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Ruffle variations

There are many ways to vary the basic ruffle techniques described in the last section to create different textures and different shapes. The samples shown here use bias-cut fabric which curves distinctively. Ribbon or hemmed straight-grain fabric would behave somewhat differently.

Material and Design Notes

  • Fine fabrics have much more flexibility for manipulations such as centre tuck gathers, or for double-edge gathers.
  • When working on wide strips of fabric, you could use different gathering techniques along each edge; for example, pleating along one edge and fine gathers along the other.
  • Most of the ruffles shown use stitching in a straight line. Different effects can be created by stitching in zigzag and other patterns.
  • To attach gathers to fabric, make the gathering stitching first, then pin, tack (baste) and sew along the gathering line so the stitching is invisible.



Single edge gathers

Gathering along one edge of the fabric produces a frill or ruffle suitable for attaching to another piece of fabric. Stitch about 5mm (¼in) from the edge of the ruffle, or further in if the fabric is likely to fray.


Bias-cut ruffles stitched along one edge will produce a curved piece, which can be used to make rosette forms and undulating ruffles. Stitch as described for Single Edge Gathers.

Centre tuck gathers

This is effective in fine fabrics such as silk or chiffon. Fold the fabric strip in half and then make the gathering stitch 5mm (¼in) from the folded edge, using hand or machine gathering methods. (Note: The ruffler foot method is not suitable.) Unfold the ruffle to reveal the centre tuck.

Double edge gathers

Both edges of the fabric can be gathered to produce a ruched strip. This can be applied with the raw edges showing, or inset into fabric to hide the stitching. This works well with fine to medium fabrics, either bias-cut or straight grain. Gather using any machine or hand gathering technique.


Double stitched flat ruffle

In this sample a double row of gathers is sewn 1.5cm (⁵⁄₈in) apart to create a flatter ruffle, which is ideal for applying onto a background fabric. This photograph shows the reverse so you can see the gathering threads.


Curved double edge gathers

In this sample, a bias-cut strip is gathered along both edges, then one edge is pulled tighter than the other to create a pronounced curve. Longer strips can be manipulated to create S-shape curves and interesting undulating shapes.

This technique is most effective on bias-cut fabric, but straight grain can work too. To enable you to manipulate the gathers, you will need to gather with long machine stitching or hand stitching. Note: The gathering foot or ruffler foot methods will not allow you to adjust the gathers.


Shaped fabric ruffle

Ruffles can also be made with fabric that has been cut into undulating or zigzag shapes, and stitched along its centre.



Layered ruffle

This is most effective in light bias-cut fabrics although lightly fraying or pinked straight-grain will also work, as will lightweight ribbon. Layer the fabrics up then tack (baste) through the centre before gathering, to prevent the layers from shifting.


Pattern stitched ribbon ruffles

This hand-stitching technique uses running stitches in patterns along the ribbon or fabric to create scalloped edges. It is traditionally worked on silk ribbon to be used as a trimming or coiled into fabric flowers. It works well on a soft medium to wide ribbon. The samples shown have been made on 3cm (11⁄₈in) wide cotton bias binding (unfolded), which is quite stiff.

1). The design can be drawn onto the ribbon using vanishing pen or other marking method if preferred or worked directly onto the ribbon freehand.

2). Knot a strong, matching colour thread and fasten at one end of the ribbon. Follow the illustrations for stitching guidelines for your chosen pattern and make small stitches about 3mm (1⁄₈in) long.

3). When the stitching is complete, draw up the gathers and adjust as required before fastening the thread off firmly. Do not press. (Note: If you run out of thread as you work, draw up the gathers, fasten and continue with a new length of thread.)

Zigzag-stitched ribbon ruffle



Curve-stitched ribbon ruffle



Squares-stitched ribbon ruffle



Peaks-stitched ribbon ruffle



Project Idea Ruffle scarf

This scarf is made from three lengths of biascut fabric, each three times longer than the finished scarf length.

Technique : Layered Ruffle
Material : Base layer – crisp cotton, unwashed silk dupion or other crisp, lightweight fabric; middle and top layers – silk chiffon or satin, habotai silk, synthetics, silk dupion or any soft fabric (for a scarf measuring 1.5m [approx 60in] you will need 4.5m [5yd] long strips of each fabric).


  • Cut bias strips of fabric and join to make long lengths of the following widths: for the base layer 25cm (10in) wide; for the middle layer 15cm (6in) wide; for the top layer 8cm (3in) wide.
  • Layer the fabrics and pin in place. Hand or machine tack (baste) along the centre to hold the layers together. Sew gathering stitching along the centre: use a ruffler foot if the fabrics are not too thick, or machine gathering, or hand-stitched gathering.
  • If working by hand, start in the middle of the scarf and sew towards one end, leaving the thread attached to the spool. Fasten the end, then cut enough of the remaining thread off the spool to sew to the other end, before pulling up. Use a very strong thread and pull up carefully so you don’t snap it.


Fabric Manipulation
150 CREATIVE Sewing Techniques

Ruth Singer