In my previous post I showed off a skirt made from ‘recycled’ t-shirts. (Upcycled is probably a better term for it actually….) The skirt involved a LOT of gathering, and I took a few photos to show how I did the gathering; two different methods that are both a LOT faster and more consistent than doing a zig-zag stitch and pulling a thread, or stitching over dental floss and pulling that to gather…
This is a special foot for your sewing machine that ruffles and pleats (knife pleats – no box pleats I’m afraid) fabric consistently for you. You can even ruffle a top fabric and sew a flat fabric to it at the same time (though I haven’t done that). For the skirt’s ruffled hem, I set the ruffler to “1” (1 tuck for every stitch) and set my stitch length to “4”, using a straight stitch. I’d be sewing this to my skirt later, so I didn’t worry about the longer stitch length for this. The result is a super-dense, but totally consistent pleat that is really fine. The result looks more like a gather than a pleat from the other side, though on close inspection you can see all those tiny knife pleats.
Tips and tricks
A few things I’ve found helpful:
- Install the ruffler without a needle – it’s easier to get the ruffler in place with no needle, and reasonably easy to add the needle back in again once the ruffler is in place.
- Test out the settings on a scrap fabric first.
- Start an inch in – it’s easier to slide a fabric into the ruffler when you can grab the back end. Feeding it into the ruffler head on is challenging (doable though – just use a pin to help guide it… still starting an inch in makes it super-simple.
- … and the most important thing I’ve discovered that I didn’t read about anywhere else… keep checking your needle screw is tight! Because the ruffler uses the screw to help advance your fabric, it’s constantly moving against it, and the needle can loosen up and fall out – huge disaster!
When I know how big I want my finished result to be, but don’t want to sit there dividing up the fabric forever, I use clear elastic. I used this to gather the waist area of the main skirt piece to the size of the waistband. This is as easy as dividing up the skirt waist into four equal sections (or not equal if you wanted more gathering in one area than another!) and then doing the same with the elastic that is the same length/circumference as the finished result. The clear elastic adds next to no bulk, and can even just be serged off when finishing the seam.