Add ruffles to a basic shirt

The finished product. A couple of the ruffles didn’t make it on the shirt, my “helper” batted them to an unknown location.

Here I go once again, cutting up perfectly good clothes to make something even better. This ruffle project was an especially exciting experience for me, since I was required to use a sewing machine. That’s right everyone, up until I made this masterpiece I didn’t have the slightest clue how to use a sewing machine. Oddly enough, it’s not as difficult as most would think. So with that thought in mind, read on, completely unafraid and unintimidated, and learn how to add some ruffles to your shirts. I promise, I’m not trying to trick you into anything. This really is an easy and fun project. Check it out:

List of supplies:

  • A shirt, preferably long sleeve, a 3/4 sleeve will work, but this will not work with a T-shirt or tank top.
  • A needle and thread. You will do a bit of sewing by hand.
  • A sewing machine. Sewing all the ruffles on by hand will probably be the death of you, so I recommend a sewing machine, but if someone out there decides to do this all by hand, I applaud you!
  • Scissors, pins, pincushions, seam ripper, ruler, pencil, thimble and any other things that I forgot to mention.


Step 1: Cut the sleeves off the top. Simple enough, right? The amount of ruffles you want determines how much of your sleeves you cut off. I didn’t want to attack my top with ruffles, so I only cut 1/2 the sleeve off.

Cutting off the hem, and cutting open the sleeve.

Step 2: Cut the hem off the bottom of the sleeve (as shown). The sleeve still looks a bit like a tube at this point, so cut along the seam to open it up. You will also want to cut out the seam, since its going to make the ruffle look strange. Do the same thing to the other seam. until the look like the picture on the left.

My “helper” who didn’t really help, she was more interested in laying on the shirt and playing with the fabric scraps.

Strips of fabric, cut from the sleeve.

Step 3: Determine approximately how wide you want your ruffles to be, then cut the sleeves vertically (the long way) into strips.

Loose stitches sewn down the center of the strip.

Step 4: Once you’ve got all these strips it’s time for the hard part. Actually, this part isn’t THAT difficult. You could probably do it on a sewing machine if you know how to use on well, since I don’t I opted to do this part by hand. Start at the top of the strip and make long stitches down the center. When you get to the bottom, before you tie off the thread, scrunch the strip to make a ruffle, you can scrunch them as much as you’d like. once they’re scrunched then tie off the thread so they can “un-scrunch”.

The finished ruffle.

Step 5: Then you get to play around with the ruffles. Lay them out on your top and find where you want them to stay. There are tons and tons of fun ways to arrange these ruffles. I chose to put mine around the neckline of my top because it was a little bit too low and the ruffles gave me more coverage. Once you know where you want your ruffles to go, pin them there. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of pins. Having the ruffles secure is going to make the sewing process a lot easier.

Step 6: Carefully, and I really stress carefully, try on the top. Remember you just put a boatload of pins in there so be careful not to poke yourself with them. It may seem silly to try an awfully pokey shirt on, but it’s going to look different on you than it does laying flat on your table.  Once you’ve tried on the shirt and made sure that the ruffles lay correctly It’s time to sew!



Step 7: SEWING! We finally made it to everyone’s favorite step. For those of you who don’t have a ton of experience with sewing, check out my “Learn to sew (in 40 seconds)” video below, which will (hopefully) give you a couple of helpful pointers.


Cutting the sleeves off the shirt.

And voilà! You’ve got a new shirt, and some sewing prowess. If you have any other DIY ideas you’d like to see me try, email me at Ideas are always welcome!