Learn how to use a ruffler foot for the fastest gathering possible. I know what you are asking? What is that medieval contraption in the photo below? Well, it is a ruffler presser foot! These amazing sewing machine feet can gather and pleat all at once with only one row of stitching. This tutorial will teach you how to use a ruffler foot and the best ruffler foot settings to cut down on your gathering time substantially.
Ruffler Foot Tutorial
What is a Ruffler Foot?
A ruffler foot is an attachable sewing machine foot that gathers and pleats automatically. It can save an enormous amount of sewing time for larger projects. The ruffler foot can also be called a sewing machine pleating foot or ruffler attachment.
I have a love-hate relationship with my Ruffler foot. If it is a small project, it is not worth all the effort to set it up, but if I have a large amount of gathering in my project, it is AMAZING!!!!!
If you look very closely at the gathers produced, they are actually tiny pleats. When sewn into a garment, they just look like larger gathers. For fine gathers, you may be best using a traditional method where you pull the bobbin thread.
Read more about the best sewing machine feet to buy when you get a new machine. These specialty feet will make your sewing faster and easier.
Where to Buy a Ruffler Foot
Rufflers are available for most brands of sewing machines and can be purchased from sewing and sewing accessories shops. You can also purchase an after-market model from eBay or Amazon fairly inexpensively. Just check whether your machine has a high shank or low shank so you purchase the correct one. The one I use is an aftermarket model.
When to Use a Ruffler Foot
If you only have a small section to gather, then this is probably not the best method. But if you have lots of gathering or pleating to do, you will be amazed how quickly you can complete your project.
Ruffler Foot vs. Traditional Gathering
Traditionally gathering is done with 2 or 3 rows of stitching with the longest straight stitch length. The bobbin threads are then pulled, resulting in fine gathers. While not difficult, this method can certainly be time-consuming, especially when you have multiple ruffles on your project.
A ruffler will save time and has the additional advantage of pleating as well. You will notice though, that the ruffler produces larger gathers that look like small pleats.
Ruffler Foot vs Gathering Foot
The first thing you are going to notice from this photo is the enormous size difference. A gathering foot is considerably simpler and smaller than a ruffler. It is designed to produce gentle gathers in thinner fabrics. It will not do pleating.
A ruffler, by contrast, can gather and pleat thin and thick fabrics or various weights. If you are a home sewer planning to make some money from your sewing then both feet are a must.
How To Use a Ruffler Foot
Step 1 - How to Attach a Ruffler Foot
Attach it to your machine as per the instructions. Generally, they attach to your shank with the bar at the back, and then the black semi-circular loop goes over the needle clamp. You will notice that most of the bulk of the foot is in front of where your feet normally sit.
It looked daunting the first time looked at the actual foot but once you have it snapped on at the back it comes together nicely. Don't force anything and take your time.
Step 2 - Stitch Type for Rufflers
Set your machine on a straight stitch with a length of 4.0. This foot will not work with a zig-zag or any other stitch type. You do not want any width to your stitching.
Step 3 - Safety Check
SUPER IMPORTANT - Don’t sew a stitch with the ruffler sewing foot until you have checked the following:
- NEEDLE POSITION- That the needle goes through the hole without touching any metal. When I first started using my Ruffler foot I broke a lot of needles by forgetting to check. You may have to adjust your needle position slightly to the left or right. If the needle is hitting the side metal of the Ruffler you should also check that your needle is not bent. Try replacing it.
- FOOT DOWN - That your presser foot is down. This foot is so large it is not always easy to tell if it is down or not. If you try and stitch with the foot up you will cause a thread jam.
Step 4 - Test Run
Once you have checked the above, grab some scrap fabric and do a test row of stitching.
Ruffler Foot Settings
Know you know the basics of how to use a ruffler sewing foot, you will want to know how to adjust the pleat depth and distance.
Your Ruffler has 2 points where you can make adjustments.
Distance of Pleats Using a Ruffler Foot
The first is in the front where you will see the lever shown in the photo below.
You will see there are 4 settings for the Ruffler here – star, 12,6,1.
This tells you how many stitches there are between each gather or pleat. The larger the number, the larger each pleat will be.
- Star – no gathers
- 1 – gathers
- 6 – small tucks (every 6th stitch is a tuck)
- 12 – larger pleats (every 12th stitch is a tuck)
Depth of Gathering with a Ruffler Foot
The second point of adjustment on a ruffled foot comes from the black knob attached to a long adjusting screw at the back.
This adjusts the depth of the gathering by adjusting stitch length. A smaller number gives larger ruffles and a larger number gives fewer ruffles.
How to Use a Ruffler Foot - Sewing Tips and Troubleshooting
- FINISHING - You don’t need to backstitch at the ends. I’m not sure about all brands, but my foot did not like going backward. Instead of backstitching, just tie off the ends. (Learn how to tie ends)
- TEST - Like a gathering foot, you will need to play around a little to get the look you want.
- CUTTING - I always cut the length of my ruffle longer than I need and then trim any excess at the end. Just make sure you don’t ruffle too tightly as it is almost impossible to adjust the stitches. If you need to be more accurate with your gathering, then cut a strip of scrap fabric 10 inches (25cm) long and gather. Then measure its final length. If it measures 5 inches then you have a 2:1 gather. If it is 3 inches then it is 3:1. Make some notes so you remember next time.
Using a Ruffler Foot on Flat Fabric
You can also stitch your ruffle to a straight piece of fabric at the same time. For example when you need to join a ruffle to a hem or a skirt to a waistband. For most hem ruffles you should always hem the bottom first - I forgot since I was just sewing a sample for you.
Ruffler Foot FAQs
What Does a Ruffler Foot Do?
A ruffler foot is time-saving specialty sewing machine presser foot that automatically gathers and pleats fabric. With numerous adjustments, you can vary the depth and length of the gathering to sew your sewing project.
How to Make Ruffles without a Ruffler Foot
If you don't have one of these amazing ruffler feet, you will need to use the traditional method of gathering using long basting stitches that are then pulled. For small projects, this can actually be easier and faster than using a ruffler foot. Learn how to gather fabric.
How to Use a Ruffler Foot - In Conclusion
A ruffler foot can save you enormous amounts of time when you are sewing larger amounts of ruffles on garments and other sewing projects. It does take a little more time to set up, but is a wonderful addition to your sewing kit and a real time saver for enthusiastic sewers. Now you know how to use a ruffler foot, what will you use it for? Share your comments below.
More Articles On Gathering
- How to Gather by Machine
- How to Gather by Hand
- Shirring (sewing with elastic thread)
- Gathering with a Serger
- How to Sew Ruching
- Gathering with Cord
- Gathering with Elastic
- How to Gather Tulle
- Gathering Foot
- Gathering Fabric
- How to Sew a Flounce
- Gathering Stitch
- Types of Ruffles