Back to School Blog Hop – Basics of Ruching!

Welcome back friends to my little blog where I’m participating in my good friend Sam Hunter’s Back to School Blog Hop! I’ve been a participant for several years in a row with Sam’s wonderful blog hop and I am so so so happy to teach you something near and dear to my heart – Ruching!

Ruching (pronounced rooshing) is a very old fabric manipulation technique that’s been used on gowns and quilts and home decor since the early 1700’s. Ruching can refer to any kind of fabric gathering technique, but here we are going to be specifically gathering strips of fabric. In Quilting, ruching was used on Baltimore Album quilts in the 1860’s. In historical clothing, you can see lot’s of gowns from this same era featuring ruched strips of ribbon adorning them as trims.

Your materials list is very simple: needle and thread (I like Jeana Kimball Wool Needles #7), a strip of fabric about 22 inches long and 2 inches wide, a pencil, an iron and ironing surface, and a Smocking Template to make some marks (I like using my mini smocking template for this technique, but you can use the large one too). Optionally, you can get some Thread Conditioner, like my Mind Your Own Beeswax, to strengthen your thread.

To begin, iron your strip so that the raw edges are in the center. The wrong side of your fabric, should yours have one, should be encapsulated in the middle, and you should only see right sides up.

Next, you need to mark your fabric on the side with the raw edges with a pencil, just at the top and bottom of the strip in a alternating pattern. This is so you have something to sew towards as you make your gathers. The smocking template makes quick work of this, but you could alternately use a ruler.

With your needle threaded (and optionally waxed), start in the bottom corner of the strip, and take an extra stitch so your knot doesn’t pull or pop out. Then take running stitches at an angle toward the opposite side of the strip to the mark you made with your pencil.

Here’s the trick of this whole process. No matter if your needle ends up on the top or bottom side of the strip, you want to make sure that your next stitch loops the thread over the edge of the fold of the fabric. I flip the thread over and start stitching towards the next mark.

After about 3 or 4 “zig zags” on your strip, you can start gently pulling the gathers. You do not want to wait until the end of sewing the whole strip to do this, or your thread will break in the middle! (Ask me how I know!) After you pull them and gather the fabric, take an extra stay stitch at that spot to keep them in place.

Keep going until you have gathered the whole strip! Now here’s where you can see some variations. If you skip a space on your smocking template when making your marks, you will create much wider gathers. This can create softer flowers or shapes. Remember, the raw edges and the marks are technically the back of your strip. You will use the other side as the “right” side.

Also, if you want the colors in a particular strip, you can select a fabric that has a print, but the print itself will be lost in the technique and just leave behind the pretty colors.

Once you have your strip gathered, you can hand applique it down like you would any other fabric. I use the points of the ruching as the spots that get tacked down to the background. I like to spiral them into flowers, tucking in the raw ends to hide them. But they can be stems, or swags, or whatever you like!

Ruching can add some beautiful dimension to your next quilting or garment project! I hope you give it a try! If you like this technique, you will love my online class! Check it out here.

Be sure to check out all of the other blogs participating in this year’s Back to School Blog Hop! Go back and read the previous days and be sure to check them out further along in the month!

Day 1 – September 1 – Sam Hunter: Sewing Long Seams Without Stretching –

Day 2 – September 2 – Susan Arnold – Joining Binding the Easy Way –

Day 3 – September 3 – Angie Wilson – Fussy cutting tips and techniques –

Day 4 – September 4 – Andi Stanfield – No-Mark HST: Let your machine be your guide –

Day 5 – September 5 – Bobbie Gentili – Say YES to Y-seams –

Day 6 – September 6 – Mel Beach – 5 Reasons to Say Woo Hoo! to School Glue –

Day 7 – September 7 – Laura Piland – 7 Ways to Use a Laser on Your Sewing Machine –

Day 8 – September 8 – Suzy Webster – How to solve loops in free motion quilting –

Day 9 – September 9 – Tara Miller – Accurate Stitch-and-Flip Corners –

Day 10 – September 10 – Latifah Saafir – Accurate Seams Using Masking Tape! –

Day 11 – September 11 – Sarah Ruiz – The Magic of Glue Basting –

Day 12 – September 12 – Jen Shaffer – Ways to stop your ruler from slipping while cutting –

Day 13 – September 13 – Cheryl Sleboda – Basics of ruching (a vintage fabric manipulation technique) –

Day 14 – September 14 – Raylee Bielenberg – Choosing quilting designs for your quilt –

Day 15 – September 15 – Jen Strauser – Accurate and Attractive Machine binding –

Day 16 – September 16 – Jane Davidson – Matching points for all types of intersections –

Day 17 – September 17 – Teresa Coates – Starch and starch alternatives –

Day 18 – September 18 – Jen Frost – Benefits of spray basting –

Day 19 – September 19 – Sandra Starley – Getting started with Hand Quilting –

Day 20 – September 20 – Karen Platt – Drunkard’s Path Made Easy –

Day 21 – September 21 – Kris Driessen – All Kinds of Square (in a Square) –

Day 22 – September 22 – Sarah Goer – Planned Improv Piecing –

Day 23 – September 23 – Kathy Bruckman – Organizing kits for on-the-go sewing –

Day 24 – September 24 – Cheryl Daines Brown – The Secret to Flat Quilt Tops: Borders –

Day 25 – September 25 – Cherry Guidry – Pre-assembling fusible applique –

Day 26 – September 26 – Laura Chaney – Getting started with English Paper Piecing –

Day 27 – September 27 – Ebony Love – Cutting Bias Strips from a Rectangle –

Day 28 – September 28 – Tammy Silvers – Working with heavier weight threads in your machine –

Day 29 – September 29 – Kathy Nutley – Create a perfect facing or frame with 90 degree angles –

Day 30 – September 3 – Joanne Harris – Using Leaders and Enders –

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Slouchy Couch Makeover!

slouchy couchI like my couch, but I hate, hate, hate the back cushions.  They were so floppy, and sitting there for any amount of time meant refluffing the back cushion so that it wasn’t basically pushing you onto the floor.   The couch used to have more structure, and while I could restuff the pillows, I knew it was just a matter of months before the pillows would be droopy again.  My cat loves to lay across the droopy part, so even though I fluff up the couch each day, by the end of the day it looked like a terrible mess.

IMG_9588I had considered tufting the pillows with buttons, but in the end, my desperation came to fix the cushions with only cotton crochet thread and a giant embroidery needle.   Want to know how?  It’s easy, and here are the steps.

IMG_95821. Pull all the stuffing out of your cushion.  It will be a mess.  I put each cushion stuffing into a separate garbage bag to keep the wispy cushion guts from getting all over everything else. You will need this later and you want each cushion to get the same stuffing back in it.


IMG_95872. Mark lightly with chalk (Or here I used snippets of thread) to mark where you want your tufts.   I tried to make them even across and down.  I used 2 rows because I was afraid that only one row would  just make a similar floppy pillow that would fold in half.  The second row creates more structure.  Mark all of your cushions at the same time, so you can check that they are even.


IMG_95903. Working from the back of the cushion, I sewed so that I made an X shape on the front.  My stitches are about 3/4 inch long, and I used a double length.  Once I had the X on the front I tied a big and strong knot on the back and snipped the threads.   If you wanted to, at this point you could sew on a button to cover your threads on the front and back.  The crochet thread is doing the hard work of keeping the pillow shape, so your buttons should not pop off.


IMG_95854. Now the hard part comes in putting ALL of the stuffing back into the pillow.  If your stuffing is as lumpy as mine from being matted down, then take time to pull it apart before restuffing.  You want to push it into the crevices and between the tufts.   Be gentle, if your fabric is weak from age or your crochet thread not tied strong enough, you can pop those stitches or rip your fabric from overzealous stuffing.


IMG_95915.  Enjoy your new cushions!  The boss, who always mashed down my couch cushions, approves!


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Die-Cut Fabric Holiday Cards Tutorial

Cheryl's 2013 Holiday Card Every year I make my own Christmas cards to mail to my friends and family. I was super excited to make this year’s card with my new Slice Die Cutting machine. Here’s what I did to make the cards!

What you will need:
-cards and envelopes (I get my blanks in bulk from Michaels)
-fabric that you have painted, or any nice fabric you want to cut (like a batik!)
-paper-backed fusible web
-Die cutting machine and your die of choice (I’m using the Slice, and the snowflake on the card that comes with the machine)
-rubber stamp for the inside saying for your card and a stamp pad in the color of your choice
-an iron
– a sewing machine set to free motion quilt (feed dogs dropped) for the embellishment
xmasfabric 1. Start with fabric of your choice. I painted my own fabric using these awesome Tulip spray paints and various stencils. You can use any fabric you like, a fancy batik would look awesome!
2. I ironed the fusible web to the entire backside of the fabric, so that I could cut anywhere and minimize waste, but use what you need to for the fusible that you have. It’s important to fuse the paper backed fusible on the fabric before you cut!
slicexmas 3. Time to cut! Get your machine out, and use your favorite die. Ornaments can be made out of circles, trees from triangles, presents from squares, so use your imagination! I loved this snowflake, so I chose that, and on my Slice, I picked the largest setting. Cut away!
xmascutout Something to keep in mind is the placement of the machine while you cut. I place the machine at angles to keep my fabric waste to a minimum. Who knows what you can make from the scraps!
xmasflakes 4. Now is the time to further embellish your die cut out with paint, markers, or pens. I used black paint to paint little faces on all these snowflakes.
xmascardassemble 5. Time to iron to your card! Peel off the paper backing and place your cut-out on your card. MAKE SURE YOUR IRON IS CLEAN. Ask me how I know? Use a medium heat and iron the cut-out to the card. Keep your iron moving. Now is also the time to stamp the inside saying on your cards, and give them a chance to dry. (I also stamp my website info on the backs.)
xmascards 6. Lastly it’s time to sew on the cards to add that last bit of pizzazz! For my snowflake, I made it look like it’s just been spinning in the sky. You could make bows on packages, or the hanging string from ornaments, whatever you like! Be sure to sew carefully so you don’t create any thread nests on the backs of the cards, and also clip all of your thread tails. Voila! You have beautiful cards that everyone will clamor for! My friends save them and put them up every year as little works of art, which makes me feel so special. I would love to see what you make!!  Don’t forget to sign the front of your artwork!

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Lace Rosette Ribbon Tutorial

Always on the lookout for things to do with my buckets of vintage lace, I figured out how to make a Rosette Ribbon, and I thought I would share it with you!

You will need:
-Lace pieces
-Cotton fabric
-Perfect Pleater
-Spray Starch
-Embellishment for the center

-Sewing supplies (needle, thread, etc)

To start, we’re going to do the base pleated rosette.

1. Cut a thin strip of fabric with pinking shears.  The width of the fabric will be half the diameter of your rosette.  We want a fat strip here because layers of lace will top this rosette.

2. Start pleating your fabric on every louver of the pleater.  Tuck it inside nice and tight, and try to keep your fabric straight on the pleater (it’s easy to get wonky).

3. When done pleating, give it a good spray of starch to wet it, and press it with your iron until dry.  

4. Remove the fabric from the pleater, and manage your pleats into shape.

5. With right sides together, Make a running stitch (or use your machine) to form a loop out of your strip.

6. Push the fabric into a circle, keeping your pleats intact.

7.. With a needle and thread, pick up the fabric in stitches on the part of the fabric strip that will be the inside of the rosette.  Pull tight to form a circle.

Now you can do the rest of your ribbon rosette!

1. Taking a wide width of lace and a thinner one, lay one on top of the other, and then turn so both skinny layers are facing forward.  This is a similar shape as the various “hope” ribbons.  Sew this ribbon to the back of the fabric pleated rosette.

2. Ruffle up another piece of lace into a circle by picking up stitches in a running stitch along one edge, or finding a ribbon that is pre-ruffled. Tack this in the center of the pleated fabric rosette.  I used more thin laces to create little tendrils hanging from the center of the rosette.

3. Lastly, you can use a Yo-yo, decorative button, or other embellishment to decorate the center of the ribbon.  If you are using it as a prize ribbon, you could make a quilted center with “1st Place” or whatever you like in the middle.

Enjoy your ribbon!  

Check back later this week for a chance to win a Perfect Pleater of your very own!!

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Purse Hankie Cover Tutorial!!!

When I first started collecting vintage hankies, I was introduced to the “hankie safe”, a cloth cover in which ladies put their nicely starched and pressed hankies so they didn’t get dirty.  For a while now, I have had a mess o’ hankies in the bottom of my purse.  It wasn’t seemly to offer one to someone if it came out all manky from the bottom of my bag.  I needed a Purse-sized Hankie Safe/Cover.

Here’s How I made it:

1. My folded hankie fit nicely on a 6 inch square, so that is where I started.  I picked a beautiful hand printed fabric I made with my Gelli Plate, and this is a great project for your Gelli printed fabrics!

2. Cut your cover (printed) fabric to be exactly 6 inches square.  Also cut 2 more 6 inch squares from a coordinating fabric.  I chose white, but you could match your fabrics too.

3. Fold your coordinating fabrics corner to corner and press. (I am using white, but if you use a print, make sure it’s wrong sides together)

4. Lay your newly pressed triangles on top of the printed fabric (right side up).

5. Sew around the entire perimeter with a 1/4 inch seam.  I made sure to reinforce the corners.

6. Clip the corners and turn inside out.  Clip the inside corners closely.

7. I didn’t like how the folded cover made the raw edges stick out, so I used a whip stitch by hand to close up the edges.

8.  You can further embellish with a pretty lace trim, or even a button to keep it closed.  Enjoy your hankie cover, and now you can offer a hankie to someone without embarrassment, and keep them tidy in your purse.

Want to know how I folded the hankie to fit the cover?  Here’s how!

1. My hankie is about 12 inches square unfolded.  I got this one at Victorian Trading Co.  

2. Fold in half, and then half again.

3. Fold one corner to meet the opposite corner.

4. Then fold again for a small compact hankie!

 I hope you enjoy the Hankie cover tutorial, and please let me know if you make one!

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