How to Make an Elizabethan Ruffle Collar

Updated November 21, 2016

If you've seen a painting of Queen Elizabeth I or William Shakespeare, then you've seen the white, ruffled collar that was very popular in the 1500s. Today, historical re-enactors often have a need to make and wear Elizabethan-era ruffled collars, and if you're staging one of Shakespeare's plays in period costume, you will need at least one or two for your actors. Although not a project for the novice seamstress, a basic collar for a man or woman of the middle class is not that difficult to make.

Measure around your neck. Multiply by five and add two. If your neck is 15 inches around, 15 times 5 is 75, plus 2 inches, for a total of 77 inches. Cut a piece of 2-inch-wide white grosgrain ribbon that length. Make dots on the ribbon 1/2 inch in from one side, 3/4 of an inch apart.

Gather the ruffle. Thread the needle with as long a piece of quilting thread as you can manage, at least two yards. Bring the needle up through the first pencil mark, catch a bit of the next four marks in the needle, gather them together (this will look rather like flower petals) and stitch through all five together once or twice to hold. Do a running stitch to the next mark, and repeat. Continue until you have gathered the entire length of ribbon in this manner.

Set the ruffles. With a new piece of thread, do a running stitch 1/2-inch from the edge, overlapping your sewing. When you get to a gathered part, flatten the loops, two on the left and two on the right, and stitch down with your running stitch. Continue to the end of the ribbon.

Fit the collar. Wrap the stitched ribbon around your neck. The edges should overlap by half an inch. If the sewn ribbon is too long, cut it so there is 1/2-inch overlap.

Attach the collar to the fabric. Cut two pieces of the white fabric 3 inches wide and as long as your neck plus 1 inch. Pin the flattened, gathered edge of the ribbon to the long edge of one piece of fabric and stitch. Pin the other piece of fabric on top and stitch through all three layers, following the previous seam as a guide.

Finish the ruff. Sew the short ends of the fabric together and turn. You can now use the open edges of the fabric to attach your ruffle collar to a garment or sew the open edges together, add hooks and eyes to the short ends and wear separately.

Things You'll Need

  • White grosgrain ribbon, 2 inches wide
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Needle
  • White quilting thread
  • White fabric
  • Hooks and eyes
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