Monday, July 20, 2009

gathering foot vs. ruffler


I recently purchased the gathering foot (above right) and also the ruffler (above left) for my Kenmore machine, and as I am avoiding finishing Lori's bag, I've been testing them out. The grand total for both attachments via Sears.com came to about $40 (including shipping), so it wasn't a huge investment. For me, LazyBones Holland, there is undeniable appeal in gathering a piece of fabric all in one step, as opposed to my usual laborious Stitch-Twice-Draw-The-Gathers-Up-By-Hand-Cry-When-The-Thread-Breaks-Method.


First I tried out the gathering foot, which was the cheapest and most low-tech option ($11.99). All you have to do is pop it on in place of the regular foot and adjust your tension and stitch length. Here's what I got on muslin fabric:


As advertised, it yields soft gathers. The instructions specify a stitch length longer than 3. The gathers become more pronounced as you adjust your tension. In the photo above, more gathers occur with tension set at 7, and less occur with the tension set at 3.5.

I'm really pleased with it, and I think it might be very useful on the gathered sundress I'm working on now, however, there is a dilemma: since pattern pieces are cut to certain sizes with the idea that you'll be gathering them by hand and adjusting it to fit, how in the wide, wide world am I going to know if the gathering foot will gather it to the right length? Trial and error? Math? (shudder) Anyone have one of these things?


Now for the ruffler, $21.99. This was a bit more difficult to figure out because the 'instructions' included with the part were a study in minimalism. I finally got it attached correctly to the machine and very cautiously experimented with different settings.

It works by tucking the fabric automatically under the needle as you stitch, so you get neat, regular pleats as opposed to gathers. It is mesmerizing to watch. If you set it on a frequency of 1, you get one tuck per stitch. If you set it on a frequency of 6, you get one tuck every sixth stitch, and so on. So you can vary the effect by also varying your stitch length.

Above, same frequency (1), different stitch length.
Top: Stitch length 4, Bottom: Stitch length 2

Above, same frequency (6), different stitch length.Top: Stitch length 4, Bottom: Stitch length 2

Above, same frequency (12), different stitch length.
Top: Stitch length 4, Bottom: Stitch length 2

Now that I know what I'm doing, the ruffler seems like it would be a great tool as well, but the same stinkety problem. How do you know how long to cut your fabric so that the finished product is a certain length? I think that I'm going to have to break out my math skillz for that one, since the ruffler can be counted on to make fairly consistent tucks.

For instance, the length of a test piece was 23 inches, and after it was beruffled it measured 11 inches. So if I want to produce a piece that measures 50 inches after being ruffled, I could use a proportion, yes? Watch out, art major about to do math:


Where 'x' = the number of inches of unruffled fabric. So, in theory, and if my math is done correctly, I'd need to cut a piece that is 104.5 inches long if I wanted to end up with 50 inches of ruffled fabric. (Which, as I think about it, is not the best example since that is very close to 2:1 and even an art major like me can ballpark that. But just pretend that ratio was from a sample ruffle that was not 2:1.)

Anybody have a cheat sheet for this? I think I may go troll around YouTube and see if someone has posted a helpful ruffler video. (LATE NOTE: Yes, there is a cheat sheet for this, and even better, it is free. Thanks, Mary! That is a link to a 30 page PDF file that will tell you all about your ruffler and the cool things you can do with it, plus a couple of calibration sheets that will help you know which setting to use so your patterns come out right.

A couple of helpful readers suggested that instead of messing with any of the above gadgets, I should just zig zag stitch over thin cording and pull on that to gather by hand. They say it is ever so much easier than gathering the other way. Thing is, I'd still have to do all that pesky distribution of gathers around the whole piece. It may be just me, but that drives me CRAZY trying to get it all even. However, I have never tried the zig zag method, and there is no math required, so I'll have to at least give that a go.

38 comments:

  1. Very Sci-fi looking gadget. I am with you, I used to hate to even out gathering. So now I just don't sew. Good luck!

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  2. I found out by accident that if I set my machines tension on 6, it does a perfect gather of a single layer of fabric and is easily ajustable to fit my other pattern pieces. I haven't tried two layers of fabric, but not many of my patterns have a double ruffle.

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  3. Larissa, I've used rufflers forever cause ruffled curtains used to be a major part of my business. I used 2 or 3 to 1 fullness and would cut that much fabric for the ruffle plus about a yard. If you have a bit leftover, you'll find a use for it! If the fabric is really pricey, 3 to 1 should be more than enough. HTH

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  4. Well the ruffler seems to give you more control and predictability. I would try tiering some gathers like the skirt to see how it looks.

    I'm not big on ruffle distribution either. I am a recovering perfectionist though and I am learning to let it go, except for obvious clumps and that usually doesn't happen anyway.

    If I were to gather the skirt, I would find the middle points and quarter points of the panels to be attached and clip a little notch. I would run one set of zigzags halfway around, leave long threads for pulling, and run a second set the rest of the way. Trying to gather around the whole thing will make you crazy.

    When it comes time to gather, I pin at the notches I made and pull my gathering stitches tighter than I will need them to be. To me, it seems to be easier to distribute gathers while I am relaxing the volume of gathers.

    I wish you good luck and happy stitching, whatever your final gathering destination may be!
    Ann

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  5. Good info about the gathering gadget. I don't like gathering as well and do it lots for my daughters skirts. I've found out that if I switch my thread to polyester for the basting stitch it has never broke on me so it's worth the effort of rethreading my machine for it. Now I do that every time and haven't had a problem. Yep, I still have to even out those pesky gathers, but it never breaks. Good luck, and thanks for the info.

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  6. Those are all the same reasons I am leery of those special feet... everyone keeps telling me to invest in a ruffler... but I'm scared of it. I look forward to more posts about this... and hope you figure it out. I hate adjusting gathers, too!

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  7. I had no idea you could do that. Math! Wow. ;)

    Headed out to the folks with a bit of lake getaway thrown in. Catch you next week! Love ya.

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  8. Wow. That ruffler looks awesome. I didn't even know they made such attachments. The zig-zag method for gathering sounds like a great trick to try as well. I HATE when the thread breaks! There's usually lots of huffing and groans of despair when I'm trying to gather a gather :).

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  9. Megan...intriguing. I'll try that. Did I blow 11.99 for nothin?

    LeeleeFL, looks like at a frequency of 6 it is roughly 2 to 1. I agree, I think the key is buying a bit extra fabric.

    sewmuchfun4, I do the whole middle and quarter point thing and it is all so labor intensive and slooooow. for me. The slowest crafter in the world.

    Robyn, have fun! and YES I can do math, when forced. Love you too. And pppphhhhtt!

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  10. Great info! I bought a ruffler for my Bernina when I saw it demonstrated at a class, but I've been too intimidated to try it out. You've made me want to give it a whirl!

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  11. Oh man...thanks so much for posting this. I've always wondered about ruffling/gathering feet. I am of the "I hate gathering" persuasion, myself, and anything I can find to cut down on the torture would be a welcome addition to my sewing machine. I've just always been a little suspicious of their lofty claims. Or maybe I hate gathering so much that I had an automatic prejudice against any tools designed to do such a hateful task. Looks like they deliver, though. I had the exact same question as you, however, wondering how to figure a fabric length. I await your findings with bated breath, as the only thing I find more distasteful than gathering is math!

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  12. Youcanmakethis.com has a free tutorial for the ruffler. I found it quite helpful. Here's the link: http://youcanmakethis.com/info/free/Free-The-Ruffler-Unruffled.htm

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  13. I was one of those that passed on the zig zag trick (it was told to me by the saleslady at a sewing store). However, now that I've seen what the ruffler does... that can't be totally recreated the same way gathers can. So for you, it seems like a good investment.

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  14. Wow. Intriguing. I am like you, not math lady... prolly even less than you, so when you find that coveted chart, I'd LOVE to see it.

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  15. Mary, I just downloaded the ruffler tute you linked for me, and it looks like the BOMB. the bomb, I tell you! I haven't read the whole thing, but I've paged through it and I'll be studying it. For everyone else who receives the comments, if you want the ruffler 'cheat sheet' this looks like it could be it and it is free. Thanks again, Mary.

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  16. Thanks for this. I bought a ruffler once for an ancient singer and hated it so much I took it back. But, as another recovering perfectionist, I kinda like the way the gathers look with a ruffler. Maybe I'll give it another try.

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  17. Oh no Larissa! I had NO IDEA my title of Slowest Crafter in the World was in jeopardy! I never said I was fast! It's all relative - I also hand piece, hand quilt and tat, so any time I fire up a piece of machinery, I feel like Lightning McQueen!

    :) Ann

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  18. Wow that is a very impressive looking device...!! thank you very much indeed for the info it's been a great help.... now I just need to find somewhere that stocks the parts for my Elna Machine!

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  19. nice math, Artie!! Whatever you end up doing, I know it will turn out lovely!!

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  20. great post! very very useful. you're now in my "tutorials" bookmark folder. : )

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  21. I've never used either foot, but I think you are making the math too hard.

    This is what I would do. I would do a test strip in the type of fabric I wanted to use in the finished project. You may find that the results differ depending on the type of fabric. Use a standard length for your test strips like 10 inches to make the math easy.

    Once you get the gauge on the ruffle or gather you like you should be able to easily convert the lengths for things such as tier skirts and curtains.

    BTW I love your blog and check in often.

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  22. Hey, Ruby, yeah, that example I gave might not have been the best, since the ratio was close to 2:1 and even I can figure that out for ballparking when I need to. Tiered skirts and curtains are no problem, it is the premade patterns that give the problems because they are designed to be hand-gathered from a pattern piece that is premeasured, and not neccessarily a rectangle or square.

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  23. I have a ruffler and it's a bit of trial and error but not so bad. I never try to calculate it ahead of time. I've found that if I keep it on a certain number (I think 3 or 4), it generally works just right for most pattern pieces. Occasionally I have to pull it a bit to loosen my stitches but generally not. I LOVE the ruffler vs. hand gathering.

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  24. Hey
    I bought a ruffler foot 3 yrs ago when I first started making little dresses for my kid. I had that 3 mile piece of fabric I was hand gathering and then snap the thread breaks.

    This is most likely not the best way to measure the length to ruffler but I always do the most ruffles so I triple the length. If that fails I add pieces together.

    Good luck

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  25. Hellow, Thank you for the post. In fact i am searching for a Ruffler (Pleater)for my new opened Ladies Garments unit situated in a village of Kerala, where we supposed to manufact about 500 to 1000 Under skirts per day. SO we are looking for a heavy duty Ruffler Attachment that can gather uniform sized and distanced pleats with a minimum speed capacity (which can make 120 pleats of about 1.5 cente meter in size / minute) The fabric to ruffle is double folded Cotton Poplin in a length of 2.75 meters and 7.5 cente meters width(3.73 cente meters after folding)

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  26. Hellow, Thank you for the post. In fact i am searching for a Ruffler (Pleater)for my new opened Ladies Garments unit situated in a village of Kerala, where we supposed to manufact about 500 to 1000 Under skirts per day. SO we are looking for a heavy duty Ruffler Attachment that can gather uniform sized and distanced pleats with a minimum speed capacity (which can make 120 pleats of about 1.5 cente meter in size / minute) The fabric to ruffle is double folded Cotton Poplin in a length of 2.75 meters and 7.5 cente meters width(3.73 cente meters after folding)

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  27. I have both feet also and I loved the ruffler. Unfortunately the (ordontia looking) ruffler foot for Bernina is about $75 so I bought a generic one on eBay and it broke - twice. So now I don't have one anymore. But I made 100 dresses with ruffles on the bottom to take to Ethiopia last year and it was so much easier than hand gathering.

    Just found your blog from a friend and I love it!

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  28. The Coys, welcome! and 100 ruffle dresses? you are awesome.

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  29. Just found this post, I haven't used my recently purchased ruffler foot yet bc I wasn't sure about the math either, but wow! thanks for all the info!

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  30. Hello from a fellow homeschooler :) Came across your blog while researching the best way to sew a ruffle. Cool blog, I love it!! God bless. BTW, where did you get your no OMG button on the sidebar?? I'd like to put in on my blog. Thanks!

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  31. Hey, BK! welcome.
    I designed that No OMG for myself, but you are welcome to right click and save a copy for yourself to use! Thanks!

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  32. This is wonderful! I was just creating a ruffle today and the thread broke! Arg. But I also just bought a new sewing machine - very interested in the ruffler and gathering foot. Thanks for the info and great pics!

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  33. http://sew4home.com/tips-resources/sewing-tips-tricks/360-gathering-made-easy

    I am not sure if anyone had posted this yet or not, and I know its like maybe 2 years past, but just wanted to pass it along anyways.

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  34. Thanks for this tutorial. I was inspired to purchase a ruffler foot after reading it, but the lady at the machine shop refused to sell it to me! She said that for a gadget that costs R600.00 (±$75) it doesn't do a good job at all, BUT that she would show me HER secret for gathering/ruffling. Sew a zig-zag stitch (4mm stitch length & 4mm width) over a length of crochet thread, securing the crochet thread at the starting end. As opposed to the traditional long straight stitch method the thread wont break at some point, and it goes much quicker. I've tried it - super easy, fast and virtually foolproof! So if the ruffler/gathering foot lets you down this is something lese to try... JS

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  35. This is an old post so I'm hoping that you will still get my comment. I just purchased my first sewing machine (will be delivered tomorrow!) and would like to purchase a ruffler foot as well. I bought a Brother machine. Just a cheap-ish one from Overstock. I found a ruffler foot on Amazon that says it will fit all 7mm Brother Machines. How do I know if mine is 7mm? What is the 7mm in reference to??
    My email is puttinonthegrits@gmail.com

    Thank you!

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  36. Why do you need to calculate? I think that it would be easier to just use the ruffler to sew together the ruffled and the straight material. After that... you cut the rest of the "straight fabric".... or the ruffled one, depending on which was longer.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Cris, a calculation is needed to know how much fabric to allow for and cut if you are working with a pattern. Most patterns assume you will be gathering by hand, so when you introduce a ruffler it's helpful to know how much flat yardage is needed to yield the correct length of ruffled fabric.

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