Introduction: How to Sew a Ruffle

Learn how to sew a basic straight edge gathered ruffle using the following simple steps.

Step 1: Prepare the Ruffle Fabric Strip.

The initial ruffle fabric piece should be about 2-3 times longer than the edge it is sewn to, depending on how much fullness is desired. In this tutorial, the ruffle strip is 2.5 times longer before it is gathered.

Step 2: Finish the Ruffle's Hem First

There are a few different ways you can clean finish a ruffle's edge but the most commonly used is a double folded machine stitched hem. The seam allowance of the ruffle's lengthwise edge is 1/2". This means you should turn the raw edge in (towards the wrong side of the fabric) once at half the seam allowance (1/4"), then turn the folded edge one more time at 1/4" to enclose the raw edge of the fabric. Iron as you fold and place a few horizontal pins to keep this fold in place.

Always finish the ruffle's hem first as this is very difficult to do once the ruffle is gathered.

Step 3: Machine Stitch to Finish Hem

Apply a straight stitch along the fold, using the fold line as a guide. Stitch as close as possible to the fold line.

Step 4: Apply the Gathering Stitches

Apply two basting stitches on your sewing machine. The first basting stitch should be right along the seam line at the edge's seam allowance (1/2" in this case) and the second, halfway along the seam allowance (1/4"). Make sure you leave longer loose threads at both ends so you can easily pull the gathering stitch.

Step 5: Pin the Ruffle to the Seam Before Gathering

Align the ruffle's basted edge to the corresponding raw edge of the seam. Place a pin perpendicular to the edge as shown. Wrap the loose threads in a cross motion around the pin. This will keep the basting stitches from coming undone when you pull them to gather the ruffle on the opposite end.

Step 6: Pull Basting Stitch Threads to Gather

On the opposite end of the pinned ruffle, pull the two top basting threads carefully to create gathering. Pull gently all the way across to the pinned edge and slowly build up on the gathering. Even out the gathering stitches as you pull. Do this until the gathered edge is exactly the same length as the edge it is getting stitched to.

Step 7: Pin the Ruffle's Seam

After making sure the gathering is evenly distributed along the edge, pin the ruffle's gathered seam perpendicularly to the edge. Block the gathering from coming undone on the second edge by crossing the loose threads around the pin as you did previously.

Step 8: Machine Stitch the Ruffle Seam

Making sure your sewing machine is set at a regular stitch (not a basting stitch), apply a straight stitch right bellow the bottom gathering stitch as shown in the image. You should sew as close as possible to the gathering stitch while also making sure it is placed right bellow it consistently throughout.

Step 9: Clean Finish the Ruffle Seam's Raw Edge

The ruffle is clean finished with a serging stitch. If you don't own a serger, as many sewing beginners don't, you may use a zig zag stitch on a home sewing machine. Make sure the tension balance on your sewing machine is adjusted correctly and try to sew at a denser setting for a better quality finish.

Note: It helps to iron the gathered seam allowance prior to applying a clean-finishing technique. Be careful NOT to iron on top of the actual gathers.

Step 10: Iron the Ruffle Seam Properly

The ruffle seam should be ironed with the seam allowance pointing away from the gathering. When ironing, only iron on top of the flat surface of the seam opposite to the gathered edge, avoiding direct contact with the gathers as shown.