Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to make circle ruffles

Photo credit: Kyra Malicse
 You know, I try not to be too too girly, but one day I decided I needed to make ruffles.  Really.  Stop pretending you don't think they're cute.  I had to do a tango demo for my club, Texas Ballroom, and nothing I owned was right.  In December,  bought a new dance dress, but it just didn't feel tango-y enough, for lack of a better phrase.  It was a beautiful emerald green dress that was nearly floor length, but to me it just seemed more suited for waltz.

I already own an asymmetrical black skirt, so I pulled it out.  I was pretty grossed out at the horrible craftsmanship of one year ago me, so I threw it on my bed and started over.

Long story short, I made a new asymmetrical black skirt with a slit up the short side.  The long side went down to my knee and the short side went to mid thigh.

I modeled the ruffles I wanted to make after this skirt.  In order to avoid looking like a curtain, I chose to make circular ruffles rather than gathered ruffles.  I also chose a pretty thin flowy fabric so it would move with me for those sharp tango movements.

Here are the steps I followed:

1. Decide how dense you want your ruffle to be
    You make a circular ruffle by cutting out a circle and then cutting out a circle within that circle and sewing the edge of the inner circle to the garment.  The bigger the inner circle, the less dense the ruffles will be.

The circle I made had an inner circle diameter of 3 inches and an outer diameter of 10 inches.

I pinned it to my dress form just so I could see how dense it was.  This density will also vary with the fabric a little bit.

2. Make a pattern for your ruffle
    Most likely if you are already experimenting with the density of the ruffle, you have already made a pattern for it, but I'll tell you how to do this anyway.  I took a water bottle and traced the bottom of it to make the inner circle of the pattern just out of some paper.  To make the outer circle, I measured a circle 3.5 inches away from the inner circle with a ruler.  I cut out the outer circle, cut a slit through the ring, and cut out the inner circle. (Scroll down for a picture)
3. Decide how much you will need
    For my skirt, I needed about 66 inches of ruffles.  I couldn't make one circle with an inner diameter of 66 inches that would be dense enough, so I had to attach multiple circles together.

Math time.  Here's a (simple) formula to help you decide how many circles you need to cut out

L = Total length of hem that will have the ruffles on it
x = number of ruffles
d= inner diameter of your circles
s = seam allowance (for sewing the circles together)

x = L/(d-2s)

In case you are curious where that came from...
L = d*x - 2s*x
L = x*(d-2s)
x = L/(d-2s)

4. Cut out the ruffles
    You'll start to notice that ruffles take a lot of fabric, so be prepared!  I ended up tripling the fabric so I did not have to spend too much time cutting them out.

5. (Hem the ruffles)
    I didn't actually do this step because my fabric doesn't fray, and the fabric was dry clean only anyway.  My book (really wonderful sewing book.  I recommend it to anyone who is starting sewing or knows how to sew but doesn't know a ton of technique) says to use a rolled hem, which I might try next time.

6. Attach the ruffles to each other
    Stitch them together right side to right side, as usual.

7. Attach the ruffles to the garment
    Stitch it together right side to right side.

8. Clip the seam allowance
    You must clip the seam allowance on the inside of the garment so pouching does not occur.

9. Iron it out

Here's the final product:

I welcome anyone who is tired of crappy pictures to get me a nice DSLR.

Photo credit: Kyra Malicse

Photo credit: Kyra Malicse

Photo credit: Kyra Malicse

In only 4.5 hours I made this lovely skirt.  When I say "only" I mean, it was a really long time.  Cutting out the ruffles, sewing them together and all that jazz took a long time.  I probably finished the main skirt (designing it, making a pattern, cutting it out, and sewing it together) in 2 hours.  However, I'm pretty happy with the product.  I initially meant for there to be no slit up the side of the skirt, but it turns out I didn't account for my butt being so big.  It would have just been bunching and lines everywhere if I sewed it up.  So I guess what I learned from this is when in doubt, show some leg?  Given the above picture, the slit up the side seemed to be a better choice anyway.

How am I doing on my to-do list?  Apparently not well...
1. Dresses for Tehya- check!  Just waiting on some gem stones to come in the mail...
2. Tango shirt skirt- check!
3. Simple knitted scarf tutorial- working on it.  I'm bringing my knitting with me everywhere, but so far I only have a couple of inches.
4. Rathi makes a skirt- Rathi cut it out and gave up.  Not sure if I can motivate her to start again...
5. Easy dance skirts- Stay tuned.

I'm also taking suggestions, so give me things to work with! :)


  1. Ahem.

    Lace shorts



  2. This is great. What was your basic design for the skirt? It doesn't look quite like an asymmetrical hem, but rather an A-line skirt with a slit in it.

  3. Thanks for the lesson. Just what I needed today to add a soft ruffle to a Halloween costume!