What is Ruching?
Ruche in French refers to a strip of folded or gathered cloth. Ruching, as we sewists say it, involves gathering, pleating or repeatedly folding a fabric as an embellishment. This is then incorporated into a pattern, when making clothes, on sleeves, bodices, waistline seams, on accents like collars, belts, on accessories like sashes, hats etc.
Ruching is an oft-used technique in dressmaking – it creates a 3-dimensional look to the fabric and emphasizes the contours of the form wearing it.
Most of the time, it is applied against a plain seam and the contrast between the gathered/ ruched side and the plain seam side can be striking when applied appropriately. In the hands of a designer who knows his craft, ruching can turn a garment into quite a masterpiece, as it was done in the elaborate gowns in Victorian England.
In mind, I can picture a lady of the court wearing a diaphanous Grecian gown which is ruched on one shoulder or an elaborate gown which is ruched in all the places.
In modern fashion, you will find ruching done all the time on wedding gowns & party gowns.
Uses of ruching in sewing clothes
You can use ruching in your everyday clothes in a subtle way
Ruching used in sleeve patterns
How to incorporate ruching into sleeves
If you want your sleeves to have ruching done in selected places, you will have to alter the pattern of the normal sleeve and add extra fabric where you want to ruche.
Cut out the normal sleeve pattern and make long slashes along the edge of the area where you want the ruching done.
Cut out the slashes and spread them as much as you want – depending on the fullness you want.
You can pleat the extra fullness or gather with basting stitches.
Another ruched sleeve which has drapey folds.
To make this sleeve you will have to add 6 inches extra to the length of a normal sleeve. The sides and bottom edge will be the same as that of a normal sleeve.
Cut out the fabric pattern.
Fold and stitch the top edge into neat folds.
Ruching done on a waistband
Ruching used on bodices and on accents on bodices
Ruching ribbons and used as trims
4 ways of Ruching fabric
1 Gathering with basting stitches
This is the easiest method of ruching. Basting stitches are long stitches you make with a hand needle or your sewing machine which is then pulled to gather the fabric to contain fullness. This gathering creates automatic folds in the fabric, which is what ruching is all about. You will have to adjust the gathers and then stitch along the gathers with the regular stitch to keep the gathers in place
If you do not want to ruche the whole fabric of the garment, there is a way of selectively adding ruched fabric strips which is prevalent in heirloom sewing.
To make a ruched strip , you should preferably choose a thin fabric like cotton batiste. Cut a 45 inch wide strip of fabric about 3.5 inches wide
Press to remove any wrinkles
Fold the long sides 1/2 inches from both sides to the inside. Press to keep this fold in place
Make long stitches for gathering along the long edges (stitch both edges in the same direction)
Pull the thread tails to gather the strip
Gather till you see that you have the puffiness you wanted. You can now add this to wherever you want – like the face of a bag/purse, bodice of a little girl’s frock .
2 Stitching with elastic thread
This method of stitching with elastic thread is called shirring. Checkout the post on sewing with elastic thread (shirring) here for more details. You get the same effect as gathering this way, with minimum effort.
Elastic thread is used in the bobbin and regular thread is used as the top thread. On the surface of the fabric, you cannot see the elastic thread. The elastic thread is wound loosely on the bobbin. A regular thread is used as top thread.
3 Pleating the fabric
Ruching is not simply gathering – it involves pleating, folding and other fabric manipulations as well .
In simply gathering with elastic thread or gathering with basting stitches, you do not have any control of how the fabric will look finally. But with ruching you have full control. You arrange the fabric the way you want, fix the pleats/ arrangements or gathers with basting stitches or pin , then stitch in place with regular stitches and then stitch the ruched edge to another fabric edge ( mostly not ruched)
You can skillfully pleat the fabric to get the ruched effect. You will have to use about 3 times the length of the pattern piece to be able to pleated this way.
Pleat and stitch along one edge
Complete pleating on the other side
Related post : How to sew pleated ribbon trims.
4 Hand stitching a ruche with smocking stitches
This is done by tying knots in the back of the fabric in a pattern. This is also termed as lattice smocking. You can create a variety of such fabric folding by using this method.
A simple way of doing this – You will have to mark the back side of the fabric to be ruched . Here I have marked lines 1″ apart. Then made markings 2 inch apart on the lines. On alternating lines the markings are made so that it lies between the markings on the above and below lines.(as in the picture below).
Then Hand sewing needle and thread is used to gather the markings ( on the back of the fabric). I have made small knots on the markings 1/4 inch deep.A twist with the thread after one or two stitches would do the thing.
When it is done on all the markings it will look like this.
On the front of the fabric an automatic ruched pattern is made.
I have seen this type of ruching done on beautiful bedspreads in high end bed linen showrooms – so easy but looks so beautiful.
5. Simple wrinkling and interfacing method
Choose a lightweight fabric for this easy method. Dampen the fabric and then twist and scrunch it into a mess of a ball and then tie it inside a towel. Leave there for sometime till it dries. Keep a piece of interfacing under your wrinkled fabric and then iron it there keeping your wrinkles suitably arranged. You can then embroider over this or add embellishments.
Thin cotton or silk is ruched into thin gathers by twisting it and tying it into coils for a long time.
After the tying is removed, do not iron it (ofcourse).
This ruching effect do not last. After the first wash most of the pleats will disappear.
If you have to wash the garment you can again do the tying in the same way and keep it in your cupboard till the time you are using it.
6. Buy pre-pleated fabric
You can buy prepleated fabric and use it to maximum effect. Learn more about pre-pleated fabric here.