What is Ruching?

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  • Originally Written By: Cathy Rogers
  • Revised By: Bott
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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Ruching is a French term which means to gather, ruffle, or pleat; the term is a sewing technique in which fabric or ribbon is gathered in a repeating pattern to form ruffles, scallops, or petals. The technique has been used for many years to decorate clothing, accessories, and quilts; since then, modern technology has allowed seamstresses to use multiple tools to create precise, even ruching that has kept the technique current. Today many items can be ruched for added visual detail, including wedding dresses, flower appliques, pillows, and blinds. The technique is a detailed technique that should be learned, but it basically consists of evenly folding, stitching, and gathering a length of material until reaching the desired result.

History and Uses

Ruching is a labor-intensive, time-consuming technique that, like many other art forms, is experiencing a resurgence in current fashion trends. In the late 19th century, the technique was a very common and popular way to decorate women's clothing, including hats and petticoats; however, the technique has been around for many years — many argue as far back as the Middle Ages. The uniformity found in historic ruched pieces has led several historians to believe that ancient seamstresses used some sort of tool to evenly space the ruching. Around the 1850s, quilters started using the technique to create three-dimensional flower appliques for quilts, adding to the list of creative ways to ruche.


One popular, modern day use of the technique is to gather fabric at certain points in the design of a dress or other clothing, which adds visual interest to the piece. It is not uncommon to see ruching in dress sleeves, waistbands, and collars; many modern wedding dresses also include fabric that has been gathered or ruffled using this technique. Just as it was in the 19th century, ruching is still used in evening wear, such as in ball gowns and prom dresses, in addition to everyday clothing, and in some cases it can even decorate a necktie. Ruching is also used in home design products, such as pillows or on the bottom edge of an Austrian window blind.

Modern day tailors often use a plastic guide to mark the zig-zag pattern that will later be stitched. Another gadget, a fabric sack filled with chalk, can be used to make the markings. The tailor then sews small running stitches by hand or machine. The thread must be sturdy to allow the fabric or ribbon to be gathered. Circular ruching guides are also available for making flowers.

How to Ruche

Basically any type of fabric can be ruched, including metallics, ribbons, and even lace, but the material must be significantly longer than the desired finished length as the act of gathering will shorten it significantly. Free tutorials are available on the Internet to teach seamstresses to ruche, and books are also available on the subject. The steps to ruche a flower involve folding the sides of a strip of fabric to the backside until they meet. Next, lines are marked at a 90° angle on the front side, spaced evenly. The lines are stitched with a matching thread; stitchers should be sure to loop the thread back to the front when they reach an edge.

After sewing a few inches, the stitcher should then gather the fabric or ribbon into petals. Using another needle and thread, the petals are then curled into a circular pattern. At the end of the petals, the tail is tucked under and tacked. Using these techniques, a seamstress can create attractive flowers for appliqué purposes.


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Post 8

Where is gathering used in clothing/furnishings?

Post 7

@anon211118: I spoke to Rowley Company who said they have a video to watch on this exact thing.

Post 6

Would anyone know how to finish the top edge of drapery panels with ruching?

Post 5

I'm making an evening ball gown and the front is ruched! I want to know must I make the back ruched as well or leave it plain. I'm not sure if the back ruching will make me look fat? Please help! Thank you.

Post 4

@pixiedust - You're so right about ruching on a wedding dress -- it really does slim the look of the bride. But, lots of wedding dresses have ruching along the skirt part of the dress and are actually rather fitted around the midsection part of the dress. These are really beautiful dresses too, but all ruching doesn't hide the extra pounds.

Post 3

I know we all try to lose lots of weight for our weddings, but sometimes despite our best efforts, we fail. I know I did. Buying a wedding dress with ruching was a savior for me! It really is a slimming fashion trick!

Post 2

@arunil - You're so right! And when that ruching is on a top or dress that has an empire waist, then I think it hides a larger mid section even better!

Post 1

Ruching can be a great way to hide a little extra weight at the waistline. When you wear a blouse or dress with ruching around the middle, it's hard to tell what's fabric and what's you.

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