Sewing Lesson: Blue Ribbon Ruffle

I try to be the crafter who’s not intimated by trying new things, but I must admit the idea of making a ruffle gave me pause. It sounded complicated. My answer to that was to give it a try when someone was around to hold my hand. Enter my mother-in-law, Deb, and her “blue ribbon” ruffle technique.  It’s the way you’d make a ruffle it were going to be judged at the county fair and you wanted that blue ribbon. Plus, it’s a sensible and straightforward method.

Ruffles are usually one and a half or two times the length of the garment you’re sewing them to. My instructions assume you are at the point where you have a garment mostly sewn and a ruffle you want to sew on it. Both pieces (the garment and the ruffle) have been sewn at the side seams. Essentially, you have two pieces you’ve sewn into hoops, one for the dress and one for the ruffle.  The ruffle is longer.



Step 1:

Take your ruffle piece and sew two lines of loose straight stitching around the top of the ruffle. These are the stitches you will use to gather the ruffle. If your final seam allowance is 1/2 inch, sew one line at a 1/4 inch and the next at 3/4 inch. It’s easier to pull and gather if you break before the seams and start a new line. Leave nice long tails on thread for easier pulling.


Step 2:

Pin the side seams of the ruffle to the side seams of the dress (right sides facing).

Step 3:

Working with one side of the circle, find the middle of the dress and the middle of the ruffle and pin them together at that point. Repeat for the other side. Place pins at four points around the circle, equal distance apart. This will ensure you have about the same amount of gathering on each quadrant of the dress.


Step 4:

Now the fun part, pull the threads and begin to gather your fabric, one quadrant at a time.  Once the ruffle is the same length as the quadrant you’re working with, arrange the ruffle so it has about the same amount of gather all along and pin the ruffle to the dress every few inches.


Step 5:

Sew the ruffle to the dress, putting the seam right between your two rows of straight stitching.


Step 6:

Trim the seam allowance and zip zag or serge the seam.



Step 7:

Rip out the line of straight stitching that you can see from the front side. (It’s a bit tough to see photo below.) It’s easiest to rip it from the back side.


Step 8:

Press it lightly and you’re done!


Quite a lovely ruffle. Worthy of a blue ribbon if I do say so myself.


  1. Yes — you definitely get a big blue ribbon! Good work, Sue!
    MIL Deb

  2. Jessica Anne says:

    Very nice! Possibly manageable, but I might have to have my mom for reinforcements.

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