Inset Ruffled Panel

One of my Try It! projects for the year is to add some tutorials to the Craft Addict blog. I’ve had several requests for tips on creating the inset ruffled panel seen on the outfit on the left, so I decided to share a tutorial so you, too, can add this fun and decorative touch to your sewing projects.

I’ve used these ruffles to embellish the underskirt area showing between the peek-a-boo panels of this top’s overskirt, but you could easily use them anywhere you can imagine. Think of a tote with ruffles cascading down the sides. Or pants legs. Or even the hem of a skirt. You can do as many rows of ruffles as you want; it’s up to you.

The tools I use to create mine include a rotary cutter and mat, a clear acrylic ruler, a fabric marker or chalk, pins, a sewing machine and a serger. Is the serger absolutely necessary? I don’t believe so but it will require that you gather each ruffle by hand and then basting them to a strip of narrow binding or ribbon. Using a serger is infinitely easier and faster, and this tutorial is illustrated with serger-created ruffles.

Before you begin, you will need to decide how large of an area you want to inset with ruffles. On the top shown here, I measured the opening between the overskirt panels and added a half-inch seam allowance to compensate for the additional seams I would be adding to the underskirt. If you are adding ruffles to a pattern piece and will extend them from edge to edge of the pattern piece, you won’t need to worry about adding seam allowances.

Next you’ll want to determine the size and number of your ruffles. I wanted a fair amount of pattern showing between the ruffles, so I measured the height of my panel and subtracted one inch to allow for the seam allowance at the top of the bodice and a 1/2-inch hem. The resulting number was easily divisible by four, allowing me to place my ruffles about every three inches. I then cut strips about twice as long as my panel by two inches deep. Before gathering the top edge, I hemmed the bottom edge. (Why? Because it’s a lot easier to hem a flat piece of fabric than one that’s already been gathered — especially when the gathered edge is so close to the hemmed edge.) I then used my serger to gather and overcast the top edge of each ruffle strip. It’s OK if your ruffles are longer than the panel (mine often are) because you’ll trim everything up neatly after you’ve finished sewing them down.

Use your ruler and fabric marker/chalk to draw guidelines for your ruffles. If you are adding ruffles to a panel that has a curved edge, use your pattern piece to make curved lines at regular intervals instead of straight lines. This will let your ruffles follow the natural curve of the hem.

Now we’re going to do something a little wacky: you’re going to turn your panel upside down. Why? Stop asking so many question and just do it! LOL! Actually, it’s much easier to pin your ruffles if the fabric is turned this way. Obviously, YMMV and if leaving it right-side up works better for you, then by all means do that. What does matter is that the ruffles should be pinned to the panel with right sides together and the top edge of the ruffle on top of the guide lines. This is the exact opposite of how they will hang when you are finished with your panel. when you are done with each row, you’ll have something that looks like this:

Yes, I pinned all of my ruffles to the panel at the same time. If you prefer, you can pin and sew each row individually. This is what works for me, so that’s what you’re getting in this tutorial. When you’re ready to sew, take the panel to your machine and set your needle position on your sewing machine so that it’s just to the left of your gathering/serger stitches. (If you’ve done your ruffles by hand and basted to a binding strip/ribbon, you will instead use that as your guide.)

Continue to sew until all of your ruffles are attached to the panel. If you did not remove the pins as you were sewing, do so now. (I’m trying to break the habit of sewing over pins; please ignore the photo evidence to the contrary).

Your pin-free panel is getting that much closer to being finished! Take it over to your ironing board and press the ruffles down so the wrong side is touching the panel and the ruffles are hanging in the proper direction (see photo below). You may need to gently tug the ruffles down and away from the fabric panel to make sure you are pressing a nice, clean top edge without any “bubbles” of extra fabric.

When all of your ruffles are pressed down properly, return with the panel to your sewing machine and topstitch closely to the top edge of each ruffle. This will help keep your ruffles neatly hanging properly, as well as hide the attached edge below. I used a contrast stitching on these ruffles but you could use a coordinating thread to make the stitching less obvious.

Now use your ruler and rotary cutter to trim of any excess ruffle hanging over the edge of your panel (see photo below, left). Your finished panel will then be ready to insert into your garment! (photo below, right)

The edges of the ruffles will be caught in the seams of your garment, like so:

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