Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rufflicious Day 3: The Couching Method

 Today we are talking about my favorite ruffling method! The Couching Method. The word couching (from what google tells me) simply means sewing over thread. If you haven't tried the couching method before, you'll love this tutorial!
I'm embarrassingly excited about this-- I wrote all the pros out before writing the rest of the tutorial. Click on through to learn how and when to use this method.

Before we start, I'd just like to address one thing. I'm cheating a bit with this tutorial. I know I started out saying that we wouldn't use any special tools, but this method requires that you have something thread or string-like to couch over.

The good news is that you can use nearly anything (we'll remove the string in the final project)! I've heard of using dental floss, thin ribbon or even two strands of thread held together. I use crochet thread-- simply because I have it lying around.

The How To:

The Couching Method works by zig-zag stitching over a string (or thread or dental floss). The zig zagging acts kind of like a casing that we can use to gather or ruffle up the fabric. 

1. Change your machine to a zig zag stitch. Narrow your stitch width until it fits in your the seam allowance. 
2. Lay your fabric and string under the presser foot as shown below. 

3. The first time I saw this method I though I'd never be able to zigzag over string-- my sewing is just not that accurate! Here's the secret: make sure the string comes up between the notches on your presser foot. Even if your stitching isn't perfectly straight(mine never is) you'll still be zigzagging right over the string. 

4. Once you reach the end of the row, you'll have something like this. (Notice how my seam allowance isn't perfectly even.
5. I like to tie the sewing thread and the string together at one end.  Then pull on the string from the other end to create the gathers. No need to be gentle here-- the string is sturdy enough that it won't break.
6.  And here you have your ruffle! Once your ruffles are the right length you can tie off the other end too. Once the ruffle is sewn in place both the basting stitches and string can be removed.


  • This method is super fast since neither the zig zagging or adjusting has to be done slowly or carefully.
  • Gathers can be adjusted to a precise length.  
  • This method will work on even the heaviest fabric.
  • You don't have to worry at all about thread breakage.
  • You can easily gather large amounts of fabric into a small space.


  • Requires an additional tool-- the crochet thread/string etc. For a small amount of gathering, it seems like a bit too much work to remember where I put the crochet thread!
  • The zig zagging does take up room in the seam allowance. 
  • I find that the gathers look different from the Old Fashioned Method. They are a bit chunkier and slightly larger.
  • Gathers shift more while sewing than with the Old Fashioned Method. Pressing well will counteract the shiftiness. 

When To Use:

This is the perfect method to use on long lengths fabric of any weight. Although it's possible to rip out the zig zag stitch, I try to use this method on projects where the seam allowance would hide the stitching. I wouldn't use this method on short lengths of fabric, or where the basting stitches will be exposed.

Try It Out:

This is my go to method for gathering skirts for dresses. Quite often you are gathering 3-4 times the waist length, but you still need it to fit precisely into a bodice, and this method is perfect for that! I used that method on the very first dress I made for my daughter (please excuse my photography!):

My favorite little girl dress tutorial is the Charlotte Pattern by Craftiness Is Not Optional. The tutorial is spread over 4 posts, and is very thorough. Even if this is the first dress you've ever made, you'll be able to make the Charlotte Dress. 

I can't believe we are almost done with Rufflicous week-- We just have one tutorial to go. Tomorrow we'll talk about the Scrunch Method, and then we'll have a wrap up on Friday. 

This tutorial was part our Rufflicious Series. For more ruffling tutorials see:

  • The Old Fashioned Method
  • The Tension Method
  • The Couching Method
  • The Scrunch Method
  • Rufflicious Wrap Up

    1. I use this method often! I frequently zig zag over fishing line, it's wonderfully slippery, fabric slides right over it to gather up, and it slides out easily when the ruffle is stitched into place! Years ago, I made 3 tier, tightly gathered tricot petticoats this way!

    2. I won't hate doing ruffles any more! Thanks so very much for the easy to follow instructions!

    3. I won't hate doing ruffles any more - thanks so much for the easy to follow instructions!


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