Pin-Tuck a Ruffle
The hem on this skirt may look like pleats, but the effect is made with pin tucks. Sewing the pin tucks takes a little more time, but I love the effect. To make this skirt you can start with a straight or A-line skirt pattern and cut it so the lower edge (before adding the ruffle) ends above the knee. This keeps the skirt flat over the tummy and the hips and still allows for walking room. Then make the ruffle section as deep as you like for added length and fullness. The finished ruffle on my skirt is just shy of 9 inches, about one-third the total length of the skirt, which is a good balanced proportion. To add interest at the hemline, I stop the tucks a few inches from the hemline and that’s what really gives it the ruffled look.
I’ve used silk jersey and wool jersey for this technique, and it works beautifully with knits. For the skirt in this post, I used quilter’s cotton.” It’s the perfect fabric for easy summer garments and the prints are so irresistible. (Check out my article “Quilt-Fabric Fashion,” on using quilting fabrics for garments in SewStylish Spring 2011, if you want to learn more.)
Create the pin-tuck ruffle
1. Cut the band the width desired plus a seam allowance at the top and a narrow hem allowance at the bottom. (See “Doing the math,” below.) Keep in mind: If you cut the band across the width of the fabric, you’ll need to seam two or more sections to form a continuous strip. This is the way you should cut a knit, in order for the stretch to be horizontal—not vertical. You can cut one long strip along the lengthwise grain for most wovens, but this generally takes a lot more fabric.
2. Mark the placement for the tucks on the right side of the fabric with an erasable marker. First draw a horizontal line 3 inches to 4 inches up from the hemline. Draw vertical lines for each tuck connecting the top edge of the band to the horizontal line.
3. To make the tucks, fold along the vertical line and sew 1/8 inch away from the fold starting at the top edge and sewing to the horizontal line.
4. Tie off the threads at the bottom instead of backstitching for a neater finish.
5. To hide the seams, fold along the stitching line, after the seams are sewn, and sew the tuck.
6. Press all the tucks in one direction before attaching the band to the lower edge of the skirt.
Doing the math
This is not my favorite part of a project like this, and I rarely get it to come out exactly. Fabric is forgiving, and the tucked section eases into the skirt comfortably, but if you want a ballpark estimate, assemble your finished band based on this formula: hem+(hem x .25) don’t forget to add for seam allowances. I would suggest being a little generous when cutting and assembling the length of the band. Make the band long so you can cut some off at the ends before seaming if you need to. I like the band to end up slightly longer than the lower edge of the skirt so that it can be eased in slightly to fit, creating just a little more fullness.
More articles on tucks
Pintucks instead of gathers add fullness but not a lot of volume.
Mark the vertical tuck lines and a horizontal line to indicate where to stop stitching on the right side of the fabric.
Sew each tuck 1/8 in. from the fold starting at the top edge.
Make tucks at the seams, too.
Fold at the stitching line and sew the tuck in the same way.