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Learn How to Crinkle Gauze
Double gauze is super soft, making it the top choice for layette swaddling blankets and other baby bundling. But it has lots of potential outside the nursery, especially when you apply a crinkling effect, sometimes called “contortion” pleating. We really like how this crinkling gives the double gauze an edgy, more modern feel. We originally chose a double gauze with a metallic pattern for a bit of extra shimmer, but there are many options from which to choose when searching for this substrate.
We spotted a similar long scarf to ours at Barney’s selling for $270! Learn how easy it is to do it yourself for SO much less – and create a look that’s unique to you and your wardrobe.
In general, regular gauze is known for its sheer open weave. In fact, the process that creates gauze is even called “gauze weave” (or “leno weave”). This weaving process twists two warp yarns around the weft yarn in a figure eight pattern, resulting in a strong yet sheer fabric. Double gauze is just that, two layers of gauze. Teeny tiny stitch tacks, so teeny and tiny as to be invisible from the right side of the fabric, hold the layers together. These double layers help eliminate the super-sheerness of standard gauze and give the fabric a bit of extra weight, which imparts the wonderful, almost velvety drape that you want in a scarf that can be wrapped around and around.
You may be familiar with the term “broomstick” pleating. You might even own a “broomstick skirt.” Though similar, this is not exactly what we are doing here. Broomstick pleating requires gathering the fabric, then rolling it around a thin pole (like a broomstick handle), and binding it in place. It is then left to simply air dry for several days. The resulting pleating effect is one-directional.
We are showing the easier, faster “contortion” pleating, which involves twisting the fabric into a bound bundle that is then dried in a conventional dryer or a microwave prior to final air drying. Of course, since we chose a metallic option for our sample scarf, we didn’t use a microwave! When done and untwisted, the resulting crinkles are multi-directional. We actually liked this look better than the more uniform broomstick pleating pattern.
The steps below detail how we soaked our gauze in a water bath with a bit of vinegar added to help hold the pleats, and we give you some follow-up tips on how to wash a crinkled gauze. In reality, something like a scarf is rarely washed; I think I have some scarves I’ve never washed, but it is possible. You just have to take the time to do some re-crinkling.
To add a bit of extra elegance to our scarf design, we included a row of handmade tassels along each end in a blend of soft, thin yarn and metallic gold crochet thread.
Our crinkled scarf finished at approximately 11½” x 76”. Your results may vary, but should be similar.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: As mentioned above, our crinkled scarf finished at approximately 11½” x 76”. Your results may vary, but should be similar. Our starting length was determined based on scarf lengths we found at various retail outlets. The starting width makes the best use of the Embrace 50” width; we simply cut our yardage in half, which means…. one scarf for you and one for a friend! Of course, as always, feel free to adjust your width and length for your best fit.
- 2¼ yards of Double Gauze; we originally used Make A Wish in Blush/Gold from the Embrace Double Gauze collection by Shannon Fabrics
- ONE skein of thin, soft yarn in a color to coordinate with the background color of the gauze: we originally used Cleckheaton’s Australian Superfine Merino 8ply yarn in Cameo Pink, purchased locally
- ONE skein of metallic crochet yarn in a color to coordinate with the metallic accents: we used Aunt Lydia’s Metallic Classic Cotton Crochet Thread, Size 10 in Natural/Gold, purchased locally
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Yarn or tapestry needle for attaching tassels
- Small bowl or tub for soaking
- Distilled white vinegar; approximately one cup
- Clean covered hair bands or string for binding up the twisted knot o’ fabric
- 3″ x 5″ index card or similar to use as a tassel template
- From the Double Gauze, cut ONE 25” wide x 79” long panel.
NOTE: Yes, do cut just one continuous panel. With some of our other long scarf tutorials, we’ve put together two shorter panels with a nearly invisible back seam to create the super long length. But a horizontal seam, especially a French seam or similar, which is what would be required here in order to keep the scarf as just one layer, will distort the crinkling. No good. But remember, you can cut two from your original yardage.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Cut and hem prior to crinkling
- We did test the crinkling process with both a hemmed edge and a raw edge. Our determination, and what most other experts suggest, is to make your cut and hem all sides prior to crinkling. The raw edge was distorted and had started to ravel quite bit after all the twisting and drying.
- Our starting width was 25”. Remember, our test sample had three hemmed edges and one cut edge to test raw versus finished.
- The Embrace Double Gauze has a beautiful weight to it, but that also means it’s a bit too thick for a traditional rolled hem. We suggest a simple narrow hem.
- To this, fold in the raw edge ¼”, then fold an additional ¼” and pin in place.
- Our corners were a simple overlap, but you could also make a clean diagonal point corner, using our handy tutorial.
- Stitch the hem in place around all four sides, staying close to the inner edge and pivoting at each corner.
- While the scarf is still flat, mark the position for the optional tassels. We attached five tassels along each end. There is one at each corner, one in the exact center, and the final two are evenly spaced between each corner and the center point. We marked our points with safety pins so they would stay in place through the crinkling process.
How to crinkle
- Fill a small tub or bowl with about four cups of room temperature tap water. To that add about one cup of distilled white vinegar.
- The vinegar is completely optional. It’s been used for years as a secret for setting sharp pleats. The water-to-vinegar ratios we found in our research ranged from 2:1 to 10:1. That’s a pretty wide range, so why not go for the middle, right? This is the very scientific method we used to determine our 4:1 solution.
- We did test with just water and came out with a very reasonable crinkle. However, the crinkles on our test with the vinegar solution were tighter and sharper, so we do recommend adding vinegar.
- But won’t the scarf smell like salad dressing when you’re done?! There was a faint vinegar smell when we first un-bundled our test to air dry. Even then, it required putting your nose right into the gauze to catch a whiff. Once the scarf air-dried overnight, there was only the very faintest odor remaining – again it required really burying your whole face into the material to catch the smell. The longer it’s in the air, the more the smell dissipates. The benefit is that your crinkles are going to stay crinkly longer. How much longer? We can’t tell you exactly since there are a lot of variables within the process (amount of fabric, how tightly twisted, how much vinegar, how long dried, etc.) but in general, after about two weeks both our water-only and water + vinegar tests were holding their crinkles quite well. Below is a photo of our water-only crinkle test (after two weeks).
- Immerse the hemmed scarf in the water. Make sure it gets fully wet.
- Remove from the water and wring it out. You can even roll it in a towel to help absorb excess moisture.
- Working with the full length of the scarf, twist it into a single long rope. Twist from one end all the way down to the opposite end. Keep your twist as tight as possible. It can help to clamp one end in place or you can do this step with a friend so you can both hold onto one end and get your twist on!
- Band or tie each end to secure.
- Fold the twisted rope in half and twist again. When you fold it, the tautly twisted rope will naturally want to start to spiral around itself. Secure both ends again once twisted.
- Fold a third time and twist to form a coiled, knotted ball of fabric. Make sure this final ball is well secured. Tuck any loose ends into the center of the ball.
NOTE: With our length of fabric, we twisted three times. If your crinkling project is larger or smaller, you may have to do more or less twisting.
- Pop the twisted ball into the dryer. We put a towel in with it to help adsorb moisture as well to help deaden the sound of a ball spinning around in the dryer. The length of time to dry will vary. We dried ours for about 90 minutes on a low-medium heat setting. It need not be fully dried when you take it out, but it shouldn’t feel super damp.
- You can use a microwave for this step. BUT… of course you can’t if you are using a fabric with metallic accents as we did! And, you want to make sure your binding (hair bands and/or string) doesn’t contain any metal either. Once again, the length of time will vary. Start with just a minute or two at a time, and keep an eye on it at all times.
- Once dried, gently untie and unwrap the bundle.
- Our 25” panel has already crinkled down to about 15”.
- Lay out the panel on a flat surface (we used our ironing board) and let it air dry overnight. It might be obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: don’t smooth out your pretty crinkles. Just gently lay the crinkled panel on the flat surface.
- In the morning, the air-dried panel had crinkled up a bit further to finish at just 11½” with lots of cool crinkles. Perfecto!
Make the tassels
- Our scarf includes six tassels along each end. We used a combination of yarn and crochet thread to create our 3″ tassels.
- Cut an approximate 15″ length of yarn. Wrap the yarn horizontally across the 3″ x 5″ card. Hold the tails securely along the side with one hand.
- With the opposite hand, wrap the yarn vertically around the center of the card about 25 times. When done, trim from the skein and slide the tail under the thumb that is still holding the original horizontal yarn’s tails.
- Wrap the crochet yarn vertically around the card, over the yarn, about 10 times. Just as above, trim from the skein and slide the tail under the thumb holding the original horizontal yarn’s tails.
- Release the yarn and thread tails. Pull up on either end of the horizontal yarn length, bringing it up to the top of the card and cinching together the loops of yarn and thread. Cinch tightly and knot twice to secure. These are the “hanging ties.”
- Slide the loops off the card. Clip through the bottom loops to create individual ends.
- Thread an approximate 3″ length of the crochet thread through the tapestry needle. Starting with a tail a bit longer than the rest of the tassel, wrap about 10 times around to create the ‘head” of the tassel. Finish by sending the needle down the center of the tassel and pulling tight.
- We liked the look of a double head, creating the first wrap about ½” down from the top of the tassel, then adding a second wrap about ¼” below the first.
- When all your tassels are done, line them up with your previous safety pin markings along each end.
- Thread one of the hanging ties through the tapestry needle. At a marked point, thread it through the hem from back to front. Pull taut so the head of the tassel butts right up against the hem.
- Un-thread from the needle and tie both tails together, making a double knot for security. Re-thread one tail through the needle again, and as you did with the header wraps above, feed the tail down through the center of the tassel. Pull it tight, hiding it amongst the tassel tails. Repeat to thread and insert the remaining tail through the center of the tassel.
- Cut any loose bits and/or any loops you might have missed cutting above. We left the ends of our tassels slightly uneven. It looked better than an even slice, which felt kind of like a bad bang trim.
NOTE: If you are brand new to making tassels, you might want to check out our full step-by-step tutorial: How to Make Your Own Tassels.
- As mentioned above, a scarf is not really an item that requires a lot of washing. But in case you’ve worn yours to a barbecued ribs party, you can launder this scarf.
- Machine wash in cold water on the delicates setting and with delicate detergent/soap. You can wash it with other items if need be. If you added the tassels, you may want to enclose the scarf in a mesh bag.
- Gently wring out the excess water, then follow the same twisting and drying steps you did above to set the original crinkles, either with or without additional vinegar.
- If the scarf doesn’t need washing, but it seems like the crinkles are losing a bit of their crispness, try using a spray bottle filled with water or water + vinegar. Spritz the scarf along its entire length. Just get it damp; it doesn’t have to be soaked through. Then, once again follow the original steps above for twisting and drying.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Kathy Andrews
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Love this long scarf with the
Love this long scarf with the super cute tassels! Ordered my double gauze in “Royal to the Point” from the Fat Quarter Shop just now. Thank you for being so detailed on the yarn required for the tassels. I know zero about knitting, so shopping for the tassel supplies will be easier with these details.
@shrilsew – Thanks so much!
@shrilsew – Thanks so much! It really is an easy technique to master. Let us know how your project turns out!