Types of Ruffles – Gathering Fabric in 10 Ways

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Learn about the different types of ruffles. Ruffles, or the ruff, has a remarkable fashion history. The famous ruff or ruffle was exceptionally well known in Elizabethan times. Worn by men and women, the ruffles were predominantly worn around the neck. The concept of a ruffle has been popularized by fashion icons like Lady Diana and even Lady Gaga. 

Ruffles can be simply gathered fabric pieces on a sleeve or ornate layers of ruffled fabric on a ball gown. Wherever you plan to stitch a ruffle, there are some simple principles to consider. This article will show you the different types of ruffles.

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Types of RufflesWhat is a Ruffle?Preparing a RuffleSewing Ruffles – Basic Types of Ruffles9 More Types of RufflesFolded Types of RufflesDouble Edged Types of RufflesPattern Stitched RufflesPleated Types of RufflesTwo-Tone Types of RufflesBias Cut Types of RufflesWaterfall Ruffles or Neckline RufflesSpiral Types of RufflesCircular Types of RufflesTypes of Ruffles – HemsTypes of Ruffles – In Conclusion

Types of Ruffles

What is a Ruffle?

A ruffle is a strip of fabric gathered along one edge to create a frill on the edge of a garment or other sewn item. Ruffles can also be produced by cutting fabric in circular shapes or gathering a rectangular piece of fabric.

In fashion, ruffles are often found at the hems of skirts, and as decoration around the neck and at the wrists. A ruffle may be small or large and dramatic in size. They may be single or layered to create a fuller effect.

Preparing a Ruffle

When adding a ruffle to a part of a garment, there are some considerations. Firstly check your pattern pieces for a ruffle pattern. If there are no pattern pieces, you will have to make one of your own. 

Firstly you need to decide on the width of the ruffle and add on your seam allowance. Secondly, the length of the ruffle needs to be determined, and this depends on how full you want the ruffle to be. Here’s an opportunity to bring out the designer in you! Measure the area where the ruffle will be placed, then add to the length by increasing the measurement by 1.5 or double or three times the length. The longer the ruffle piece, the fuller the ruffle will be. The third thing to consider in the preparation is to neaten the edge of the ruffle before you attach it to the garment. It is far easier to neaten or trim the ruffle before attaching it to the area you plan to add some fullness.

Sewing Ruffles – Basic Types of Ruffles

Here is the step-by-step instructions for sewing a ruffle and how to gather fabric. This is the most basic type of ruffle.

Step 1 – Hem

Prepare your ruffle according to the pattern instructions on your pattern sheet. Remember to neaten or hem the bottom at this stage. The most common is a narrow hem. It is harder to hem after the ruffle has been gathered.

Step 2 – Gathering Stitches

Sew gathering stitches along the stitching line. Two rows of gathering make it easier to gather a longer ruffle. Set your machine on the gathering or longest stitch and pull the two threads together to create an even row of gathers. 

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Step 3 – Matching

It is a good idea to measure the space along the ruffle at quarterly intervals before drawing up the threads to gather the ruffle. Use pins vertically at the quarter points. Mark the same points at quarterly intervals along the area to be ruffled. 

Draw up the gathering threads and match the pins you used to mark the quarterly spaces.  This method of marking and fitting in the ruffle helps to distribute the gathers evenly.

Use a pin to pull the gathers into straight rows by stroking the gathers and making them fall evenly. Wind the gathering thread around the pin to keep it secure at the end of the gathering. 

Step 4 – Stitch

When you are happy with the even distribution of fabric, you may machine stitch the gathered part of the frill. If you have two rows of gathering, sew between the rows for another way to ensure even distribution. 

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Press the ruffle and neaten the raw edges of the seam allowance. Remove any gathering stitches which show.

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This is a very basic ruffle and a great way to lengthen all kinds of sewing projects.  However, there are other varieties of ruffles and different ways to trim them.

9 More Types of Ruffles

Here are 9 more kinds of ruffles and how to sew them:

Folded Types of Ruffles

The folded ruffle is simply the ruffle folded in half and doubled as it is gathered and stitched onto the area to be ruffled. The folded ruffle does not need to be hemmed. Depending on the type of fabric used, this ruffle can be very full and stiff.

Double Edged Types of Ruffles

This ruffle is folded down the center and gathered at the center fold. The two raw edges serve as double edges and are neatened accordingly. Double-edged ruffles look very smart down the center front of a blouse.

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Pattern Stitched Ruffles

Instead of a straight stitch to gather, try different patterns of decorative machine stitches.  Different variations of the pattern create zigzags, waves, and other designs using machine stitches to create different patterns.

Pleated Types of Ruffles

Different effects can be tried with pleating through the center or edge of the ruffle. Try seeing how different types of pleats look like ruffles: knife pleats or box pleats. An interesting twist to the knife pleats is to fold down the edges of each knife pleat to give a chevron effect. 

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Two-Tone Types of Ruffles

Experiment with different tones of color and double the two pieces of fabric together. Use the joined fabrics to make the ruffles described. Two tones will show depending on how you gather and place the ruffle.

Bias Cut Types of Ruffles

Ruffles cut on the bias will tend to fray less. Neatening these ruffle edges may result in a crinkled edge. Bias ruffles will also be softer and hang better as they will have more drape.

Waterfall Ruffles or Neckline Ruffles

These ruffles are an added enhancement to a neckline that will be pulled off the shoulder. The ruffle and the added elastic give greater volume, and the neckline can be pulled off the shoulder like a peasant-style top.

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Spiral Types of Ruffles

Spiral ruffles are a lot of fun to add an air of decor to a cushion or an accessory to a garment.  Simply make your folded ruffle and pull the gathers quite tight. The ruffle will start to look as if it is curling into a circle. This is the spiral, and depending on what you want to make, you can wrap and stitch the spiral round and round to make a series of spirals on a circular base. Spirals make beautiful decorative cushions. A brooch or little flare of color on a blouse or dress is another way of using your spiral ruffle.

Circular Types of Ruffles

The circular ruffle adds a dramatic effect to peplums and Spanish dance dresses like the flamenco. The ruffle is cut in a circular shape with a hole in the middle like a donut.  Here are the specific instructions to cut and sew a circular ruffle.

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Steps to cut and sew a circular flounce ruffle:

Step 1 – Cutting

Draw and cut out your circle on a large piece of paper. You can use a plate or any circular shape for the inner circle.  This is the section that will be cut out and used for the inner section of the ruffle. It may be joined to other similar circles if a longer ruffle is required. A compass will also work well. 

Then decide on the width of the ruffle and add a ½” seam allowance and a ½” hem allowance. Use your compass to draw another circle around the outside for the width of the circular ruffle.

Draw a straight line from the outer circle along the radius to the inner circle. Cut through on this line and then cut out the inner circle. Now you have your donut shape cut out of paper.

Types of Ruffles - Circular FlounceTypes of Ruffles - Circular FlouncePinTypes of Ruffles – Circular Flounce

Place your circle on your fabric and put the line you cut through the radius on the straight grain of the fabric. This line may have to join other circles depending on the size of the area for your ruffle. 

Joining circles together with straight edges will result in a better finish. Join the circles together to fit the area you plan to add a circular ruffle to.  You may prefer to work in half circles, but the principle is the same.

Here you can see the effect of varying the size of the inner circle.

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Step 2 – Join

Join the circles and use a French seam for fine fabrics.  Measure the space and fit the circle ruffle according to the space on the garment. Remember to hem at this stage before attaching it to the garment. It is a good idea to stay stitch the inner circle to prevent any stretching.

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Step 3 – Ease

Remeasure the garment edge where you plan to attach the circular ruffle. Snip along the inner circular edges to allow the circular edge to straighten out, ready to attach to the garment.

Stretch the ruffle out into a straight line and remeasure the ruffle.  Now your ruffle edge should fit into the space you intend to ruffle.

Step 4 – Pin and Stitch

Pin the ruffle in place with vertical pinning and stitch with your seam allowance at ½ inch (12mm).  It is easier to attach the ruffle along a straight edge, but if you are attaching to a circular edge, measure and mark the quarters on the edge and on the frill to guide an even distribution.

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Press the seam upwards towards the main body of the garment.  Neaten the seam with a serger or topstitch the seam flat.

Circular ruffles are very versatile and can be used creatively on all sorts of garment parts and in different directions.

Types of Ruffles – Hems

Finally, trimming the edge of your ruffle can be a creative experience too.  Instead of just a simple hem, here are some suggestions to add further decor to your beautiful ruffle.

BIAS – Bias binding the edge is a great way to accentuate a color or to self-bind and give a clean edge to the ruffle.LACE – Adding a bit of lace or some broderie Anglais always adds a feminine touch.TULLE – Fluff up your ruffle with tulle underneath or just make a tulle ruffle for effect.POM-POM TRIM – Add some pom-poms as a trim along the edge or a piece of rickrack to give a gypsy look to the skirt or top. Little girls love these colorful trims.

Types of Ruffles – In Conclusion

The ruffle is really a wonderful way of adding some interest to any garment.  You will never be accused of ruffling someone’s feathers if you take the extra time and effort needed to embellish and create a charming piece of extra extravaganza for your next sewing creation.

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