How to Make Ruffles at the Bottom of Pants Using Elastic

Written by gwen chance
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How to Make Ruffles at the Bottom of Pants Using Elastic
(Sewing machine image by Susanne Karlsson from

Adding a ruffle to existing jeans can be quite the adorable fashion statement. Contrasting ruffles can make any little girl's plain jeans more interesting and may even add extra inches to extend wear. Here's a basic way to add ruffles to any pant using elastic.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • elastic
  • trousers
  • fabric strips
  • thread
  • sewing machine
  • ruler or tape measure
  • straight pins
  • safety pin
  • iron
  • pen

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    Prepare Your Ruffles

  1. 1

    Decide how gathered you want your ruffles to be and how wide you want your ruffles to be. Standard sewing advice is to double the length of your fabric strip. If your pant leg measures 10 inches around (5 inches across) then you'll need a 21-inch strip of fabric: 20 inches for the ruffle and 1 inch for 1/2 inch seam allowances. The length of the ruffle is up to you. It can be a diminutive ankle ruffle or a trendy ruffle that hangs from the shin area. For example, if you decide you want a 2-inch ruffle, plan on cutting a 21-inch strip that is 5 inches wide to allow for folding double and a 1/2 inch seam allowance. One more piece of advice: The narrower your ruffle, the harder it will be to work with. Don't forget to cut two strips--one for each leg.

    How to Make Ruffles at the Bottom of Pants Using Elastic
    Light weight cotton is easy to work with. (store display of fabric image by Joyce Wilkes from
  2. 2

    Finish the four ends first. Fold in 1/2 inch to the WRONG side at each end. Iron each end in place. Using either a straight stitch or zigzag stitch, sew the folds down. You should now have two strips each with two long unfinished edges and two finished ends.

  3. 3

    Fold one ruffle strip in half lengthwise RIGHT fabric sides together. Pin the raw edges together by sticking the pins in perpendicular to the edge with the heads pointing out. Sew a straight seam 1/2 inch in from the edge along the full length removing the pins as you go. Now you have a long tube that you need to turn. If your ruffle is too long or too narrow to turn by hand (just as you'd turn a sock inside out) you'll need a safety pin narrower than the tube. Select the largest pin you have that will easily slide into the tube. Pin the safety pin to the end of your ruffle tube and push the fabric over the pin. It will take a moment to get the knack, but hold the pin firmly on one end, push fabric onto it, pinch the fabric and pin on the opposite end and then pull the fabric off the original end. Repeat over and over to tunnel the pin through the tube until the pin emerges through the other end. Slide the rest of the fabric tube off itself until you see the right side of the fabric with the seam inside. Repeat for the second ruffle.

  4. 4

    Iron the turned ruffles flat keeping the seam along the edge. Depending on how stiff the fabric is, you may need to pin the seam edge before ironing.

  5. 5

    Prepare the two pieces of elastic, one for each ruffle. The width of the elastic will depend on the size of the trousers and the stiffness of the ruffle fabric. Generally, the smaller the ruffle or softer the fabric, the narrower the elastic can be. You'll probably need 1/4 inch width to 1/2 inch width for most projects. The length of the elastic will be twice the width of the trousers plus 2 extra inches. Make pen marks 1 inch from each end on each piece.

  6. 6

    Make a special tube (casing) just for the elastic. If you haven't sewn before, think of the top of a gathered curtain to help you visualise what you're sewing. The rod threads through a casing to gather or ruffle the fabric across the window. The elastic needs to thread through a casing too. Sew a straight line along the folded edge. The line of stitching needs to be 1/8 to 1/4 inch wider than your elastic so that you can thread it through the casing. Repeat for the second ruffle.

  7. 7

    Pin a safety pin that matches the width of the elastic to the end of the elastic. Use the pin to help thread the elastic through the casing. When the unpinned elastic end is almost ready to disappear into the casing, pin it at the pen mark to the ruffle edge so you don't loose it. Return to forcing the safety pin and elastic through the casing until you see your other pen mark. The fabric is now ready to be ruffled along the elastic. Carefully unpin the elastic and pull out the elastic ends as much as you need to overlap the ends and pin them together at the pen marks. Hold the ruffle against the pant leg to double check the size and effect. Adjust the elastic if needed, pin and sew together. Again, the smaller the project, the harder this will be--be patient and careful. Try to sew the elastic as flat and straight as possible. Once it's sewn, let the elastic relax keeping the elastic tails outside the casing and spread the ruffles evenly. If you're happy with it, trim the tails and poke them inside the casing. Repeat for the second ruffle.

  8. 8

    Place the trousers flat on a table and slide one ruffle up each leg. Place the ruffle end edge in line with the inside pant leg seam. Double check that the gathering is even and that the ruffles are at the same height. Pin in place. Using either a straight or zigzag stitch, slowly sew through the ruffle, elastic and pant leg being careful not to sew the front of the pant leg onto the back. Depending on your machine, you may need a heavy-duty needle for this step. You can either keep or cut off the original jean bottom fabric under the ruffle.

Tips and warnings

  • If you don't have a free arm on your sewing machine for sewing tube shapes such as pant legs and sleeves you may have to sew the final ruffle on by hand.
  • This is also the way to make a bride's garter.
  • Make two long ruffles and slip them over a standard long sleeve T-shirt just below the elbow to imitate a girl's Colonial-era dress.

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