with cross tucking

To prepare such a pattern, start by drawing all the lines. After that, add volume first to one direction(1), and then the other(2):

Btw, here’s a pin cushion -tutorial that has a similar design, but with pleats.

Tucks in Random Directions

Never mind being precise and following the grain line. This is freehand tucking! Great way to manipulate fabric.

Although you Could make a pattern, too, I think this is more fun if you just stitch completely randomly. The fabric will have a completely random shape in the end, too. So if you want to use this in a garment afterwards, I suggest you have a large enough piece of fabric to start with!

how to manipulate fabric with freehand tucks

Tapered Tucks

Not following the grain line reminded me of this piece I published on Instagram. It’s like Origami technique meets Tucks. I secured the centered folds at their base with stitching.

So tapered tucks don’t have a rectangular shape. Instead, it’s more like a triangle: they start narrow and grow wider.

Cross-Stitched Tucks

If you stitch across your narrow tucks a few times, folding the tucks in alternating directions, you get this undulating look:

Just leave enough space between the rows of stitches so the tucks have the possibility to change direction. I left 5cm.

There was also an Insta-design of mine where I utilized this technique.

Honeycomb Tucks

Getting into more time-consuming fabric manipulations, meet honeycomb tucks!

manipulate fabric with honeycomb tucks

To get this look, you’ll need to do some hand stitching. Basically you go and stitch tucks together at the very top edge of the fold, following a pattern. Naturally, there can’t be a large distance between the tucks.

Contoured Tucks

I saved my favorite for last. To make contoured tucks, you actually have to sew the contour of each tuck first.

I prepared a little sequence of pictures to show you how.

Decide the maximum width of each tuck. I went with 2cm. At the pattern stage this is easy, because you don’t have to worry about the contours yet. Just create basic tucks.

Press the folds like you normally would, but the wrong side up. Pinning the tucks helps to keep them in place.

Prepare the tuck contour template, that you can then use to trace the shape on each fold.

Sew each contour, trim off all extra fabric. If you have corners, cut into them as you normally would.

Turn the right sides out and press.

Stitch at the base and voilà, your contoured tucks are done!

manipulate fabric with contoured tucks

Tucks in Garments

As promised, here are some examples of tucks in garments and how to prepare the patterns. This is a pretty straight forward way to manipulate fabric and create cool details.

Shirt Front

You’ve probably seen shirts like this before. There are tucks next to the button placket on both sides. Adding tucks into an existing sewing pattern is easy. Here you can see the front piece of the shirt.

1. Decide the width and number of your tucks and the distance between them, so you can draw the lines next to the button placket.

2. Add volume needed for the tucks (2x the final width) in a 90 degree angle. Before cutting the edges of the pattern, fold all the tucks the way they will be folded when sewn. Adjust the pattern edge if needed and then cut with the tucks folded.

Dress Back

With this example I wanted to show you how it’s also possible to sew the tucks only partially to create this kind of gathered effect.

Here we have the back piece of an A-line dress and we want to have tucks in the middle. The procedure is the same as with the shirt.

1. Decide the size, number and distance of the tucks. And this time also the point where the stitching ends.

2. Add the volume, including half the tuck width at c.back (which will then become whole when you cut the back piece on fold). I added a centered tuck at the centre back to make the tucks look symmetrical. It’s double the size of the other tucks so that when top-stitched in the middle, it kind of looks like 2 smaller tucks folded in opposite directions.

Skirt Yoke

My final example is a yoke skirt and the yoke is decorated with centered tucks. I used the same pattern that ”premièred” in this skirt tutorial.

1.) Once you’ve separated the yoke, you can add the tucks as usual. Only this time, they are drawn radially: when you’re drawing the lines, divide them evenly on both edges (=upper&lower) of the yoke.

Notice how, again, there’s half a tuck at c.front. At c.back there’s a zipper instead.

In this case it’s especially important to cut the edges of the pattern with the tucks folded.

So as you can see, this technique is a pretty awesome way to manipulate fabric. Did you get some ideas?

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    • shapesoffabric Reply

      You’re welcome! 🙂 I’m pleased to hear you like it.

  1. Inspiring, as always. And I never thought of contoured tucks!
    Thanks for sharing, you always put so much effort into your blog entries!

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Thanks Marie! 🙂 Yeah, the contoured tucks are really cool. In fact now I have an idea for a bodice. 😀 Hopefully will have time to try it soon.

    • Please can I take an online training in fabric manipulation from the shapes of fabric*

      • shapesoffabric Reply

        Hi! Unfortunately I don’t have any courses at the moment. You should definitely check out the two fabric manipulation books I reviewed in the “books” section. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for taking time to explain and illustrate this. It’s so helpful, I’m going to try them in my free time.

  3. You are great for doing this. Thanks so much! More wisdom to do exploit.

  4. This is a wonderful tutorial and explanation. Thank you so much! I am guessing say, for a front bodice if you have waist darts and you want to put parallel tucks down the front you would have to get rid of the waist darts?

    • You’re welcome. 🙂 Yes, you can rotate the darts to the side seam so they won’t get in the way. Or draw a style line to absorb the darts.

  5. Thanks for being a blessing in the fashion world. Your tutorial is helpful

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