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Embellishment Tutorial: How To Make Ruching Strips & A Ruched Flower

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In French, a 'ruche' is a ruffle or a pleat. That's pretty much what it means in English too. But everything sounds so much fancier in French. La Ruche est une merveilleuse technique (see how cool that sounds?!). Use it to add decorative effects to all kinds of sewing projects. Our embellishment tutorial shows you the basic way to create strips of ruching by machine. Then we show you how we turned a single ruched strip into a pretty spiral flower to use as a pillow accent.

Ruching has been a popular technique in sewing for centuries. Since creating it is very similar to creating gathers, you might also want to check out our tutorial: Gathering & Ruffles Made Easy. If you are really into ruffles, take a look at our product review of the Janome Ultimate Ruffler attachment. It makes miles of ruffles a snap.

To Make Ruching Strips

  1. Cut a bias strip of fabric. A basic width for the strip is 1½", but you can widen the strip if you want the ruching to be fuller.
    NOTE: How much to make will depend on the finished shape you want. For our flower pictured above and below, we made about 3 yards of 2" wide strips. You can join strips together if need be.
  2. Press the bias strip in half to identify the center of the fabric.
  3. Unfold and press each side of the bias strip in to the center fold line. The two sides should meet in the middle. This is the back.
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  4. Turn the strip over so the front (the flat side) faces you.
  5. Using a fabric marking pencil or pen, draw lines in an even sawtooth pattern (at 90˚ angles) along the entire length of the fabric.
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  6. Stitch along these lines using matching thread. (We used a contrasting color thread for our photo so you could see the detail, but you should use matching thread – you don't want the thread to show.) You can stitch by hand, using long basting stitches, but we like to use our machine 'cause it's fast and easy.
  7. Select a straight stitch on your sewing machine.
  8. Using the stitch length adjustment, make the stitch as long as possible. This creates what's called a 'basting stitch'. For help on stitch length adjustment, check out our handy reference article.
  9. Leaving at least 4" tails at the beginning of your sewing, stitch along the drawn lines you created in step 5. DO NOT BACKTACK at the beginning or end of the seam.
  10. If your machine offers a needle down feature, (a feature which makes the needle stop in the 'down' position when you stop sewing) it will be helpful to use it so you can pivot easily as you stitch back and forth along your sawtooth line.
  11. Stitch along the entire length of the bias strip.
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  12. Remember – do NOT backtack at the end; instead, simply sew off the end and leave about 4" tails when trimming your top and bobbin threads.
  13. Remove the fabric from the machine. GENTLY pull on the top (needle) thread tail to gather the fabric together. The fabric will gather together with the thread running through the center of the strip, forming ruching. Use your other hand to push the fabric along and keep the ruching even.
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  14. Gather to the consistency you like – pull more for a tighter ruching effect, or not as much for a looser ruche.

Pretty Strips... Now What?

  1. Use your ruching strips to create a dimensional decorative effect, like a flower.
  2. Thread a hand sewing needle with thread to match your ruching strip.
  3. Curl your ruching strips into your desired shape, then simply tack the gathers by hand around and underneath each other, hiding your small hand stitches as you go.
  4. Tuck the beginning and end of the strip to the back of your shape and tack both in place.
  5. You now have a fun shape you can attach, much like an appliqué, to the surface of your project.
    Click to Enlarge


Comments (15)

foxfyreutk said:
foxfyreutk's picture
Am going to use this embellishment on a 3-year-old's top and skirt, but I am going to try raw edge. The outfit is a lightweight cotton for summer and the folding would make the ruching too heavy. And, the raw edge might fray to fuzzy w/washings, which I think the little one would like.
Josanne Springer said:
Josanne Springer's picture
:].Trying to sew a ruched strip for my top became dificult at first, but continuous infomation and insite of others experience gave me the urge to finally get it done correctly. PS. Thanks
Mary Lou said:
Mary Lou's picture
You say to cut bias strips, but the sample you show is obviously cut on the straight grain.
alicia.thommas said:
Jenni J - Actually we didn't use bias tape, we used a strip of fabric cut on the bias (Step 1 under the section To Make Ruching Strips). So the answer to your question is yes -- you can use your choice of fabric cut on the bias. You'd have best success with a quilting weight cotton, but interesting results can come from experimenting.
Jenni J said:
Jenni J's picture
Just curious... why do you have to use bias tape? Wouldn't just a regular strip of material work just as well? I'm fairly new to sewing, so I may be asking a dumb question.smilies/wink.gif
Susan said:
Susan 's picture

Yes, it will.  I'm not sure about all the "bias" here. LOL  I taught a class in making these flowers for a few years... we cut regular strips. The gathering makes them, not the bias.  HOWEVER,  ours were fairly small so we were cutting narrow strips... maybe 2 " at most, 2.5 if you sew the raw edges into a tube. You fold it in half, press it lightly, sew 1/4" seam, turn and press, then put the gathering stitches in.  Alternatively, a nice strip of silk ribbon works beautifully and is easier to work with. Looks very classy. 

JUneD said:
JUneD's picture
You can also use this, but a smaller vesion to make pretty barretts for your little girls hair. I use shinney ribbon and glue the flower on a simple barrett.
NorthWestSea said:
NorthWestSea's picture
If you have any other embellishment tips/tutorials I would love to read about them. This one alone has got my creative wheels turning. THANKS!
DeBovine[at]gmail[dot}com said:
DeBovine[at]gmail[dot}com's picture
Love this! Amazing that a little different cut, fold, and stitch ends up so beautifully! Thanks!
miles243 said:
How fun and easy! I have been on a sewing and quilting kick right now, these will be cute additions to my projects!
TammyTaylor said:
TammyTaylor's picture
Thank you! I would have never figured that out on my own! Another GREAT tutorial.
crescentcity said:
crescentcity's picture
Another beautiful project!,,Thanks for the tutorial, definitely doing this to my pillows..