Day 29: Refashioned ruffle tank top tutorial

Today is Day 29 of Sewing School.

I updated this boring tank top a couple of years ago. I still love how it came out and I thought I would share the simple tutorial with you (adapted from an original post on Gidget Goes Home).

In this photo tutorial you’ll learn how to make a ruffle out of a knit material (I used some fabric I cut off the bottom of a knit dress), and also a little rosette fashioned from a t-shirt hemline. There really are so many ways to repurpose t-shirts and knit garments.

Happy sewing!

I had a pretty grayish strip of fabric that I had saved when I shortened a dress for my sis-in-law (Thanks, Angelina!). I have a hard time throwing away scraps, and I guess it’s a good thing!

I scrounged up an old gray tank that had been banished to the drawer, and decided to give it new life with a little ruching and a couple of t-shirt flowers!

Making the ruffle

First you’ll need a strip of knit fabric (cut-off of the bottom of a dress, from a t-shirt, or just purchased).

The width on mine was about 5 inches total and I folded and pressed both ends toward the middle (making sure to overlap them), so that the new width measures about 2.5″.

I ended up using two ruffles that each started as a strip 17″ in length. I found it a little too hard to gather the ruffle when it was one long piece (my thread broke!).

A good rule of thumb is to make your pre-gathered ruffle strip one and a half to double the length you want your finished ruffle to cover. For example, my neckline was 21″ and my total strip length was about 33″ after I sewed the two strips together (that comes later).

Sew a long stitch all the way down the middle (of each if you have 2). I set my machine to the biggest stitch length which is 5.0. You’ll want to make sure you have a few inches of thread hanging off on both ends and do not back stitch.

Pull your top thread from both ends (gently– I broke mine once and had to resew it!), moving the gathers towards the middle as you pull to make your ruffle. This is a simplified version of the fancy method of ruching {pronounced rooshing}. 🙂

If you did your ruffle in 2 halves, now sew them together, pressing the seam open. Make sure you push your gathers as close to that seam as you can to try to hide it.

Attaching the ruffle

Pin your ruffle to your shirt in the desired place (hopefully you’ll have your pins all going the right way unlike me, oopsie). I’m a pretty symmetrical girl so I just did mine from shoulder to shoulder. Sew a straight line down your ruffle over the large gathering stitch. If you want to be extra professional you could rip out the larger stitch later (I skipped that).

After that I decided I needed a little extra somethin’ to finish it off. Plus, I had that seam in the middle where I connected my two ruffles that I wanted to distract from.

Making the rosette(s)

I took a t-shirt from my repurposing pile; hopefully you have one you can spare, too. Cut off the hemmed edges of the two sleeves, careful not to cut the thread of the serged hem.

Then sew a large stitch down the middle and slightly gather it (just like in the ruffle, only less gathered).

Twirl it around to make a little rose, handsewing it together as you go (this is not an exact science). You can adjust the gathers as you go to get it to sit how you like.

Hand sew your two rosettes wherever you like (or make more! I think three would be ideal.). I put two of these just to one side of my center seam. I wanted it to cover the seam (or at least distract from it), but not be right in the middle.


This is such a fun and easy project. It took me most of the day (hence the darker last photo), since I was working in between tending to a sick child and normal baby duties 🙂 but if you have a block of time it would come together in a jiffy–probably during a naptime.

This tank top is now be out of the drawer and proudly hanging in my closet (when I’m not wearing it, that is)!

If you make one, I’d love to see it! Leave a link in the comments or post a photo over on facebook!


Nicole lives near the beach in Southern California with her husband and three young kiddos. She writes a a lifestyle blog about creativity, family life, community, and all sorts of other fun stuff, and also keeps a homeschool journal called The Bennettar Academy. Her most recent (free!) ebook is about why and how to make more time for reading.

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  1. This is exactly why I am trying to get better at sewing. I love seeing things refashioned! I am always amazed at what others are able to do. Great post!

  2. Do you have any tips for sewing on knit fabric? I have a black knit skirt that is a little longer than is flattering on me, and I’d like to hem it up, but I’m a little nervous about doing it because I’m worried the stretch in the fabric will make it difficult.

  3. Very creative and stylish. I love it!

  4. I have really liked your posts about sewing. This one is a great idea!

    A little tip to make gathering easier. Instead of sewing one line of stitching, sew 2 really close to each other. Then pull both threads at the same time. The tension is not all on one thread, so it doesn’t break as easily. You can also get a more uniform ruffle in between the two threads that you can stitch in place. And if for some reason one thread does break, you haven’t lost all of your work – you can still work off the second thread!

  5. This is great… it’s fun to personalize things. (rosettes and ruffles are also great for placing over stains on shirts, sometimes…)

    One sneaky trick for gathers is to use button or other heavier-duty thread – it’s less likely to break.

    P.S. I especially love that you used “Voilá!” correctly! (I keep seeing it on the internet as “viola!” which perturbs my pedantic soul…)

  6. So cute Nicole!

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