DIY to Done: Decorative Ruffles

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(This project is Fritz-approved. Literally.)

Ruffles make everything better.

Not the potato chips, of course, but genuine old-fashioned fabric ruffles. This simple decorative touch can breathe fresh life into a jacket, skirt, blouse, purse, or other item of clothing. Ruffles can also be used to create decorative rosettes for hats, lapels, and hair. And of course, no steampunk outfit would be complete without a ruffle or two somewhere . . . even if that “somewhere” is concealed from view.

Back in July, my husband and I miraculously found a vintage 1970s Kenmore sewing machine, complete with unopened accessories and spare parts, and a full cabinet, out for the trash a few blocks away. We took it home, and with just a touch of love, it now works like a dream. This past weekend I inaugurated the new machine with a simple ruffle project.

Sewing Machine

I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. Now that I know how simple ruffles are to make, I’ll be doing them a lot more often to kick an old piece up a notch!

I started with this beautiful bird-and-flowers salmon-pink print. It was a remnant on the Jo-Ann’s sale table, and with my Labor Day coupons, I got it for $2.97 total.

Then, I checked online for a ruffle tutorial. I loosely followed these helpful DIY instructions, but as soon as I got the hang of it I started making my own adjustments.

Because a ruffle requires at least two times the length of fabric than the item it will be edging, I needed a much longer piece of fabric than my money got me. So I had to cut it and sew the strips together to achieve the right length. (Didn’t take long at all, but it did add an extra step.)

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After sewing the strips together, I ironed them down. Then it was time to fold the cloth in half and stitch it with a very loose stitch that could then be gathered to create the ruffle effect:

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This was the only point where I ran into trouble. My old machine doesn’t do a stitch long enough to easily gather. My thread kept breaking. IMG_5470Eventually I resorted to a quick hand basting stitch that I then pulled taught. Because I had probably twelve feet of ruffle, I basted the piece in sections and ruffled each section individually to prevent further strain and breaking of the thread. (I would advise this, definitely, if you’re doing a really long ruffle.)

Once I had gathered all the thread, I pinned it onto a taffeta party skirt (circa 1990s?) that I bought at a local thrift store for $2.

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And voila! At the other end, I had added a beautiful new trim to the skirt. (I’d also created something the cats were desperate to sit on, too. What could be better?)

In coming weeks, I’ll be turning this skirt into a DIY overskirt bustle for a TeslaCon costume. The costume’s colors are copper-brown, salmon pink, and cream—so this “unusual” combination of trim and skirt will look perfect with a brown-and-salmon plaid vest and the plain cream skirt underneath (both also sourced at thrift stores). Watch for an update when that project is finished!

In the mean time . . . these ruffles were so easy and fun that I’ll be looking for excuses (and small bits of fabric) to ruffle up more items or dress up my handmade holiday gifts.

Hmmmm. How about some patchwork ruffles?

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Have you ever trimmed an item with ruffles? Show your favorite ruffle projects (your own or others’) below!

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