I was given this idea a couple of years ago by a crafting friend, however I have tried it out many times and have discovered what works well and what doesn’t. So I am going to share my mistakes and successes with you.
I found that 25 meters of ribbon makes about 6 meters of ruffle, depending on how gathered you would like your ruffle. I used 1 inch wide ribbon, gingham, which I purchased on Ebay for about £12. It sounds expensive but 1.5 meters of quality tinsel is about £6! Make sure you don’t accidentally purchase ribbon with wire in it as that will prevent it from gathering.
You can cut strips of fabric and use an overlocker to finish the edges, or keep them frayed if you like that look. Hessian with unfinished edges looks nice. Ensure your fabric or ribbon has a pattern on both sides, or at least looks nice from both sides. The first one I made I didn’t do this and then you are forever having to arrange the ruffle round your tree with the right side up.
The first ruffle I made I used a long length of string, I held down the center of the ribbon and used a wide zig zag over the string making sure I didn’t catch the string with the needle. As I went along I held the string and pulled the fabric to gather it as I sewed. This is very quick and efficient way of gathering your ribbon. However what I found was that as you drape the ruffle round your tree or carry it around the house, the gathers move out of place with gravity. If you accidentally sew the string, it won’t gather at that point. I also found that if your string broke, then the whole ruffle would come undone!!!!!
Finally I tried a completely different approach which was a great success. The discovery of the gathering foot! These only cost a couple of pounds on ebay or Amazon and are a must have for your sewing box. It can be done without the gathering foot but the gathers are not as tight if you do it that way.
So place your gathering foot on your machine, or use a regular sewing foot. Increase the tension dial to 9, set the machine to a straight running stitch, place your ribbon under the foot and stitch in the center and it will gather as you sew. The stitches will hold the gather in place as you sew. It does take about 5-10cm of ribbon before it starts to gather really well, so be patient. Ensure you don’t try to pull the ribbon as the machine is doing the gathering. Once you have reached the end of your ribbon, secure your stitch by going forward and backwards or using a lockstitch. You can even out any bits you are not happy with using your fingers, as you would if you were gathering a skirt for example. I decided to go over mine again once it was finished with a regular tension and a regular foot just to make it stronger and more durable. If you would prefer a smaller gather, then reduce the tension from 9 to 7 and experiment until you have your desired effect.
Let me know how you get on.
Dotty Bobbin x