Add A Ruffle To Any Skirt

Adding a ruffle to a skirt will create a new look or lengthen a skirt that's too short. Here are full instructions.

Adding a ruffle to a skirt is a sewing project even a beginning seamstress can do. You can add lace to the bottom of the ruffle or make it plain. You can even add two or three ruffles, one above another. You can choose coordinating or contrasting fabric for the ruffle. Use lightweight fabric for ease in gathering.

To add a ruffle, first determine how long you wish the ruffle to be. If you are adding a ruffle to lengthen a skirt that has become too short, make sure the ruffle is long enough to lengthen the skirt as you desire. A ruffle can be as short as 2 inches or as long as 8 inches.

Cut strips of fabric the width of the ruffle plus 2 inches. To determine the length of strip you'll need, measure around the bottom of the skirt. Now multiply this measurement by 2.5 or 3. The longer length works well with lighter weight fabrics. Either cut one strip of fabric this long or piece the strips until you have one strip this long. The strips must be cut with or perpendicular to the grain, but not both. Keeping right sides together, sew the strips together with 1/2 inch seams until they form a complete circle. Iron the seams open all along the ruffle.

Now, hem the ruffle. Fold up 5/8 inch to the inside of the edge that is to be the bottom of the skirt, and then fold up another 5/8 inch. Press on the ironing board. If you are a beginner, you can pin the hem up, but with a little experience, you can probably skip that step. Sew in place 1/8 inch from the top fold of the hem. You can now sew lace trim along the hemmed edge if desired.

Lay the pressed, hemmed ruffle out flat and mark the folds at the sides with a vertically placed straight pin, a tiny mark with a pen, or a small notch on the raw edge. Fold in half and mark again. You now have a pin, mark, or notch every fourth of the distance around the ruffle. This step helps you adjust the ruffle evenly around the skirt. If the ruffle strip is very long, for a very full skirt, you might wish to repeat this step, and mark the ruffle by eighths.

The next step is to gather the top edge of the ruffle. Adjust the sewing machine so that the upper tension is loose and the stitch length is on the longest (or "baste") setting. Now stitch along the raw edge 5/8 inch from the edge, starting at one seam and ending at just the other side of the same seam. Cut the thread but be sure to leave a few inches. Repeat the process 3/8 inch from the raw edge. You will have two rows of stitching which will be loose. Take hold of both bobbin thread ends and begin to pull them, gathering the fabric on the threads. Estimate the length you'll need and lay the ruffle aside. You will refine this measurement in a moment.

Now you need to divide the bottom of the existing skirt into as many sections as you divided the ruffle. To do this, first lay the skirt out flat and mark the sides. Now fold it in half and mark the new folds. This divides the bottom of the skirt into fourths. Repeat the step to divide it into eighths.

Match the marks on the ruffle to the marks on the skirt. Pin in place with right sides together. You should have the skirt right-side-out with the ruffle pinned wrong-side-out and upside down around the edge of the skirt, with the raw edge of the ruffle even with the bottom edge of the skirt. Now adjust the ruffles, spreading them out on the bobbin thread, loosening more bobbin thread where needed and tightening the bobbin thread where needed.

When you have adjusted it evenly, reset the adjustments on your sewing machine for normal stitching, and attach the ruffle to the skirt by sewing along the 5/8 inch stitching line. You can do this with either the skirt side facing up or the ruffle side facing up. If the ruffle side is facing down, you will want to gently ease the gathers in with your left hand in between the two layers of fabric. This will keep you from accidentally getting part of the ruffle in the seam. If the ruffle is on top while you're sewing, you can arrange it as you go.

When finished, examine the seam for places where you may have caught the ruffle in the seam. Pick these out with a seam ripper and sew again. If you proceeded slowly and carefully, you will probably not have to do this. Also examine the seam for places where the gathering stitches show and remove these stitches carefully with a seam ripper.

Repeat the process for a double ruffle around the bottom of a skirt. The only difference will be that the second ruffle will need to be applied 2 or 3 inches above the other along a parallel line. Measure, mark, and pin carefully.

Adding a ruffle to a skirt is easier if you are working with a small garment, like a little girl's straight skirt, than it is with a large garment, like a ladies' full skirt. Lighter weight cotton materials are also easier to work with than silky knits.

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