Pintucks & other 9 beautiful decorative tucks used in Sewing

Learn to make different types of tucks in sewing like PINTUCKS, SHELL TUCKS & WAVE TUCKS

I have always been fascinated by those fine delicate pintucks made on my kid’s dresses that I used to buy from an embroidery shop. They were exquisite and elevated those already pretty frocks to another level.

Think Heirloom sewing, fine embroidery, that warm feeling when you look at beautiful things – well, Pintucks along with french knot flowers can have that effect on you.


Once you know how to make them, they are not that complicated. And unlike somethings which lose their charm once you know it up close, pintucks still retains that magic for me.

Tucks are folds made on fabric and sewn in place. It is made to contain the fullness of fabric or as a decorative element.

A pintuck is a very narrow tuck made at regular intervals, mostly parallel to each other. It creates a beautiful texture on fabric and is regularly used to embellish clothes and linen.

In heirloom sewing, pintucks are regularly used. They form a regular decorating element in kids’ dresses and nightdresses. Tucks can be used pretty anywhere but it is on bodices that you see often.

Fabric best suited for tucks

Ordinary Tucks can be made on any kind of fabric but the narrow tucks like pintucks are difficult to be made in thicker fabric. 

Lightweight fabrics are best for sewing pintucks – like organza, taffeta, batiste, voile. But not the floppy kind.

Check out the popular fabric are used for making baby clothes as well as the best thin lightweight fabrics and they are all mostly suitable for tucks.

At the designing stage itself, you will have to leave extra width for the tucks – like for a 1/4 inch tuck in the center part of a bodice you will have to add extra fabric in the middle to the tune of 1/2 inch extra for each tuck. Another idea is to make the tucks on the fabric and then cut the pattern.

What do you need to sew the pintucks?

There are some sewing accessories which are nice to have if you want to make more and more pintucks (you will want to) – a pintuck presser foot, a double needle and some spray starch. The spray starch will make sure that the fabric behaves the way you want it to. Evenly and lightly spray the fabric with starch keeping the spray some 12 inches from the fabric.

Different types of tucks in sewing

1. Pintucks

small Pintucks made at regular intervals on fabric.

These are very narrow tucks sewn with a width of 1/8 inch from the folded edge of the fabric . They are made very close and parallel to each other.

 How to make pintucks

You can make the pintucks with your regular foot/edge joining foot or with a pintuck foot. With the pintuck foot you need  the double / twin needle attached

Making pintucks with the regular foot or the edge joining foot

Mark tucks at regular intervals – say 1 inch apart.1/8 inch is the usual distance from the fold to stitching line – so you will need 1/4 inch extra fabric for each tuck

Press the fabric at the marks, wrong sides together. Place the edge of the fabric against the edge of the edge joining foot. This foot will give you an evenly made 1/8 inch equidistant from the fold to the stitching line.

sewing pintucks with edge joining foot.

If you do not have this foot use the regular straight stitching foot
stitch keeping the stitching line even, the same distance from the fold

How to make Pin tucks with the pintuck foot

sewing the pintucks wtih a pintuck foot

With a pintuck foot you have it even more easier; they make the most narrow pintucks if you have the appropriate twin needle –  ensure that that twin needle you have fits in with the pintuck foot you have.

pintuck foot and double needle

Thread the machine with two spools and stitch. You will also have to increase the stitching tension – I changed it to 7 on my machine – you will have to test it out on your machine. It is this increased tension and the passage through the grooves of the pintuck foot that creates the tucks

Sew pintucks with the pintuck foot

After you have made the mark for the first tuck, you do not have to mark the further ones with this foot as the many grooves in this foot fit the previous tucks you have made and make equidistant consecutive tucks automatically. 

2. Space tucks

space tucks

These are tucks which have a width of 1/4 inch from the fabric folded edge; they are also spaced apart, atleast more than the pin tucks.

  How to make simple space tucks

Tucks are made by folding the fabric and sewing straight stitching lines along the folded fabric edge, like you would sew pleats. You can make wide tucks as well as narrow tucks. Generally, space tucks are made in 1/4 inch width.You can use the 1/4 inch quilting foot to get these tucks perfectly.

3. Release tucks

Release tucks

These are the kinds of tucks usually seen in clothes to contain the fullness. These tucks are sewn a few inches and then stopped so that upper part where the tucks are made will take in the fabric.

4. Cross tucks

cross tucks in sewing

These tucks are as the name suggests crossing each other.

Tucks are first made vertically as usual, then tucks are made horizontally as well ( perpendicular to the straight tucks) at regular intervals

  How to make cross tucks

sewing corss tucks with edge joining foot.

Make tucks in one direction;press all of them in one direction
Start making the crosswise (horizontal tucks) ; ensure that the tucks are not distorted or twisted. You can keep all the folds towards you as you sew so that they are not twisted.

5. Twisted tucks / wave tucks

wave tucks

These are simple tucks sewn across the fabric and then stitched down in a back and forth manner making waves

  How to make the wave tucks

Mark fabric for space tucks; Mark the fabric perpendicular to the space tucks equidistant from each other for crosswise stitching (a grid like pattern).

Sew the space tucks. Now start sewing through the lines you have marked, keeping the folds turned to one side. This will make one set of twists / waves. Now we have to make the real twists. 

Sew across the middle of each column of tucks with the tucked folds  twisted down/ opposite direction
You can sew as you go or fold each tuck, pin and then sew. I do not bother to pin, just sew folding individual tucks by hand.

6. Bubble tucks

These are tucks which creates an effect of bubbles; the bubble effect is created by using a steam iron on the back of the tucks after the tucks are joined together at random intervals. 

  How to make bubble tucks

Make space tucks; Now tack stitch two tucks folds together at regular intervals with a hand sewing needle and thread , forming a pattern. 

7. Corded tucks

sewing corded tucks

These are tucks with yarns, cords or embroidery thread added to the edge of the tucks. You will have to use a narrow zig zag stitch to sew the tucks along with the cord. The cord is kept under the fold as you sew from the top.

8. Lattice tucks

These tucks which make the fabric look like there are windows ; they are made similar to how cross tucks are made; the difference being that the tucks (vertical and horizontal) are pressed in opposite directions before sewing the cross stitching. Ensure that the tucks are not distorted or twisted

9. Lace added tucks

lace tucks

These are tucks with lace trim added to the back of each tuck. When marking the tucks the width of the lace trim should be taken into consideration

10. Shell Tucks

shell tucks

To make these tucks adjust your sewing machine dials as follows

Stitch length – 2 ; Stitch width – 5 & Tension 7; Keep the satin stitch foot / zig zag foot on your machine. Change the dial of your sewing machine to the decorative stitch which looks like this.

shell stitch mark on sewing machine.

Fold the fabric as in for tucks and sew along the edge. Your outer edge ( the needle when it goes for the outer edge of the stitch – to the right) should be just off the folded edge. This stitching will create a tuck which is very decorative – it will look like scallops. For more details look up the post on a shell edge stitch. You can check out the other methods of making scalloped edges here

Some guidelines in sewing decorative tucks

You can make these tucks along lengthwise grain or crosswise grain of the fabric but tucks are a little difficult to manage in the bias direction

Marking with a washable marking tool like a washout pen or chalk is needed for the tucks to look the same

Related posts : Different names for pleats used in clothes; New to sewing – Sewing basics to learn how to sew.

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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.