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How to Sew Ruching

how to sew ruching

Ruching is one way of gathering fabric. You’ll see it pop up on the side seams of maternity shirts quite often as it’s a great way to deal with the extra fabric needed to cover a pregnant belly. But ruching isn’t just for a mama-to-be; it’s a nice addition on anything from the sleeves of a top to the bodice of a dress, so learning how to sew ruching is a skill you’ll reach for again and again when sewing your own clothes.

Here’s how to sew ruching:

First, get your fabric and some elastic. I used 3/8” but your choice will depend on the fabric you are using; a lightweight fabric will call for a thinner elastic, but somewhere in the area of 1/4” to 1/2” should work.

If you are not following a specific pattern, you’ll want to cut your elastic to whatever length you would like the end result to be. Your fabric can and should be quite a bit longer, though how much longer is up to you (the greater the difference between the fabric and the elastic, the more gathered the end result will be). Just make sure your elastic is capable of stretching the entire length of the fabric, otherwise you’ll end up with a failed attempt.

On your sewing machine, straight stitch the elastic to the fabric for a few stitches, back tacking a few times to make sure the elastic is secure.

Then, switch to a zigzag stitch. The longer the stitch length, the more the fabric will be gathered (so you might want to play around with this before going to work on your actual garment). At this point, you will want to stretch the elastic as you guide the fabric through the machine. This can be a little tricky at first. You can pin the elastic to the fabric to make sure everything will line up correctly, but you might find it easier to sew without pinning. It’s helpful to stretch the elastic from the front and back as you guide it through the machine.

Once you get to the end of your elastic, switch back to a straight stitch. Again, take a few stitches and back tack a few times to secure the elastic to the fabric.

Turn your garment right side out and you should have a nice, even gather. If you’re just learning how to sew ruching, be sure to give it a few practice runs.

Looking for more ways to add texture to your sewing projects? Check out Bluprint’s Sewing Texture online class and learn how to pleat, ruffle and gather fabric.

Have you added ruching to any of your sewing projects before? Please share in the comments! Then come back to the Bluprint blog on Friday for a beautiful free sewing pattern.



There is absolutely nothing on the web that compares to the Craftsy Community. This illustration on Ruching is simply Great. Difficult applications/designs are expertly explained…The ease in which you’ve demonstrate this gives me confidence to try it. I’m sure I will have to practice it before attempting to use it….but at lease I won’t be afraid to try. Thanks a million for this post.


Thanks …this is something I have not tried yet but now that I have read your post I will give it a try.


I had to ruche sleeves in one of Sandra Betzina’s designs. I wish I had used a thinner elastic, like the plastic elastic that is recommended in Meg’s Sewing with Knits class. With the white 3/8 inch elastic, the sleeves tended to bulb out. So, the next time I make this pattern, I will use the lighter weight plastic stretchy elastic, as the pattern is very comfortable. I like the tip you give about starting and ending with a straight stitch to anchor, then use the zigzag stitch. Good advice! I am learning so much by taking many of the Craftsy courses!


I’ve used the clear elastic, too — I like its light weight and the fact that you can stitch right through it. It’s helpful if you stretch it out a couple of times before sewing it to the fabric. Something else that’s worked well for me is not to cut it to length before sewing it to the garment: mark the length you want with a washable fabric marker or a tiny nip on one edge; after you’ve anchored the end, stretch the mark to where you want it & sew it down — the extra length makes a good “handle”. Cut off the excess elastic after you’ve anchored the bottom end. (This works with other kinds of elastic as well.)


Thanks for the extra elastic tip. Most every time I have tried to sew elastic it ends up staying stretched out. Your advice will help. Great Blog and comments.


I wholeheartedly agree with Crayon’s comments. I absolutely love these blog posts about techniques I would have been afraid to try. The explanations are so clear and so well thought out that they are adding to my sewing skills inventory. Thanks, Julie. And I’m crazy in love with Craftsy as a whole. The concept and the execution are both brilliant.

Guin R

I hear the term ruching all the time especially on Project Runway, didn’t have any idea it was just a form of gathering material. Thank you so much for the instructions for this process.


I recently needed a navy t-shirt to wear under a jacket for a surprise occasion. So no time to make anything from scratch. The garment I had was too long and I didn’t like how it hung under the jacket which is fuschia coloured, so I had a go at ruching the sides to bring it up to the right length without taking anything away from the tummy area. It worked so well and so quickly that I did some on the shoulders/sleeves to balance out the look. Meg McElwee’s class gave me the idea. Love Craftsy Classes.

Michele Brakewood

I don’t believe this is ruching. Ruching is a zigzag stitch which is then gathered, usually on a ribbon. Gathering is altogether different, as is shirring.


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