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Tips & Techniques > Making Ruffles by Machine, no special foot

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Posted by: SewVeryTall

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Member since: 3/2/04
Reviews: 161 (tips: 68)
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Posted on: 2/11/07 7:15 AM
Review Rating: Helpful by 7 people   Very Helpful by 26 people   
Web site/URL: photo
The manual that came with my sewing machine is pretty detailed, but it doesn't have much about the tension adjustments. Over decades of sewing, I've figured out a lot just by trial and error. It occurred to me that I should be able to ruffle fabric, just by adjusting the top tension.

So I tightened the upper tension on my sewing machine, as tight as it would tension dial is numbered 0-11...I had it at 11. It's normally set at 3, for most of my sewing.

Then I stitched through a strip of fabric with a long stitch [6 stitches per inch, or 4mm length]. This gathered the fabric without the use of a special ruffler foot, at a 2:1 ratio. I liked the way it looked, the gathers were evenly distributed, and 2:1 is an attractive ruffle proportion.

Curious about whether this technique would only gather a single layer, or if it would work on a double layer of fabric, I tested that too...also works great [see photo link above].

Since a long stitch is used, the gathers can still be adjusted if necessary. Also, handle the ruffle carefully until it's sewn to your project, as the gathers can move or come out. you run the strip of fabric through your machine to gather it, don't let the ruffle hang down behind the machine. The weight of the fabric pulling down could lessen the amount of gathering.

2-14 Edited to add a link to the Pattern Review for Satin Pajamas w/Bias Ruffles
Photo of the Ruffled Satin Pajamas

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Jrhee said... (5/29/12 8:12 PM) Reply
I'm going to have to give this a try!!
EllenV said... (4/19/11 11:54 AM) Reply
So, so helpful. I'm doing a dress with about 200 feet of bias ruffling and this tip basically saved my life. :D
MagpieJen said... (4/6/09 10:45 PM) Reply
This sounds SO COOL. Long have I yearned after a ruffling foot - the idea that I might get the results without one is splendid!
Old Pro said... (8/3/08 1:50 PM) Reply
Sew Very Tall, Hopefully this will not be found to be objectionable as my other notes are on this site. You deserve a comment. Excellent job! You put a great deal of time in your pyjamas. It's beautiful! I never thought of testing with samples before unless I specifically did a prototype for someone. I believe I will use this idea in the future. You do have a better idea of the results and if you like it. Thank you, Old Pro
Shazie said... (1/11/08 2:28 PM) Reply
God bless you. I have been struggling to get my gathering foot to work to no avail. This technique works really well. thanks for sharing your knowledge!
OP Gal said... (2/15/07 9:15 PM) Reply
This is a great tip. I hate making gathers the old fashioned way and trying to get them even. I'm definitely going to try this the next time I make ruffles. Thanks!
SewVeryTall said... (2/14/07 12:15 PM) Reply
Levone...after reading your message, I went to my machine and used scraps of firm cotton and satin to experiment. The straight grain didn't gather as well on a double layer of either fabric [6" down to 4.5"]. A single layer of straight grain satin still gathered 2:1. A single layer of straight grain cotton gathered 6:4. Then I tried the bias on the cotton...a single layer gathered 2:1, but a double layer was again 6:4. It seems to be the bias and the thickness of the fabric that's making the difference. It could be partly that your machine's tension doesn't go as tight as mine too. The presser foot pressure should be pressing as hard as possible, so the feed dogs can really bite the fabric. One technique that helped a little was to put my index finger behind the presser foot, pushing against the back of the foot, as if to try and stop the fabric from feeding through. The fabric bunches up until you have to let it go, but start pushing again before you keep on sewing. Thank you for your input and kind words...I hope that fiddling with your controls can help to make this work for you :)
Levone said... (2/14/07 9:31 AM) Reply
I wanted to give an update on my attempt at this tip...first of all it worked, but my gathers were not as defined as yours pictured. My machine only goes up to a tension of 9, so I used that and changed the foot tension to 0 (normally at 3), and used a longer stitch length (I think 4mm). Do you think it's because your fabric was on the bias? I used a two layer piece of firm cotton (for pillow). Anyhow, I'm going to try it again on my next attempt at gathering...and play around with my machine settings more. I did not try many settings, I'm impatient, so that could've been another reason, haha. Anyhow, THANK YOU for inspiring me to try out different techniques with my sewing machine. I love reading your tips!
Alice near Atlanta said... (2/13/07 4:53 PM) Reply
You're a genius, why aren't you working for Bill Gates? I've read some of your other suggestions and I'm really impressed! Now....what do you do in your spare time, lol.
SewVeryTall said... (2/13/07 11:29 AM) Reply could do that, but, think about when you go around a curve, or get to that corner on a'll want to push in more fullness to fill in the curve, or to go around that corner. Conversely, there may be areas where you want less ruffling [like under the arm on a short sleeve], so you can slide some fullness out. Pinning the ruffle to the project is a good way to secure the fullness until the ruffle is attached permanently.
abcameo said... (2/13/07 10:41 AM) Reply
Would it be helpful, after getting the fabric ruffled, to go back and do regular straight stitching to secure the eveness of the ruffles before attaching it to a pillow or garment?
cathy45 said... (2/13/07 10:22 AM) Reply
Great tip! Another one for my binder.
Joey in Katy said... (2/12/07 8:15 PM) Reply
Can't wait to try it!
MelissaB in WA said... (2/12/07 9:16 AM) Reply
Deepika said... (2/12/07 8:07 AM) Reply
great idea.
SewVeryTall said... (2/12/07 5:22 AM) Reply
I uploaded the photo again, and changed the seems to work now [ignore the address I put in the comment above] :::whew:::
Levone said... (2/11/07 4:11 PM) Reply
Thanks for this tip as I am in the process of gathering ruffles for some pillows and I'm trying different methods to see what I like best. I'm definitely trying this tip out today.
Mary Stiefer said... (2/11/07 9:42 AM) Reply
This is a great idea. As usual - you are so good about sharing and we all do appreciate it.
KempCorr said... (2/11/07 8:03 AM) Reply
Great idea
SewVeryTall said... (2/11/07 7:27 AM) Reply
deleted link
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