Tucks are similar to pleats, but they are sewn all along their length to stick up from the fabric. They can vary in size from tiny pin tucks to large flaps of fabric, which can be manipulated in a number of ways. The fabric will reduce by two-thirds for tucks made right next to each other, less if you space the tucks out as described in the Basic Method.

Material and Design Notes

  • Sewing lots of tucks can be problematic: the fabric slips and in) or more at each edge. the tucks go out of alignment as you sew, resulting in a wonky set of tucks.
  • Synthetic fabrics are much harder to manipulate into neat tucks, whilst crisp cotton is the easiest to work with.
  • Your chosen fabric should have a clear grain and take a crease well. To start, make sure the fabric is cut precisely square to give you very straight edges to work with. Striped fabric is good to practise with, as you can fold and sew along the stripes, but make sure the stripes are an even width, not varied.


Basic spaced tucks, pressed.


Basic spaced tucks, unpressed.

Basic method

1). Working on the right side of the fabric along the top edge make marks every 2cm (¾in), leaving 3cm (11⁄₈ in) or more at each edge.


2). Again working with the right side of the fabric facing up, fold over the right edge so the first two marks match, poking a pin through to check they line up. Make sure the fold is straight along its whole length. Check the fold is on the straight grain and the top and bottom edge line up. Finger press, then pin in place with pin heads pointing to the right.


3). Place on the machine with the fold to the right and the excess fabric to the left. Sew the tuck ensuring you keep the seam allowance the same all along the fold. When making small tucks like this, you can use an edge guide foot to keep the distance even, or use the guidelines on your sewing machine. If your machine does not have guidelines, place a piece of masking tape on the machine bed the correct distance from the needle. Keep the edge of the fold on the line as you sew, making sure you do not allow the underside layer of fabric to twist.


4). Make the next fold with the first fold you made tucked underneath and the excess fabric to the right. Sew the second fold in the same way as the first making sure you don’t catch the earlier tucks when you sew. Note: You may find it easier to sew the tucks from the bottom edge to the top, so the tucks already made are on the top, so it is easier not to catch them when sewing subsequent tucks.


Tuck variations

Once the basic tuck technique has been mastered, you can experiment with variations, particularly Tuck and Fold which has many possibilities. Twin needle tucks are also included in this section.

Close tucks

These tucks are made in the same way as the Basic Method but with smaller spaces between each tuck, for example 2cm (¾in) wide tucks would have 1cm (3⁄₈in) gaps between each tuck; this makes the folded edge of each tuck butt up to the stitching of the previous one. Sew with the previously made tucks facing up and keep the left edge of the machine foot following the previous stitching. .




Close tucks, unpressed.


Pin tucks

Narrow pin tucks are made in the same way as the Basic Method with each tuck just a few millimetres wide, and spaced widely or closely together as you choose. In this sample, the tucks have a total width of 8mm (⁵⁄₁₆in) with 8mm (⁵⁄₁₆in) in between tucks. Narrow tucks can be sewn with the fold following the edge of the machine foot, or by using a ¼in patchwork foot for a very narrow tuck.



Pin tucks: these tucks are sewn down for 6cm (23⁄₈in) then released. For a neat finish, reduce the stitch length to 0.5mm rather than reverse stitching.


Twin needle pin tucks

For a quick version of very narrow pin tucking, use a twin needle. The effect is created by the stitching on the back pulling the fabric into a small pucker along the stitching line. The degree of puckering can be altered by changing the machine tension. This technique works best on crisp fabrics where the effect is obvious, and the sample is made in silk dupion. The tucks don’t show up well on thick fabrics, and very soft fabric needs careful testing and tension adjustments or it will pucker too much. A matching thread shows the texture best; contrasting thread distracts from the texture. Although technically a tucking technique, this is very similar to corded quilting (see Corded Trapunto).


Twin needle pin tucks: sewing straight rows on straight grain fabric, front of fabric.


Twin needle pin tucks: following curved lines, front of fabric.



Reverse of fabric.

Tuck and fold

Tuck and fold is an exciting manipulation technique with many possible variations. The technique works best on close-tucked fabric which takes a crease well. These samples are made in shirt-weight cotton.

Prepare the fabric

Make a panel of tucks as Basic Method. Press all the tucks in one direction then all in the other direction, making sure they are all neatly creased and standing proud of the base fabric.

Tuck and fold variation 1

1). Press the tucks all in the same direction, pressing just the very edges. Machine sew in place (lines 1 and 2 on the stitching diagram.


2). Mark a line across the centre of the panel (line 3), then place on the machine with the pleats folding away from you.


The stitching diagram shows the direction and order of stitching; it also shows the direction of the folds when you start.

3). Fold over the first pleat and start sewing, folding each pleat as you go. Use a pencil or the tip of a pair of small scissors to hold down each pleat as you come to it.



Tuck and fold on plain cotton fabric using contrast stitching.

Tuck and fold variation 2

In this sample, smaller mini-folds have been made between the close stitching at the sides of the panel. The diagram shows the direction and order of stitching.




The tucks are folded over so that the edge just meets the stitching, rather than all the way over otherwise the fold would hide the stitching.

Tuck and fold, striped and smocked

The smocked sample is made the same way as Tuck and Fold Variations 1 and 2, but the striped fabric creates a more interesting look. Smocked tucks could also be pressed flat after stitching for a very different effect.

1). Prepare the tucks as described in Prepare the Fabric and press carefully in both directions so the tucks stand up proud from the base fabric.

2). To create the honeycomb smocking effect, the first two tucks are stitched together, just at the very top edge of the fold. To allow the smocking to open up fully, the stitches should be spaced quite widely apart along the length of the fold. These tucks are 3cm (11⁄₈in) wide and each stripe is 1.5cm (⁵⁄₈in) wide, so the stitching is done at 6cm (23⁄₈in) intervals. Mark the first tuck so the stitching points are double the width of the tucks.

3). Knot the thread and insert the needle through the upper pleat first, from bottom to top, then bring the thread over and back through the bottom of the lower fold, so when the stitch is pulled up the knot is enclosed between the two folds.

4). Make two or three stitches close together, then fasten off the thread.


5). Repeat the stitching at the intervals shown in the diagram.




Smocked tucks in striped fabric. This technique works well in plain fabric too.

Fabric Manipulation
150 CREATIVE Sewing Techniques

Ruth Singer