Pintucks are an amazing detail that you can add to just about any article of clothing. Sewing a pintuck doesn't take very long and can add texture and creativity to an otherwise boring garment. Watch how they catch the light and can be used in hundreds of different ways. Ready to start learning how to sew a pintuck?
After I have shown you the basics, you can start to create interesting effects.
What is a Pintuck?
Pintucks are simply a small tuck in the fabric. Most commonly they are stitched in place but they can also be folded and pressed without stitching. Here I will show you the stitched pintuck version.
Using a pintuck is purely decorative and doesn't have a function in sewing. A pintuck is different from sewing a dart which creates shape in a garment. Create pintucks just for fun!
The best fabrics for sewing a pintuck is thin to mediumweight. Heavier fabrics tend to add to much bulk for multiple tucks. Think about using silk, satin, cotton voile, light cotton or rayon. A heavily pin-tucked pattern will add stiffness to your design so think about how that will affect your final product.
I remember my mother sewing tiny pintucks in the kid's clothes she made for my sister and I. They were often on the top of dresses placed vertically and sewn into the neckline.
This dress by Preen was worn by Kate Bosworth. Notice the beautiful pintucks in the side panel which add texture and interest to an otherwise plain dress. I'm in love with that color too!
Special Feet for Sewing a Pintuck
Many machines come with a seam guide foot and you could also use a ¼ inch presser foot. Both of these sewing machine feet simply make it easier to sew in a straight line as they have a guide on the side that touches the edge of the fabric.
The seam guide foot on the left of the photo can adjust to different widths by screwing the guide at different distances so has greater flexibility.
Note: You can also purchase pintuck feet with grooves in the bottom that are designed for use with twin needles.
If you don't have either of these feet with guides in your sewing kit, then just use your all purpose sewing foot. The technique will be the same but you will need to concentrate a little more to guide the fabric through straight.
Cutting Patterns for a Pintuck
If you are only sewing one or two pintucks, it is easy to add a little extra to your pattern piece by measuring the width of the pintuck and multiplying it by two (x2 since it is folded over).
For heavily decorated pintuck pieces it is easiest to sew the pintucks in a large piece of fabric first before cutting the actual pattern piece. Once you have a piece of fabric with a pintuck sewn into it, you can lay your pattern piece on top and cut out your desired piece.
Mark the Lines for Pintucks
Mark your pintuck lines on your fabric with either a removable pen or tailor's chalk on the right side of the fabric. Marking enables you to get nice even, symmetrical lines.
ALTERNATIVE: If you have a delicate fabric that you don't want to risk marking with chalk or pen, you can use a long basting stitch to mark the lines. Pull out those stitches when you have finished.
Decide on the width you would like between the tucks. You may want the tucks to completely overlap each other or you may want a nice space between the pintucks. It can take a little experimenting to get the look you would like.
I experimented with ¾ inch (2cm), 1 inch (2.5cm) and 1 ½ inch (3.8cm) marked lines.
OPTIONAL: After I have marked the lines to sew along, I often like to press a crease into each one. This increases accuracy for me as there is little chance of the tuck slipping in the sewing machine but this is not traditionally done so may just be an extra step for you. Press the creases with the fabric with wrong sides together and use steam or some water spray to sharpen the folds.
How to Sew a Pintuck
I have used a contrast thread in this tutorial so you can see the stitching, but a matching thread is amazingly forgiving of any crooked stitching or uneven pintucks.
Fold the fabric along the first mark with the wrong sides together and put it under your presser foot.
Start stitching ¼ inch (6mm) or your desired width from the fold. You can see how my ¼ inch (6mm) foot guide is right on the edge of the folded fabric.
After you have finished the first tuck, keep repeating along all the marked lines until you have enough pintucks for your project.
Personally, I quite like the texture of all the pintucks standing up straight but it makes it harder to put into a garment.
So grab your iron and press all the pintucks to the one side.
PHOTO - From left to right you can see the ¾ inch (2cm), 1 ½ inch (3.8cm) and 1 inch (2.5cm) pintucks.
The ¾ inch (far left) ones were really hard to sew as they were almost on top of each other. My preference is the look of the 1 inch apart ones which are on the far right.
Sewing Pintucks that are Fancy
You can create fancy looks with your pintucks by stitching vertical lines through the tucks. Here I sewed a series of ¼ inch (6mm) pintucks placed an inch apart.
I then stitched down the outside of the pintucks in one direction and the center in the alternate direction. When you use a matching thread you get a really interesting and textural result with this technique. It looks amazing on pillows and is a great insert for larger areas of clothing.
Pintucks with a Twin Needle
Another fun use of twin needles is to make decorative baby-sized pintucks on your fabric. These are sometimes called mock pin tucks since they are much smaller than the pintucks made by folding your fabric first. You can add extra height and texture by adding a cord underneath.
Thread your machine according to its instructions or see my blog article on how to sew with a twin needle here if you need help. Mark your fabric with the number of pintucks you will be sewing.
With a Regular Sewing Foot
Increase your tension. The tightened tension will pull the zig-zag stitches at the back causing the raised appearance on the front. The height of your pintuck will be determined by a combination of the tension, the space between the 2 needles, and the thickness of your fabric. Experiment to get the look you like.
Place your fabric under your presser foot with the mark aligned to the middle point between the 2 needles and start sewing.
With a Pin Tuck Sewing Foot
Pintuck feet have little grooves on the bottom surface that help you sew evenly spaced pintucks. They can be used with or without a cord underneath. Most brands will carry a 5 groove or 7 groove foot. A 7 groove foot is designed for thinner fabrics than the 5 groove one. Once you are confident sewing straight lines, why not try some curves or intersecting lines.
Additional height to your pintuck can also be achieved by catching in a thin cord or fishing line underneath as you sew. The cord will be caught under the zig-zag stitches at the back.
Pintuck - In Conclusion
Thanks for reading! Now you can start to sew your own pintucks. No more boring sewing projects!
Elizabeth AH Aymont
What a well-explained and inspiring article! Thank you sew much, I am excited to experiment with pintucks now!
Thank you for this! I've been trying to find a good pin tuck tutorial and this is the most clearly explained one I've found so far!
Thank you for the clear and insightful tutorial. I'm drawn to pintucks; now I can make my own!!