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Ruffled Cardigan How-To

January 24, 2011

Cardigans are one of my favorite wardrobe staples. They’re essential year-round, certainly in the fall and winter, but also to throw on in the chilly AC during the warmer months. I have cardigans in a variety of colors, yet sometimes I get bored with just ordinary solids. But it only takes a little time and a few basic materials to transform something plain into something unique.

Goodwill has racks full of simple basics, and $3.79 is a low price to pay for a wardrobe experiment. I recently found a great little cardigan in butter yellow at Goodwill and decided this would be a perfect piece for a simple embellishment.

My choice: a colorful ruffle.

Ruffles are surprisingly easy to make and can be accomplished either by hand or machine. First, you’ll need to do the most fun part: pick your fabric. I used some vintage fabric that I had in my sewing room, but you could purchase something from the craft store or use your own scraps. A strip cut from a newly hemmed skirt would be the perfect size.

I added a ruffle on both sides of my cardigan, so that it would look great whether open or buttoned. Just measure the length of the cardigan where it opens and cut a length of fabric for your ruffle that is about 2.5 times that of the sweater. (You can modify this length as you wish. If you make the length shorter, there will be less of a ruffle; if you make it longer, the ruffle will be more gathered.) You can make your ruffle as wide as you’d like and either finish the edge or leave it to fray. This all depends on your taste and the time you want to devote.

Now it’s time to sew! If you want to create your ruffle by hand, then just sew a simple running stitch through the length of your fabric along one edge. Before you knot it at the end, pull your thread to gather the fabric, and voila – a ruffle! If you want to employ your sewing machine for this project, then here’s my simple trick: use a different color for your bobbin thread so that it’s easy to find. Remove your fabric from the machine before back-stitching at the end, and pull the bobbin thread so that the fabric gathers. And again, here’s your ruffle!

For either method, be sure and check the length of your ruffle with your cardigan so that you know you’ve gathered the fabric the right amount. And when you’re done, just knot the thread several times. Now all that’s left is to pin the ruffle on your cardigan and stitch it on, whether by hand or machine. It’s that easy!

-Amanda Aileen Fisher

Stop by our Contributors page for more about Amanda, or read her other posts here.

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