Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Corded Ruffles: A Tutorial

So, corded ruffles.  Specifically, ruffles with little cords in their wee little hems.  I've seen them on several original garments from various eras...not so much on reproductions.  My (admittedly brief) research on Google Images seems to indicate that corded ruffles have become something used on odd looking draperies and clothes worn by fashion-forward women with small breasts and long necks.

To be fair, most of the corded ruffles I've seen on extant garments aren't nearly so...exuberant.  They're usually cute little things, and the cording keeps them perky and cheerful-looking even after decades of disuse.  The dress from Bradfield's Costume in Detail that I'm using for my current project inspiration has two ruffles at the hem, edged with a cord.  Grudgingly, I decided to try it.

Why grudingly?  Because I'm going to be hand-hemming miles of bias-cut worsted wool, that's why!  Do I look crazy to you?  (Don't answer that.)  On the other hand, it's a really cool detail that you don't see done very often, and it's actually really easy.  If you're going to be hemming your ruffle by hand anyway, it's not any more complicated to cord the hemmed edge as you go.

Prep your ruffle pieces however you need--in my case, I had to piece the length of it and I actually sewed it into a big tube before I started hemming.  Once you've got everything assembled how you want it, press your hem edge folded over once to the inside, twice as wide as you want your finished hem to be--this is somewhat determined by the thickness of your cord.  I wanted my finished hem to be about 1/8" and I'm using Sugar & Cream crochet cotton for my cording, so I pressed my hem edge over about 1/4".

Hem edge pressed to the inside 1/4", plus Sugar & Cream cotton for cording.
For me, it's fastest to sew seams and hems with the hem edge held in my left hand, facing left, and stitch moving away from my body with my right hand.  For some people, that's not the case, so just set yourself up to sew some loooong hems, whichever way is most comfortable for you.  Then, you sew.

Center your cording in the hem.  I didn't pin this, just worked a few inches at a time and held the cord in place with my fingers.  Take a tiny stitch above the hem, through just the main fabric of your ruffle (above the cording & folded edge), then catch the folded edge with your next stitch.  Don't pull it tight yet.  Take another little stitch above the cording, then the folded edge again.

Do this three or four more times, leaving your stitches loose until you get a few in a row.  Take one more stitch above the cording, then pull your thread tight.  The folded edge will curl around the cord, et voila!

Now, you'll notice in the video that I'm sewing with the ruffle held perpendicularly to my body, so I'm actually stitching from right to left.  If that doesn't work for you, try holding the ruffle horizontally, so the folded edge points up and away from your body with the fold pointing down and towards you.  That's usually how I do rolled hems, but because I needed to use my left hand to hold the cord in place, I found it easier to switch things up.  Keep in mind, though--do what's comfortable for you!  While a lot of things have a "right" and "wrong" way to do them, how you hold your sewing is a matter of personal choice.  And remember to sit up straight...your back will thank you later!


  1. Very cool, thanks for the tutorial!

  2. you really couldn't wear that purple thing at all if you have breasts, could you?

  3. Oh my god. I have been BAFFLED by corded hems for years and you made it so easy! YES!

    1. Oh good! I'm glad you thought this was helpful!