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How to Make a Lettuce-Edge Tulle Ruffle With Your Sewing Machine

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Lettuce-edge gathered ruffle

Lettuce-edge gathered ruffle

Learning Something New

Recently, I needed to use my meager sewing skills to modify my daughter's dress for the homecoming dance. It was gorgeous—strapless with a fuchsia bodice and a black satin skirt covered by layers of tulle ruffles. It was just a little short, so I decided that I could sew a little extra satin on the skirt with no problem—it was that mass of layered tulle ruffles that made the sweat break out on my forehead! How was I going to add another layer to these wavy-edge tulle ruffles?

A little research helped. These ruffles had a name—lettuce-edge tulle ruffles. Several websites had information on making them, but they all suggested using a serger. Being sergerless (did I mention that I am a meager seamstress?), I had to figure out another way. And after some brainstorming, I came up with a nice solution that involved my trusty old Bernina 1130 sewing machine, a length of fuchsia tulle, and some thick fishing line. Here's how to do it!

Step 1: Get a Straight Edge on Your Fabric

I find that this type of material is notoriously ragged along the cut edge, so the first thing you'll need to do is to get a straight edge on your fabric.

Here's an easy way to do this—first, with the selvage edges together, fold your material in half lengthwise, and then fold it again so that you have 4 thicknesses of fabric. Pin the edges along the top and bottom to keep your tulle from sliding around as you work with it.

Using a straightedge, mark the fabric. A quilting ruler works great since it's transparent and has horizontal lines to help mark a square edge. To make my line, I used a Sharpie since I was marking on mesh and there was barely a trace of the marks left after cutting. However, the proper way to do it would be to use a fabric marker that eventually fades and disappears.

Cut the desired number of strips.

Cut the desired number of strips.

Step 2: Cut Fabric Strip(s) for Ruffle

The next step is to cut a fabric strip to the desired width of the ruffle. Determine this width by deciding how wide you want the finished ruffle to be, plus add 7/8" to that (5/8" for the gathering stitches and 1/4" for the hem).

Also, figure out the finished ruffle length you need for your project. Multiply that length by 1½ to 2 times to allow for gathering. You will probably need to cut two or more fabric strips to piece together to get the total length you need.

Mark the fabric in the same manner that you marked it to cut a straight edge.

Cut the desired number of strips. If you have multiple strips, sew the end of one strip to the next to make one long rectangular piece.


Step 3: Hem Edge of Ruffle

Now the fun starts—here's what makes the lettuce-edge on the ruffle. You're going to encase a length of thick fishing line into the hem of the ruffle. I don't bother pinning the hem, because this isn't rocket science—it just needs to be close.

Position the fabric under your presser foot so that the needle will be about ¼" from the edge of your fabric. Lay the fishing line ¼" in from the edge of your fabric. Let it extend a couple of inches beyond the edge—you can tie it off or trim it later. Also, feed it directly off the spool—you won't cut it until you're done with the hem. You want to line it up exactly with the center of the presser foot.

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Fold the hem over the fishing line.

Fold the hem over the fishing line.

Now fold the hem up over the fishing line, keeping the fishing line snug against the fold line, and also keeping the fishing line lined up with the center of the presser foot.

Sew over the fishing line.

Sew over the fishing line.

Begin sewing over the fishing line with a small width zigzag stitch, backstitching at the beginning to lock the stitch. The idea is that when you zig, the needle will be just to the right of the fishing line. When you zag, the needle will be just to the left. On my Bernina 1130, where the stitch width setting goes from 0 to 5, I set it at about 1½.

You will soon see the lettuce-edge start to develop.

You will soon see the lettuce-edge start to develop.

Continue in this manner, folding over ¼" of fabric as you go, and making sure that the fishing line feeds exactly in the center of your presser foot. It won't take long to see the "lettuce-edge" start to develop!

The double row of stitches are gathering stitches.

The double row of stitches are gathering stitches.

Step 4: Gathering the Ruffle

Once you've hemmed the entire length of fabric, it's time to sew the gathering stitches. Set your stitch length on the longest setting or a basting stitch if your machine has it.

Along the unhemmed edge, sew a row of stitching 5/8" from the edge, locking the stitches at the beginning, and leaving at least 3" of thread when you cut it at the end. Sew another row of stitching ¼" away from the first stitching (or 3/8" inch from the edge), again locking the beginning stitches and leaving at least 3" of thread at the end.

Gathering the ruffle

Gathering the ruffle

With one hand, grasp the top thread from each line of stitches, and with the other hand, slide the fabric along the threads, which will create the gathers in your ruffle. Continue to do this until the gathered ruffle reaches the desired length.

Step 5: Attach Ruffle to Project

Your gathered ruffle is now ready to attach to your project. If you're sewing it to the bottom of a skirt, go ahead and sew the ends of the ruffle together to make a continuous loop.

Pin your ruffle to your project and adjust the gathers evenly. Baste the ruffle to your project, and check to make sure you like how the ruffle is distributed. Then sew the ruffle on permanently—since tulle is so stretchy, I use a small zigzag stitch for this step. Now you can say that you've made a lettuce-edge tulle ruffle!


Tips I Learned Along the Way

  • The thickness of the fishing line has everything to do with the size of the wave on your ruffle. I used a 50 lb. test line, and if I had to do it again, I would use a thinner line—the thinner your line, the wavier the ruffle.
  • Tulle is really stretchy, so zigzag stitching is the way to go when sewing this fabric.
  • When you're trying to cut several layers of tulle at once, pinning it together first is essential. Tulle is really slippery!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Cathy on July 26, 2020:

This was a great lesson. Thank you for sharing. I can not wait to try.


Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on December 17, 2015:

I think I tied a little knot in it, and then put a dab of clear nail polish on the knot.

Dee on December 17, 2015:

This might be a silly question but how do you secure the fishing wire at the ends.

punam on January 18, 2015:

Wowww... Ur work is so clear n neat.

Ruth on September 29, 2014:

What foot did you use on your machine? Maybe I missed where you mentioned that.

Barbie on August 14, 2014:

Question so once you have gather your lettuce hem, how do you sew it together before adding fish line or after? You know to close the back part of the skirt?..

I hope i don't sound confusing.. lol

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on July 27, 2014:

No, sorry, I don't have a YouTube video of this. Maybe one day...

Barbie on July 27, 2014:


I was wondering if you have a you tube video?

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on February 16, 2014:

Millionaire Tips and VVanNess - thanks for the kind comments and for stopping by!

Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on February 16, 2014:

I love how easy you made this look for those that don't have experience in this area. Wonderful job!

Shasta Matova from USA on February 16, 2014:

That's a very clever technique and you have outlined the steps very clearly. Voted up!

Stephanie Z on October 09, 2013:

Nancy Hanson.. I didn't read all the comments so I'm not sure if your question was answered but ORGANZA is one the the best materials for this process. IT is sturdier that tulle etc. Good Luck

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on August 31, 2013:

Dee, thanks for the comment!

Dee on August 31, 2013:

Great tutorial one of the best pictorials Ive seen since looking on the web on how to do this type of hem.

Thank you so much.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on June 28, 2013:

Erorantes, thanks for stopping by and commenting! I never thought that when I wrote this article, it would turn out to be my most popular hub!

Ana Maria Orantes from Miami Florida on June 28, 2013:

Ms. Donna Huebsch; I like your article on the lettuce edge rulle ruffle. Thank for having the patient and teaching how to do it.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on June 25, 2013:

LensMan999, thanks for the kind comments!

LensMan999 from Trans-Neptunian region on June 25, 2013:

Lettuce Edge Tulle Ruffle has now become quite simple to me as the pictures and instructions included in the hub helps a lot. Thanks for sharing such a useful hub. Very nice pictures.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on June 24, 2013:

Thank you, queerlyobscure, for visiting and commenting!

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on June 24, 2013:

Hi, Meagan, sorry I neglected to answer your question earlier! We have been in a whirl of prom, graduation, and 18th birthday celebrations, so I have been a little remiss in my online anwer your question, the needle hit fabric on the left and not the right - I guess it was kind of a like an overlock stitch. There may better stitches to use on today's fancy machines, but did I mention, my machine is old and I'm a meager seamstress? :o)

Cecil Wilde from Melbourne, Australia on June 24, 2013:

I've always wondered how to do this! Thanks for the great tutorial.

Meagan on May 17, 2013:

When you zig zag stitch over the fishing line, does the needle hit fabric on both sides? or just on the one?

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on February 06, 2013:

Thank you, Craftybegonia!

craftybegonia from Southwestern, United States on February 06, 2013:


Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on February 06, 2013:

Thanks, Little Grandmommy! Your granddaughter would love it, I'm sure!

Gail from Small Town Tennessee on February 06, 2013:

What a great idea! My oldest granddaughter always asks me to make the costumes she wears in her school plays. Now, if I ever need a really lovely ruffle I'll know exactly what to do. Really good hub!

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on February 05, 2013:

MarleneB - thanks for the comment...good luck with your project!

Marlene Bertrand from USA on February 05, 2013:

Beautiful! And, thanks for all the little tips that make this project a little easier.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on January 28, 2013:

Pinkchic18, thanks for visiting and commenting:)

Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on January 28, 2013:

This is really neat. i love learning things like this!

DommaLeigh on January 26, 2013:

You are welcome and I'm glad to be here. I am always looking for new ideas and sewing tips.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on January 25, 2013:

Thank you, DommaLeigh! Welcome to HubPages :o)

DommaLeigh on January 25, 2013:

This is so kewl. I never seen that style ruffle. This is a page worth book marking.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on January 25, 2013:

Loveofnight - thanks! I am happy to say that necessity has not made me do it more than once :o)

Loveofnight Anderson from Baltimore, Maryland on January 25, 2013:

This is so cool, necessity is the mother of invention and you did it. Great job and thanks for the info.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on January 24, 2013:

RTalloni, glad to help! Thanks for stopping by :o)

RTalloni on January 24, 2013:

Love knowing how to do this--thanks!

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on January 24, 2013:

GoodFridayAuthor, thanks for visiting and commenting!

GoodFridayAuthor on January 24, 2013:

Fab and ingenious, I love this as I do similar projects myself. Big thumbsup!

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on December 29, 2012:

Thanks, Specialk3749! Good luck with your project :o)

Karen Metz from Michigan on December 29, 2012:

Great job! I am thinking about trying to make my daughter an outfit, and she would love ruffles like this! Thanks!

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on December 27, 2012:

Linzooo11 - The 50 lb line would make your waves bigger if that's what you want. If you're trying to get more waves in your ruffle, I would stick with the 30 lb. line and just cut a longer strip of fabric to gather - say at least 2 to 3 times the finished length of the ruffle.

lindsey. on December 27, 2012:

So I'm making a dress & really wanted this lettuce edge.. my sister had some fish-line so I used that first. I was a little hesitant because it's so thin! It's actually only a 6 lb test line, I tried it anyway & had barely any wave. I bought some tonight, it was a 30 lb test line, much better but still not nearly as much wave as yours, so would the 50 or higher be better because I want a real nice wavy ruffle.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on October 11, 2012:

Wow, ToniB, sounds like quite a project! Best of luck to you! Thanks for stopping by and commenting :o)

ToniB on October 11, 2012:

I am so going to give this a try!! I am going to attempt to make my daughter and neice's prom dressed in the style of those huge dresses on American Gypsies.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on September 14, 2012:

Thanks Jane and bloomsandbugs for reading and commenting. Good luck with your projects - I would love to know how they turn out!

Anshu from San Francisco, CA on September 14, 2012:

Very cool tutorial! Thanks for sharing. I'll try it and leave another comment on how it turned out. I guess this technique could be used on many other sheer fabrics like organza etc.

Jane Anderson on September 14, 2012:

Nice work! I think I'll head on over to a fabric store as soon as I can, I now have a particular project in mind. Thanks again for the instructions!

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on May 01, 2012:

Hi, kenni2times...because my fishing line was so thick, I just left a little hanging out from each end of the hem, and the stitching keeps it pretty secure. If I had used a little thinner line, I think I would have tied a little knot at the end, put a drop of clear nail polish on it, and trimmed off the excess.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on May 01, 2012:

Hi, Evelyn...I'm not really sure I understand exactly what you're doing, but I'll take a shot at it. I think if you just want a plain hem, turn up 1/4" on the unhemmed edge and press it; then turn it up again about 1/4" and machine stitch it. Or if you want the lettuce edge type of hem, encase a length of fishing line as described in the article above. Hope this helps!

kenni2times on April 30, 2012:

Thank you for this post! Just wondering how you finished off the edges of fishing line?

GeoAbbey on April 30, 2012:

Ohhhh thank you for sharing this. I have always wanted to make these type of skirts but could never get the bottom to look like anything other than a disaster.

I am inspired!

Again thank you.

Evelyn on April 26, 2012:

Any hints for sewing a hem on fabric that has already been cut out? I used a pattern to cut the half circle to make the ruffle. Now I'm dreading having to hem it. I don't have a serger and am really new to sewing. Any ideas would really be appreciated.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on April 11, 2012:

Honestly, I have not worked with organza...however, I would think that if you encased fishing line in the hem of any ruffle, you would probably get the "lettuce edge" effect. It might be worth experimenting with.

Nancy Hanson on April 11, 2012:

Hi ,

I am wondering if I use organza will the instructions be the same. My granddaughter did not want me to use tulle.


Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on April 09, 2012:

50 yards!! Oh, my! I'm glad my article could help, and best of luck to you!

katherine on April 09, 2012:

Thanks! This was so helpful! I'm sewing 50 yards of lettuce edge tulle to cover the bottom part of my daughter's prom dress... and until this post, I wasn't sure how that was going to happen. Yikes!

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on March 07, 2012:

I am certain that I have used my quilting ruler much more for other purposes than I have for quilting - it is quite handy!

SilkThimble from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 07, 2012:

Yet another great use for a quilting ruler! I use mine - and the rotary cutter - for all sorts of sewing and craft purposes.

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on January 12, 2012:

Loveto, glad you found this helpful! Thanks for letting me know :o)

Loveto create from Louisiana on January 12, 2012:

Donna, You are a craft angel. You saved me $32.00 dollars on a rolled hem presser foot. If you ever need help with sewing for other in need please send me a email and where to send the items.

Thanks, There is Angel on this Earth

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on October 31, 2011:

Thanks, Zsuzsy Bee! Wish I had come across the cording you mentioned - our local fabric store didn't carry anything similar, so we had to improvise in the sporting goods section of Walmart ;o)

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on October 31, 2011:

Great job Donna, tulle can be a tricky, tricky "substance" to sew. There is actually a fine, clear nylon cording available on the market made for just this sort of hemming. It comes in 1.5mm widths. It looks almost like fish line except it's flat on one side, which might make it a little easier to use.

Congrats, you did a fabulous job at sewing and creating this informative hub and the pics are super too.

super duper hub voted up and marked as useful

regards Zsuzsy

Donna Fairley Huebsch (author) from Clearwater, Florida on October 29, 2011:

Thanks, VirginiaLynne and Meadow Kelly! Give it a go - it makes such a girly, girly ruffle :o)

Meadow Kelly from Mid South, USA on October 29, 2011:

This is a great hub, Donna. Your photos and instructions are very easy to follow. You've got me thinking about Christmas for the granddaughters now. Welcome to HubPages!

Virginia Kearney from United States on October 29, 2011:

Beautiful ruffle! I really like your clear photos. I'll have to try this.