Thursday, October 6, 2011

Perfect Gathers - Ruffles Made Easy

This tutorial was written for Andrea's Apron but is basic to all gathers and ruffles.

Ruffles are HOT, HOT, HOT right now. Ruffles are on everything.

If you are going to sew with ruffles it requires gathering.

I learned to make gathers in my 7th grade Home Economics class . . . but I didn't learn how to make good gathers . . . and certainly not Perfect Gathers!!! 

I'll bet you learned to gather the same way I did.

If you already know how to make gathers 
I want to change your gathering life
and teach you how to make Perfect Gathers.

Sew gathering stitches with a normal to short stitch -NO MORE LONG BASTING STITCHES!

Long basting stitches make big gathers not perfect small gathers. LONG BASTING stitches let the gathers slide. Shorter stitches help hold the gathers in place while you sew them down.

Normal stitches are 2.0-2.5 on most machines. For  most medium weight fabric you will use a 2.5. If the fabric is light you will use a 2.0.

Turn the tension on your machine to 1 or between 1 and 0.
Loosening the top tension lets you pull up your bobbin thread for gathers.

Sew two rows of gathering threads 1/4" apart.

For the bottom ruffle of Adrea's Apron OR any gathers sewn into a seam, sew your gathering stitches on the right side of the fabric. 

This will let you pull the bobbin threads on the wrong side of the fabric.

Sew the first row at 3/8" from the edge of the fabric and the second row at 5/8". 
Sew both rows from the same edge of the fabric. You will be less likely to sew on the wrong side.

 Leave long threads at both ends.

Mark the center of the Apron Body and the center of the ruffle and pin with the fabric right sides together.

Draw up the gathers by pulling both bobbin threads from either end until the ruffle is the same size as the apron body. Distribute the gathers evenly. 

Pin at both ends and at short intervals along the ruffle.

TIP: To get the gathers to go to the very end of the ruffle, wrap the gathering threads around the last pin and ease the ruffle up to it as shown below.


Sew down the middle of the gathering thread for a 1/2" seam.

Remove the gathering threads.


If you are making Adrea's Apron OR any other project with ruffles that are sewn on the top of your project & not sewn in a seam-

Stay tuned for the rest of Ruffles Made Easy.

For ruffles you sew on top you want straight ruffles with small gathers like this:

You do not want wobbly ruffles with big gathers like this:
Here's how to do it.

Step #1
Draw a line across the Apron or whatever your project may be with an erasable pen and a ruler.

Draw the line where you want the top of the ruffle.

I like this Pilot Frixon pen. 

It makes a nice black line that disappears when the iron touches it. 

Here's proof.
Now you see it - - - Now you don't!

Gather your ruffle just as before but this time 


This will allow you to pull the bobbin threads from the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric which is very important when you are are putting ruffles on top.

Place the top of the ruffle along the line you have drawn, pull up the bobbin threads, distribute the gathers evenly and pin in place. 

Use plenty of pins to keep that ruffle straight along your line.

My favorite tool for pushing gathers around so they are distributed evenly is a bamboo skewer. You can see it in the picture below. 

Sew down the middle - between the gathering threads as before removing your pins as you get to them.

If the gathering threads tend to loosen up at the end, stop and pull them up snug again and either wrap your threads around you pin or use your skewer to keep them in place for that final inch or two.

Remove the gathering threads and iron away the erasable pen marks for PERFECT RUFFLES MADE EASY!


  1. You are amazing, I think I need to read through your tutorials a few times a day, so I can remember... I am an aspiring seamstress! I have done plenty of sewing, but just from my mind and I solve problems as I go. I just bought one of your apron patterns, I'm excited.

    1. Julie,
      Thanks so much for visiting my blog and tutorials. I checked out your blog. Your family is AWESOME!
      Just a little P.S. for ruffles that I need to add to the tutorial. My favorite way for basting them in place is a washable WHITE gel glue stick. Yup, the kind you find at Walmart. Works so great. Good luck with the Apron. I would love to see a picture. My email is sewmuchgood at gmail.

  2. Gel glue stick? You are crazy and awesome. Apron is coming right along :)