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
- 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.
- Press the bias strip in half to identify the center of the fabric.
- 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.
- Turn the strip over so the front (the flat side) faces you.
- Using a fabric marking pencil or pen, draw lines in an even sawtooth pattern (at 90˚ angles) along the entire length of the fabric.
- 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.
- Select a straight stitch on your sewing machine.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stitch along the entire length of the bias strip.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Use your ruching strips to create a dimensional decorative effect, like a flower.
- Thread a hand sewing needle with thread to match your ruching strip.
- 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.
- Tuck the beginning and end of the strip to the back of your shape and tack both in place.
- You now have a fun shape you can attach, much like an appliqué, to the surface of your project.