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Ruching via Elastic thread?

educo | Posted in General Sewing Info on


I’m looking to do some ruching via Elastic thread. I’d like to do 10 rows along the side seam. Can you share some techniques? I’ve tried but I can’t seam to get the level of ruching I want. I know I’m supposed to wind the bobbin tight with the elastic thread since I’m using a thin fabric, but it doesn’t seem to gather evenly. How long should my sewing stitches be when I do this?



  1. Teaf5 | | #1

    Any particular reason you want to use elastic thread?  Most ruching is sewn in permanently, without any give, so it's sewn with a long stitch and regular thread and then all the strings are pulled simultaneously and secured. 

    But if you want to do a wide area with a lot of flexibility, it might be easier to use a few rows of very wide elastic rather than elastic thread so that the gathering is more consistent.  After the first row, just make sure you stretch the elastic so that the fabric is lying flat on top while stitching subsequent rows.

    A previous thread on this forum offered a lot of elastic thread tips; I think it was called "making a gathered bodice" or "elastic gathered bodice."

    1. educo | | #2

      Thanks for the response. A friend of mine is asking me to replicate some leggings for her that have ruching on the side since the company is asking $170 for them. The ruching stitches are about 1/4 apart for 10 rows, so having elastic would create bulk, I think. She also wanted that look. So I figured since you need flexibility to pull the leggings on, elastic thread would be a suitable choice. Here is a picture of what I'm talking about.

      1. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #3

        The fullness of the gathers is only about 1 1/2 X full.  That means that for every inch of fabric you only need another 1/2 inch of gathering fabric.  So you are not going to need twice the fullness.  Rather than using elastic thread, I suspect that these used a narrow lingerie elastic, with one row of stitching down the length.  It is not as bulky as you think.  Think of the fine elastic that would be used at the wrist of a child's gathered sleeve, it is only maybe 1/4 inch wide at the most, and very soft, and not highly elastic.  It would hold the stitching better than trying to stitch the ruching with elastic thread, which would not be strong enough for this application.  The action of pulling these pants on would strain the ruching, and the fine elastic would last longer.  I recommend you try a sample stitchout on a scrap, you will see what I mean.  I designed a gathered pair of pants sort of similar to this with gathering down the side seam.  The gathers catch as you pull the pants on.  I had to do many repairs to the stitching until I used elastic to strengthen the seam, and maintain the elasticity.  Cathy

      2. jjgg | | #4

        This may be done by machines that you can't replicate on teh home sewing machine. It most likely is done with just elastic thread in the bobbin, but all rows are sewn at one time, on a machine that has 10 needle in it. This way all the stitches are lined up perfectly with the next. Look at the way wide elastic is sewn onto (sweat pants) waist lines. This is all done in one step.It will be very hard but not impossible to do this at home. After the first row is sewn, the fabric is all gathered up so it makes it difficult to see the next line and get it straight.I'm thinking as I type this, How about if you were to couch on the elastic thread (on the wrong side of the fabric). That way, you could sew all the parallel lines with a small zig-zag, then pull up all the elastic threads at the same time? I think you would get a much more even tension of the elastic that way. With the ruching / gathered effect on the right side, I doubt you would notice the zig-zag stitch.If you wanted to get creative, you could use some kind of contrasting thread on the right side to make it decorative.

        1. educo | | #5

          Oh, this is crazier than I thought. i cant believe the fact that it's about 10 rows of this that it would have to be done at the same time.Couching? Can you explain that to me? I'm having trouble envisioning this in my head.I agree with the fine elastic, it will definitely be more stable and can hold up to the pulling motion of putting these things on.I will test on scrap how to manage this in a way that makes sense.

          1. jjgg | | #6

            couching is when you sew OVER the thread, the elastic thread will just lay on top of the fabric, and you machine zig zag over it so the elastic floats under the zigs and zags but does not get stitched at all to the fabric. This is often used for gathering esp. long lengths of fabric as it is less likely that the gathering thread would break, you can couch on a heavier thread to pull up the gathers.Many machines come with a special foot to hold the thread you are couching in the center (it will have a little hole or loop /groove etc to hold the thread centered so the zigs and zags don't catch it in the needle.You would sew all 10 rows of the zig zag couching on the elastic thread, then grab the ends of all 10 elastics and pull them up evenly and distribute the gathers. This way, the machine stitching will never break if tension is put on it while pulling the leggings on. It is a little wasteful as you will cut off the ends of the elastic you pull out, but it will look even all the way up the leg.The photo shows 10 rows on the outside and the inside of each leg, so thats 40 rows all together, I think 40 rows of lingerie elastic on the inside would make it too heavy. What type of fabric are you going to use?

            Edited 10/15/2008 9:10 pm ET by jjgg

      3. flossie | | #7

        Sometimes it is not necessarily cheaper to make something instead of buying it. Is your friend paying you or are you doing it as a favour?

        If she is paying you and you factor in the time and difficulty involved it might not be much of a saving on the $170.


        1. Teaf5 | | #8

          I agree; likewise, anything that is sold for$170 is probably going to be knocked off for about $29 before you can finish creating one!

          1. educo | | #9

            Well, she just showed me picture and asked if it was easy to do. This was before I did extra investigation and saw the side views with 10 rows on the inner and outer seams as well as CF and CB.All these suggestions are great and if it was just for me, I'd turn it into a labor of love but I recently told her that if she wanted to attempt it herself ( she sews but has beginner skills) she best brace herself.Thanks everyone, you are the best!

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