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Need an easy way to gather fabric and make beautiful, even ruffles? Making ruffles is easy and fun and I’ve got just the perfect method for gathering fabric! Check out these simple tips below to learn how to gather fabric the easiest way!
How to make ruffles
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably tried making ruffles about a thousand times with no satisfactory results! But learning how to gather fabric and make beautiful ruffles that are even and stay put when sewing doesn’t have to be rocket science! And I’ve got just the right tools for this that I’m going to share with you today.
Ruffles are so cute and add fullness to everything: necklines, sleeves, skirts, pillows, hems, and many others. If you’ve been following me for a while, you might have noticed I love ruffles and pleats and I try to add them to many projects, like aprons, mug rugs or dresses.
When I made this ruffled bed skirt I promised you I’m gonna come back with a quick tutorial on gathering fabric to show you my method. I actually learn this through an accident but I’m pretty sure making ruffles the way I did is not new. After all people have been sewing for ages nothing is really new, just maybe reinvented.
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A few years back, when I first started sewing I learned how to gather fabric with my machine. I used to set my stitch length and my thread tension to the highest setting allowing my machine making ruffles automatically. The ruffles turned out great! Beautiful and perfectly even, I was so proud of them!
But all that beauty went right to the pooper as soon as I started sewing the ruffles onto the main fabric. The presser foot was pushing the ruffles destroying all my hard work! So learning how to gather fabric with that method has never served me well and had to come up with a better way. And in this tutorial I’ll be showing you how easy it is to make ruffles that are even, will stay put when sewn and also the thread won’t break when you try to spread the ruffles evenly.
What is the best way to gather fabric?
By far, this method seems the fastest and easiest method to me, after trying many of them. A gathering foot will only complicate things more, and a ruffler will need too much math and might sound and look a bit scary for a beginner.
Hand basting stitches are also a great way to gather fabric if you prefer hand sewing or if you have a small project and don’t want to use your machine. Also, basting by hand gives you more control over the stitches and is safer to use on canvas or other heavy fabrics that can be hard to run through a regular sewing machine.
When gathering by hand, you can make larger or smaller gathers by adjusting the stitch length. Smaller gathers look better on fine fabrics, while heavy ones will require wider ruffles to achieve that neat look. The only inconvenience is this method is time consuming.
How do you gather fabric easily?
Here are a few tips to make fabric gathering easier and smoother:
- Lightweight fabrics like georgette, silk or organza will get marked by needle punches, so it’s better to hide the stitches in the seam allowance. This way, the holes won’t be visible on the finished project;
- Use about 2.5 times the length of the area you’ll be attaching the ruffle to, to get a nice ruffle. 3 times the length will add even more fullness, but it also depends on the fabric you’re using. Lightweight fabrics require more length, while heavy ones require less;
- Knit fabrics are best gathered with elastic, but this also works well with woven ones. Cut a piece of elastic the size of the smaller piece of fabric and stretch the elastic to match the center and edges with the ones on the larger piece. Sew in a zig-zag while stretched.
- When using the method highlighted in this tutorial, if you’re still not seeing the results you expected (i.e. ruffles are still moving when sewing them in place), use a walking foot instead of your regular foot. This foot will allow even feed of the fabric and will not push it while sewing.
- Additionally, you can do the final stitching inside the basting stitches instead of below as I did. This will truly prevent the fabric from moving as it will be secured on both sides of the needle by the basting stitches.
A side note
To make things easier to see in this tutorial, I used contrast thread in different colors but on a regular project, please use matching thread. Also since I haven’t included these ruffles into any garment (I only made them for the purpose of this tutorial) I haven’t paid much attention on pressing the ruffles nicely so they don’t look that pretty. Please take the time to press yours properly if you incorporate them into a piece of clothing.
How to gather fabric
Set up your machine
- Set your machine to the longest stitch length and a regular thread tension. These were mine on a Singer 1507.
- Switch the presser foot tension to a loose setting.
- Before starting to sew, leave the threads about 5″ long.
Sew basting stitches
- Sew along the edge where you want to create the ruffles, 1/8″ away from the edge. Leave these threads about 5″ long too.
- Repeat one or two more times creating two additional lines, 1/8″ away from each other. For lightweight fabrics, two lines of stitches should work fine while for thicker fabrics three rows might be needed to ensure the threads won’t break while gathering.
Form the ruffles
- Using a pin separate the threads of the front stitches from the threads of the back stitches (in my case the back threads from the red threads)
- With one hand grab all threads in the back (red in my case) and with the other hand start pulling the fabric down, gathering the fabric towards the other end of the stitches. The threads won’t break and the gathers will form and spread evenly.
- You can do this process at one end or both ends of the fabric strip.
- The ruffled fabric needs to match the length of the second fabric strip you’re sewing the ruffles onto.
- When happy with your ruffles, tie the threads in a double knot (the red threads tied with the blacks), on both ends.
- Trim the threads too
- Set your iron on steam and press the ruffles very well. This is a very important step as it will be a great help when sewing the ruffles.
Stitch the ruffles in place
- Place the main fabric strip (the one without ruffles) right side up. Place ruffled strip over, wrong side up.
- Pin the two strips together using lots of pins.
- Sew a straight stitch, 1/8″ below the last row in your ruffled strip. Sewing right on top of the last row would be perfect if you can; this way your ruffles will be perfectly even if you’ve spread them correctly the previous steps!
- Flip the ruffled strip up and press!
- Done! This is how to gather fabric the easiest, fastest and most accurate way!
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