Learn how to sew ruffles with this easy step-by-step tutorial. With photos and video showing exactly how to do it, you’ll be ruffling up your clothes in no time.
Hey y’all – today we’re going to talk about how to sew a ruffle so you can add ruffles to any garment. Ruffles are a fun, feminine detail you can add to pretty much any sewing project, and you can add them in different places. Here are some pictures of clothes I’ve sewn ruffles on. Above and below I have an Esma Top with a ruffle added instead of the sleeve band.
For a different look, I added a ruffled peplum to the Esma Top below.
Sewing ruffles is a good way to add some weight to a hem, like I did when I added a ruffle to the hem of my Auberley Dress.
What Is A Ruffle?
A ruffle is a fabric strip that is longer than the edge you plan to sew it to. Because it’s longer, you gather the edge of the ruffle to match the other piece of fabric. This creates volume. Ruffles should not be confused with flounces, which are not gathered, but use principles of circles to create volume. These circular ruffles can also be beautiful, but they’re not covered in this post.
Tools And Materials Needed
One of the reasons ruffles are so great is that you don’t need lots of fancy tools to make them. The longest straight stitch length your sewing machine will do and some extra fabric are the basic supplies. While you can get fancier by using a gathering foot or a ruffler foot, you don’t need either type of presser foot to make a ruffle.
How To Sew Ruffles
Sewing a ruffle is super simple to do. I have a video below showing how I did it for the sleeves of my Esma Top, and the process is the same where ever you choose to add a ruffle. You can also watch the video on YouTube here.
Steps to Cut a Ruffle
- Determine the desired ruffle height. Decide how tall you want the finished ruffle to be. Add a hem amount to this measurement for the hem of the ruffle. For example, if you want a baby hem of 1/4 inch, you’d add 1/2 inch. This way you can fold the raw edge up 1/4 inch twice. Also add at least 1/2 inch more for the seam allowance at the top.
- Measure the length of the edge you are going to sew the ruffle to. Measure the total circumference of the hem or sleeve on your garment.
- Decide how gathered you would like the ruffle to be. Then, take the circumference measurement and multiply it by the amount you want to ruffle. I suggest using numbers between 1.5 to 3. The more body you want the ruffle to have, the larger number you use, as in the examples below.
- Also keep in mind the weight of your fabric – lightweight fabrics can be gathered more tightly than heavy weight fabrics can. This will give you the length of fabric you need to cut for your ruffle.
Steps for Sewing Ruffles
Time needed: 20 minutes
How to Sew a Ruffle
- Cut fabric strips for the length of your ruffle.
Cut a strip or strips of fabric to sew together to make the length you need for the desired amount of ruffle. Once you have a strip long enough, add seam allowances, then sew it into a loop, right sides together, matching short ends.
- Hem your ruffle.
I find it’s easier to hem your ruffle before ruffling it. If you’d like a narrow hem, try a rolled hem like this.
- Gather the ruffle edge.
I baste 2 lines around the top edge to gather my ruffle. Use the longest stitch length your machine will do. Then pull the bobbin thread side of the basting stitches. They will act as gathering stitches to gather your fabric to the exact width of the fabric edge you’re adding the ruffle to.
I cover some other ways to gather fabric in this post; just know that if you use any of those you should probably have an extra long strip of fabric and cut it to size after you ruffle it.
- Attach the ruffle
There are two ways to do this. The simplest is shown in the top image below – you match the ruffle to the raw edge, right sides together, pin and stitch, then finish the seam. However, it can add another dimensional detail to finish the edge of your top or skirt first, then apply the ruffle on top of the finished edge and sew it in place with topstitching, as I did in the second photo below. Just keep in mind that if you choose this method, you need to hem the top edge of the ruffle. I used a rolled hem on mine.
Tips / Additional Notes
Below are answers to common questions from beginners sewing ruffles for the first time.
What stitch do I use to sew ruffles? Unless you’re sewing stretch fabric, you would use a straight stitch to sew a ruffle.
What thread should you use for sewing ruffles? I use the same thread that I use for the vast majority of my projects, all purpose thread. For more about threads, see this post.
How do you make ruffles by hand? If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can hand sew ruffles using a running stitch.
How do you get perfectly even gathers? If you only sew one line of gathering stitches, your gathers won’t be as even as if you sewed two lines of stitches. You can even sew three lines of basting. The more lines you sew, the more even your gathers will be.