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How to Determine the Length of a Gathered Ruffle


A ruffle is a piece of fabric that’s been gathered or cut in a circle to add fullness. There are two types of ruffles: gathered ruffles and circular ruffles. Gathered ruffles are rectangular-shaped pieces that are gathered into ruffles; circular ruffles are cut from a circle so the outer edge is longer than the inner edge and soft folds result. Ruffles can be set into seams, sewn along edges of garments, such as necklines or armhole openings, sewn to hemlines or sewn on top of the garment’s surface. Ruffles can be wide and deep or very narrow, very full or just slightly gathered.

Gathered ruffle

Gathered ruffle

Circular ruffle

Circular ruffle


Ruffles are a great way to add volume to areas of a garment or to bring attention to parts of the body. Add ruffles to the neckline to draw the eye to the face; add ruffles at the bustline to create volume on a smaller chest. Sew ruffles to hemlines for volume and swish, or to lengthen a skirt that’s too short. Any fabric that isn’t too thick to be gathered can be used for ruffles. Circular ruffles work better when made with lighter or drapier fabrics; fabrics that are too crisp will stand out stiffly and not hang very nicely. Try gathering your fabric in your hand to see what it will do as a gathered ruffle, and drape the fabric over your hand to see if it will have enough drape for circular ruffles. When in doubt, make a test ruffle out of scrap fabric to see how it will behave.

Tips + Notes

  • Cut the fabric for ruffles double, with the fold on the hemline, for extra body and to avoid hemming.
  • For gathered ruffles, soft and lightweight fabrics look better with more fullness. Thicker fabrics are best with less fullness, as they will get bulky and heavy when you gather them.
  • Pleat gathered ruffles instead of sewing gathering stitches. Fold the top edge into even pleats and sew the ruffle in place.
  • To finish the edges of your ruffle and add more structure, add a facing. Cut two of each ruffle piece, sew right sides together along the hem, and turn it right side out. Your ruffle is hemmed and will have more body. You could even cut the facing layer in a contrast color for interest. This works for both circular and gathered ruffles.


For a gathered ruffle, cut a strip on the crosswise or lengthwise grain (page link), making the strip two to three times the length of the edge you are sewing it to. The length of the ruffle is up to you; make it however long you want. Add seam allowances (page link) and hem allowances (page link).

How to Determine The Length of A Gathered Ruffle (1)

Ruffle twice the length of the edge

How to Determine The Length of A Gathered Ruffle (2)

Ruffle three times the length of the edge

How to Determine The Length of A Gathered Ruffle (3)

Ruffle four times the length of the edge


How to make Gathered Ruffles (1)

Hem the lower edge of the ruffle. A narrow hem (page link) is a nice way to finish the edges of a ruffle, as it doesn’t add bulk and looks nice from both sides. Or finish the edge of the ruffle with binding (page link). This adds a bit more weight to the ruffle but defines the edge nicely. In this example, I turned the edge twice and topstitched (page link) the hem. Gather (page link) the upper edge of the ruffle.

How to make Gathered Ruffles (2)

Divide the ruffle and garment into quarters so the fullness is evenly distributed, and pin the ruffle to the edge of the garment. Pull up the gathering threads. You want to smooth out the gathers so the whole ruffle is gathered evenly with no flat sections or densely gathered sections. If there are seams to be sewn after the ruffle is attached, try to keep the gathers out of the seam allowance so there is at least a 5⁄8″ (1.5cm) flat section in the seam line. Sew the ruffle to the garment edge, finish the seam allowances together and press toward the garment.

Centered Ruffle


For another ruffle idea, hem both sides of the ruffle, and gather with one row of gathering stitches down the middle. Pin the ruffle to the garment and sew along the middle of the ruffle. This is a good way to add ruffles when the garment edges are already finished or when you want to add ruffles where there are no seams or edges.


To make circular ruffles, draw a circle with a circumference that is equal to the edge you want to add the ruffle to. This is going to be the inner edge of your ruffle. The smaller the inner circle, the more flared your ruffle will be. Draw a second circle around the first one, making the distance between the two circles equal to the length you want the ruffle to be. This second circle is going to be the lower edge of your ruffle. Add seam and hem allowances (page link).

How to make Circular Ruffles (1)

Draw a straight line from the outer circle to the middle of the inner circle; this is the line to cut along when cutting out the inner circle. Place this straight line on the straight grain (page link).

How to make Circular Ruffles (2)

Cut out the circular ruffle piece. Staystitch (page link) the inner circle after cutting, and clip (page link) the seam allowance so the staystitching can stretch out into a straight line. Hem the outer edge of the ruffle using a narrow hem (page link) or binding (page link).

How to make Circular Ruffles (3)

Sew the upper edge of the ruffle to the opening.

Tips + Notes

To make longer circular ruffles, cut several circles and piece them together before sewing to the garment.

Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine