How to Gather fabric into frills (6 styles of ruffles )

Learn about 6 different types of RUFFLES and how to Gather fabric for skirt or any other clothes; Easy step by step tutorial.

gathering fabric - different methods.

Gathering is meant to ease a long piece of fabric onto a shorter one; It is also supposed to provide fullness to the attached area.

But I do not think of the resultant ruffles in these practical terms I just described. These frills are too pretty to be so functional. Yet they are – aren’t ruffled wonderful? Can you even think of the practical uses of ruffles looking at the girl in the picture?

girl dancing with a frilly ruffled dress

How to gather fabric for beautiful ruffles

How much cloth is needed to make ruffles?

Before making ruffles, you will need to estimate how much fabric is required. The length of the material will depend on the fullness you need.

You must get at least 1.5 times the fabric to get slight fullness. To get a moderate fullness, you will need double the fabric. To get very good fullness, you need to take about three times the fabric length. You can increase the length by four times and more for added fullness.

How to make easy gathers

The easiest method to make gathers is to use the Shirring foot to gather. It is a sewing machine foot that can be attached to your machine instead of the regular foot to easily create pretty gathers on any fabric.

sewing machine feet- shirring foot

A shirring foot/gathering foot is used to gather fabric without you going through all the trouble of gathering like described below, or with the elastic thread in the bobbin. This foot is used mainly for gathering lightweight fabrics.

Half of this foot is raised off the feed dogs – this automatically creates a gather in the fabric as you sew. Increase the tension and stitch length when using this foot to gather.

Checkout the tutorial to use this gathering foot here

Gathering foot

Another super tool you can buy is a Ruffler foot – it not only makes regular frills, it also gives you control of the depth of ruffles and the space between them. Check out the tutorial to use a ruffler foot here.

How to gather one of the two fabric layers with the gathering foot?

Move the needle to the left position. Keep the two fabrics right sides together. Stitch the edges leaving a 1/2 inch seam allowance with the foot on. The bottom fabric layer will be gathered. You can change the fullness of the gathers by changing the stitch length. You can gather a single layer of fabric as well with this foot.

Related post with more details – How to use a gathering foot 

I have read that a cording foot can be used to gather as well. Simply sew a cord using the cording foot with loose stitches. Then gather pulling the cord. easy peasy, right? Try it

Gathering fabric with elastic

One easy way to gather is to use an elastic sewn along the edge as can be seen in the sewing pattern and tutorial to make a sundress.

summer dress pattern - elastic is attached to the back of the fabric to gather

Elastic easily gathers the fabric

You can also make gathers with fold-over elastic tape. You can find the details in the video below or the post on fold over elastic.

Steps to beautiful ruffles by EASY gathering of fabric

Step 1. Decide on the width and length of the finished ruffle.

Width – Add the hem allowance and seam allowance. For double width ruffles, double the fabric, and add the seam allowance twice.

Length – As for length, Never skimp on this. If the fabric is not enough, the ruffle will look limp and really unattractive.

An ideal formula is to take 2.5 times the measure of the edge for the ruffle strip. Ie. if the hem of the dress is 30 inches, multiply this by 2.5 to get the length of the ruffle strip. Add 1-inch seam allowance. Two times also works ok.

Step 2. Prepare the ruffle strip -Finish the hem raw edge before joining the strip to the main fabric.

A baby hem or narrow hem is ideal for finishing the edge of the ruffle. You can also do picot edging.

Finish the raw edge of ruffle fabric strip and main fabric raw edge (if you do not want a raveling mess)

Finish the edges of the fabric before gathering
Finish the edges of the fabric before gathering

Step 3. Divide the main fabric edge and the ruffle strip by 4, and mark these measures with a scissors snip on the edges. This will make sure that you get even gatherings/frills.

There are two ways you can gather the fabric edge. By using loose basting stitches and then pulling it to gather or by using dental floss to gather.

How to use the dental floss/fishing line to gather

This trumps the earlier described method – because it is easy if you have a zig-zag machine and dental floss or fishing line or plastic string.

And it gathers fabric like a dream and does not break in the middle as a thread does.

gathering the edge with fishing line
Zig zag stitch over the fishing line or dental floss to gather fabric easily

Take a piece of dental floss slightly longer than the fabric edge you want to gather. Set a wide stitch length & long stitches on your machine- set it to zig-zag stitch mode (remember to change the straight pressure foot to zig zag).

Keep the floss in the area where you want to gather. Stitch over the dental floss carefully, ensuring that the stitches pass over the floss.
Now just pull the dental floss, and you can easily gather the fabric.

Pull the fishing line to the fullness you want
Pull the dental floss or fishing line to the fullness you want

(This is far, far preferable to using the long-basting stitches because usually, when you gather with the loose stitches, the thread breaks – it is devastatingly frustrating when this happens, and It seems to happen all the time with me.

The only problem with this method is that you should have dental floss; But if you do not, try with cord)

But if you want the baste stitch method, here it is.

How to baste and gather – Adjust the stitch length for basting stitches – Normally, we sew with a stitch length of 2 – 2.5 that is set by default in your machine. To get basting stitches, increase the stitch length to 5.

  • Sew the first line of stitch 1/4 inch away from the fabric edge. Leave long thread tails on both ends of the fabric strip. I leave some 10-inch tail of the top thread and bobbin thread.
make basting stitch
Sew a long basting stitch along the edge to gather

Sew another line of basting stitch 1/8 inch further from the first line parallel to it. I keep the edge of my zigzag foot on the first line of basting stitch. Then when I stitch the second stitch line is exactly 1/8 inch from the first line

how to stitch ruffles by gathering

{Double-edge ruffle – For a double-edge ruffle, mark the centerline on the fabric strip. Sew 1/8 inch to either side of the centerline with the basting stitch}. 

Pull the bobbin threads to gather the strip. Do not use unnecessary force lest you break the thread. Distribute the gathers so that the folds are formed evenly. 

how to make ruffles

Join the strip and fabric in proportion and not by guesswork to get the gathers evenly.

Pin the fabric and the gathered strip by the marks (snips) made earlier, so they are gathered neatly and uniformly.

Related post :  Shirring fabric with elastic thread – a tutorial.

shirring done on a fabric piece

Tips on making perfect ruffles 

Always finish the fabric edges before gathering.

The fabric edge finishing should be selected considering the appearance of the ruffles.

A lettuce edge, with its frilly wavy appearance is a popular edge finish for knit fabrics. Fringed edges, hairline edges , satin stitches or faced edges are all frequently used. 

Add the seam allowance for edge finishing and seam allowance for joining to the garment before cutting the fabric for ruffles. 

6 types of ruffles

There are 6 different styles of ruffles according to their placement.

  • Single edge Ruffles

This is a single strip of fabric gathered along one edge and stitched to the edge of a garment. The raw edge of this strip is usually finished with any of the fabric edge finishes.

how to gather

  • Double edge ruffles

This is a single strip of fabric gathered in the middle. The result is two edges of ruffles along the middle stitching line. you must have seen this ruffle in the back of a baby panties.

double edge ruffles with gathering along the middle
Double edge ruffles with gathering stitch made along the middle

Checkout this beautiful umbrella embellished all over with double edged ruffles

mutliple rows of decorative frills on an umbrella

  • Double-width ruffles

This is a folded strip of cloth gathered in the middle ; Unlike the double edge ruffles with separate ruffles, this one has two edges of the strip of fabric together, or layered.

  • Waterfall ruffles 

This refers to those ruffles that we see along the necklines of off-shoulder dresses. The waterfall effect along the neckline is created by gathering the neckline using an elastic thread along the seam of the neckline and extended facing.

ruffles along the neckline

Check out the post on sewing off-shoulder tops for making such a frill

offshoulder top with lots of ruffles

  • Circular ruffles 

These ruffles give a great flare when let down, without the bulk in the upper edge like in gathered ruffles. This is the kind of ruffles you see on peplums, and flamenco dresses. This effect is achieved by making a fabric shape that resembles a doughnut.

How to create a circular ruffle

Step 1.
Mark a circle onto your fabric with a circumference equaling the edge of your fabric plus 1″ seam allowance.

circular ruffles
Step 2.
Decide on how wide you want the ruffles.
Mark that measure from the circumference of your inside circle.

You should also know that if there is a very big difference between the two circles there will be more flare.

circular ruffles- size of the circular shape should be the size of width of your ruffle
Step 3.
Cut out the outer circle and inner circle ie outside of the outer circle and inside of the inner circle should be discarded. A ring is formed.

Draw a donut shape for making the ruffles
Step 4.
Cut the ring open with a single cut. You have a ruffle strip you can sew on to the fabric edge.

circular ruffles- cut the circle shape open

  • Cascading ruffles 

These ruffles ripple down the main fabric with a cascading effect hence the name. This ruffle is mostly seen attached to necklines and on the back of gowns. This is a type of circular ruffles, which is arranged to have a cascading effect.

Checkout this necktie tutorial for girls for using a cascade ruffle as an accessory

cascading ruffles

Related post : Frilly sleeves /Ruffle sleeves – 8 styles you can create for your clothes.

frill sleeves

More posts

how to sew seams   9 must know hand stitches - running stitch, catch stitch  how to sew hooks and eye


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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

9 thoughts on “How to Gather fabric into frills (6 styles of ruffles )”

  1. What is the best thread to use got a satin binding that needs to be ruffled. I am struggling with getting it dinner. Please help if able. Love the above info. I do not have a ruffle foot.

  2. How do I sew the double ruffle?? There is a picture, and small explanation, but no tutorial or instructions on how to do that. Also, I am sewing a stretch knit dress; I would like to add a 2″ wide x approx. 6″ long ruffle down the front & sew buttons on it. How do I ruffle it so it stays straight, and not all wonky or crooked?? Thank you for now!

    • Hi Wanda
      Your double ruffle can be sewn two ways – one is to make a placket for your buttons and then sew single ruffles on either side of it OR just simply take the fabric you need ( double the length or 2.5 times) and then mark the center line and gather using the methods described above. Small pieces like this donot need double basting sitches to gather. You may want to stitch a stay tape ( or a non-stretchy fabric piece) underneath to keep your ruffle straight.

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