Monday, January 22, 2007

Sewing for Square Dance Outfits

Red asks:
I'd like some helpful suggestions on making ruffles. I am a square dancer and I would like to make my own outfits but have lots of difficulty with those darn ruffles. Any tips would be appreciated.

Ah yes, ruffles! There are lots of ways to gather a ruffle but due to the length of material needed for the ruffle on a square dance outfit I think the easiest way is to use a specialty ruffler foot. Let me suggest a couple of ways to gather the ruffle without one first though.
1) Set your sewing machine for a wide zig zag stitch. Take a strong string or even some dental floss and zig zag stitch over the top of it, making sure not to catch the cord in the zig zag stitching. Then you can use the cord to gather the ruffle.
2) Make three lines of stitching at the longest stitch length possible (or a basting stitch) on your machine, leaving long thread tails at either end. Take one line of stitches close to the seam line, make the second row above that, and the third line 1/8" above the last line. Pull to gather being careful not to break the thread.

Your gathers can be adjusted when you pin the ruffle to the skirt. Divide the skirt and the ruffle into four sections and pin and adjust each section. It's easier to do it in sections than the whole skirt at once.

Back to the ruffler foot. Depending on your sewing machine you can either get a foot made for your model or a generic ruffler foot. The generic feet are relatively inexpensive and if you can't find one locally you can buy one from Nancy's Notions. They are a bit tricky to attach to your machine but if you take it slow and read the directions it will work. Then you can choose how tight to gather (or pleat) your material. Always do a couple of test pieces to see how it gathers. These feet allow you to gather and sew to the base fabric in one operation, which is a big timesaver.

If you have a serger you might be able to get a gathering foot for that too. I know that you can gather material using the differential feed but I found that on my machine it never gathered enough for me. These presser feet will also gather and sew the ruffle to the base fabric in one operation.

Hope this helps!

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