We can all agree that there is always more than one way to do things, especially in sewing. The method I am going to show you to gather fabric and add ruffles properly is slightly more time consuming than you may be used to, but it will give you the best result.
Some lucky people have the use of a gathering foot for light fabric and the ruffler foot for medium to heavy fabrics. Others would much rather use the very handy dental floss gathering technique if pressed for time or are left with no other choice. I'm going to show you yet another, and I think better, technique.
I use this technique to add ruffles properly when I am spending a lot of money on the fabric. The best example I could give you on when to use this technique would be a wedding dress or a dress that will be on stage for many eyes to see.
Step One: Change the Settings on Your Sewing Machine
The first thing you have to do is to make sure you have a good needle with the proper size according to the fabric. I am using 100% quilting cotton and will be using a size 80 universal needle.
Then, clean the bobbin area and make sure the bobbin is full. You do not want to run out of thread in the middle of the gathering.
Set your sewing machines stitches to the biggest sizes. In my case, it is the #4 size. Test the stitches on a scrap of fabric first.
Step Two: Gathering the Fabric
Whether you are making a slightly gathered skirt or a full gathered skirt, the principle is the same. Sew two rows of stitches, 1/8″ apart. The first row will start 1/4″ from the edge.
Both rows will run parallel to each other and progress from the front side seam to the other (from left to right in the photo).
You should have four threads on either side of the seams. Tie a knot on one top thread. Pull on the thread underneath or pull the bobbin thread (if you are using one).
Using a measuring tape gather the skirt to the exact amount you need.
Step Three: How to add Ruffles Properly
The above instructions on how to gather fabric properly are going to be needed in order to make the ruffle.
How much fabric is best to use when adding a ruffle to a garment? The industry standard is the width of the skirt times six. In my example, I am using a skirt. This means the skirt will be divided into three equal parts in the front and on the back. The picture below is the front so the same at the back.
In my example, I have a skirt that at the hem, is 52″ in width per side. I will make the tulle ruffles six times that width, so I cut 6 pieces of 50″ with each X 4″ wide. It might seem like this is a lot of fabric, but don't worry, it is just the right amount needed to add ruffles properly.
Both sides, one on top of each other.
If you are wondering where does the 50″ comes from, it is from the width of the tulle I am using. Some tulles are much wider than that so you will need to keep the equation in your mind. The width of the skirt times six.
Next, sew all the pieces together at 3/8″ to make a really long strip of fabric.
There will be no need to use a serger if you are using tulle. If you are using cotton, or the ruffle is going to be seen, use a french seam to hide the seams.
Sew two rows of stitches 1/8″ apart. Stop the stitching at every joining seam.
Pin the seams to the skirt marks you have made previously. Pull the threads until the ruffles match the width of the hemline.
Hope you found this tutorial easy to follow. Adding ruffles to a skirt is a great way to make a garment longer and prettier.
As always, let me know in the comments below if you have any questions. And don't forget to use your phone to load a sample photo of your project. Cheers, and happy sewing!