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PatternReview Blog > Using a Ruffler Foot: A Picture Tutorial by newmama
Using a Ruffler Foot: A Picture Tutorial by newmamaBy DianeSev on 5/10/13 12:49 PM

By newmama

Some background:  Most of the clothes I sew these days are for my daughter, which means I sew a lot of ruffles and gathers, even though I'm not into really frilly stuff!  One of my favorite dresses is a 3-tiered peasant dress made from Simplicity 2377.  It's a quick sew, except for gathering the tiers.  I made some for my twin nieces and it took me an hour just to sew two tiers together (times 2 per dress times 2 dresses... yeah, it took a while).  Though I like the control one has when gathering "by hand", I thought a ruffler foot would be a good investment.

Simplicity 2377

Simplicity 2377

When I bought my ruffler foot, I found it severely lacking in instructions.  And, while there are many resources on how to ruffle a strip of fabric (such as this one), there aren't many that tell how to use a ruffler foot to make a dress or a skirt, etc.  So I hope this two-part tutorial fills a niche.

This tutorial covers the set up and test strips for using the ruffler foot.  Hopefully you will find ways to apply this information to whatever you may want to add ruffles to :) 

Some general tips when using a ruffler foot:

  • MAKE SURE YOU PUT YOUR PRESSER FOOT DOWN TO SEW!
    (this can save you an hour of aggravated troubleshooting)
  • You do not want to back-stitch at the beginning or end, the fabric is only meant to go front-to-back through the ruffler.
  • The ruffler will sound noisy and a bit like it's broken, even though it's working.  It takes some getting used to.  It will, however, make a different noise if the blade gets bent and hit by the needle (ouch!).
  • Take a picture of your settings or write them down so that you can apply them to your project.  Be sure to note what kind of fabric you used, so you can reference your notes for future projects as well.

The following should help walk you through how to figure out a 2:1 and 3:2 gathering ratio for your ruffler.  I'll explain more about how these numbers can be used in the second part.  Try to just take a leap of sewing faith for now, okay?

1.  Gather materials
You'll need a ruffler foot (on right) and some 6-inch fabric strips to test your settings.

ruffler foot (on right) and some 6-inch fabric

I used strips of fabric left over from cutting out my dress pieces.

strips of fabric

2.  Set up your ruffler foot/sewing machine
Here's the ruffler foot attached to my machine (there are lots of resources for help with this part).  Set your ruffler to "1", so it will gather at every stitch.

ruffler foot attached to my machine

Set your machine to a long straight stitch (this is the longest setting I have on my machine).

Set your machine to a long straight stitch

3.  Test your settings
Here's where you'll have to experiment.  You'll need to set your adjustment screw (mine is the orange knob shown in the photos below) to change the depth of the gathers.  More threads showing at the end of the screw means a deeper pleat, which means your ruffle will be more ruffle-y. You want to figure out what settings you need for a 2:1 gather and a 3:2 gather.

For a 2:1 gather, I have about 4.5 threads showing at the end of the adjustment screw.

 set your adjustment screw

Insert a test strip into the ruffler foot.  It should go under the ruffling blade, which is what pushes the fabric to create the pleat/gather.  There is no need to try to weave it through the windy metal bit at the back.

Insert a test strip into the ruffler foot.

Turn the handwheel to bring your needle into the fabric, then start sewing.  Remember, you do not want to backstitch.  Once you sew your first test strip, measure the end result & adjust the screw if needed.  Our goal is a 3-inch ruffle.

If it's too long, set the screw deeper.
If it's too short, back the screw out some.

Keep testing strips until you get a ruffle that's about 3 inches long.  It doesn't have to be exact!  You just want it in the ballpark--ideally within a 1/4 inch or so, since the amount you are off will be multiplied with a longer piece of fabric.

Once you figure out where to position the screw to get your 2:1 gather, record it!  Take a picture, write it down, do whatever you need to to remember.  Then back the screw out to adjust for a 3:2 setting.

My setting for the 3:2 gathers is about 2.5 threads showing at the end of the adjustment screw.

position the screw

Your ruffle should end up 4 inches long.  Remember to record this as your 3:2 setting.

Here are my resulting test strips.  The one on the left is the 2:1 gathers, and measures about 3 inches.  The one on the right is the 3:2 and measures about 4.25 inches.  Remember, the ruffler foot is supposed to save time, so you don't need to be overly exact.

resulting test strips

Don't worry… This setup only takes this long the first time!  It is a good idea to do a quick test strip for each project, though, since different fabrics will gather differently.  But since you already have a baseline setting to start with, it should go quickly.

Read newmama's other tutorial: Using a Ruffler Foot – Construction: A Picture Tutorial

Read more tips by newmama.

Read newmama’s pattern reviews.

Read newmama’s sewing machine reviews.

Read newmama’s store reviews.

Visit newmama’s blog daniKate Designs.

Want to know more about rufflers?  Take a look at these discussions.


9 Comments      Login to Add a Comment
leoniep said...
Thanks for writing this tutorial Newmama. I've been thinking of getting a ruffler foot.
5/10/13 7:58 PM
Hauteaway said...
Thanks for the tutorial! My friend told me she had no idea how to use the ruffler foot that she's had for ages, so I just sent her this link. Next task: get her active here on PR!
5/10/13 11:53 PM
newmama said...
You are welcome ladies! I have received so much from this community, so I would love it if I was able to help someone else.
5/13/13 10:28 PM
violetsparrow said...
very well written, the pictures are a great help. Thanks so very much!
5/14/13 0:55 AM
Ladybugn said...
I've always been so intimidated by the ruffled foot. I will have to try it. My daughter loves twirly things, too, and I've made that peasant dress a few times myself! Thank you!
5/14/13 8:30 AM
ClaireS said...
Rufflers are real time-savers. I use mine for home dec projects. One thing to remember is if you have to pull the fabric out do it from the back. If you pull it out from the side you can bend the blades and screw up your ruffler.
5/14/13 1:12 PM
Mack and Lily said...
Great introduction to a ruffler attachment - the photos make it so clear. I love my ruffler and have produced several little girls' patterns designed specifically for rufflers. Check them out at: www.mackandlilypatterns.etsy.com
5/14/13 3:54 PM
pcostanzo said...
Wouldn't a serger do the same thing if you adjust the differential feed?
5/15/13 2:15 PM
ToasterOven said...
I hope you are still watching this thread and can help me. I just bought this adorable pattern and I want to use my ruffler foot with it since I have several dresses to make. How did you figure out how to adapt your pattern to use with the ruffler? Did you make the tiers wider just to make sure you had enough fabric after using the ruffler? I'm thinking of sewing the tiers on with the ruffler and then doing the side seams after. The directions tell me to sew the seams so that each tier is in a circle then gather the tiers to fit the smaller bodice or tier above it. I'm just not sure how to go about it. Do you know what the ratio is for this project?
6/26/14 2:08 AM

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