sew: quick ruching tutorial

I just wanted to show you how I added the ruching on the side ruched maxi dress from a few days ago. It’s very quick and easy, and it comes in handy anytime you want to add a few gathers that stretch. I used it on my skirt to add a little interest in the front:

Then I used it again along the back waistband since the skirt was a little too loose. It adds a few gathers in back to cinch the waist in a little (the gathers are hidden when I fold the yoga waistband down).

I also use ruching fairly often to give sleeves a quick pickup:

I’ve even used this technique to shorten a too-long tank top (adding ruching along both side seams).

Ready for the so-easy-it-can’t-really-even-be-called-a-tutorial? Here we go.

Start by marking the top and bottom of the area you’d like to ruche (or gather) with pins.

Measure the length of the area, divide by 2 and add one inch. That’s how much elastic you’ll need. (My area here is 5 inches, so I cut 3.5 inches of elastic.) You can use 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch elastic, but 1/2 inch is easier to work with.

Pin the elastic down using your top pin, keeping the pin in the same spot. Make sure half an inch of elastic is above the pin.

Now bunch up the fabric enough that you can pin the bottom of the elastic down where the bottom pin is. Make sure half an inch of elastic is below this pin.

Place your fabric on your machine, starting right at the first pin. Backstitch a few stitches, then forward stitch back down to the pin. This will secure the elastic. The fabric will be all bunchy in between the pins:

Grab hold of the elastic at the bottom pin and pull, stretching the elastic until the fabric is smooth.

Sew slowly in a straight line down the middle of the elastic. You may need to use your other hand to gently pull on the top of the fabric to keep it smooth as you sew. When you get to the bottom pin stop stretching and sew right past the pin for a few stitches, then backstitch to secure the seam.

Your elastic will return to it’s normal length, ruching or gathering your fabric. It will look like this on the other side:

Naturally, you want to make sure to sew the elastic onto the wrong side of your fabric, so only the gathers will be visible on the right side.

Super, super easy.


  1. 1

    Michele Ciola says

    Oh look out Ciola household . . . let the rouching (how do you spell that?) begin!!! So fun. I’m definitely trying it!

  2. 2

    katie says

    What a fantastic tip! I want to make a dress with a rouched top and wasn’t sure how to go about doing this–now I know how I’m going to tackle it!

  3. 3

    Mary Jo Smith says

    I can’t believe how simple this is. Great way to shorten sleeves a bit. Can think of many uses for this.

  4. 8

    Marsha says

    Does it matter what color thread you use? Can you see the bobbin thread from the right side of the fabric after ruching? Is that ever an issue?
    Thank you! You have the best tutorial for this I’ve seen. 🙂

  5. 9

    doris wilson says

    I had this blouse mad and don’t wear it because its too big. Been looking for ideas…But I could do this to sleeves and add a belt.. Thanks

  6. 10

    Amanda Jensen says

    If trying to create a ruched belt for a skirt or dress made with charmeuse, would it be better to use a lighter elastic? I think that the waist would be either elastic or a yoga-style waist. Thanks!

  7. 11

    Lori Bea says

    Thank you very much. Your instructions were clear and easy to follow. I do not have a lot of experience sewing. I did not have to guess about anything. I followed your instructions and accomplished the task😀!

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