Pre-Steaming Gathers

Pre-Steaming Gathers




As many know, I love a gathered tutu. I particularly love small even gathers.When I finally came up with a method which made it quick and easy, I started teaching it at our seminars over ten years ago. I’m now sharing it here.

 Preparing your ruffles
  • Join all panels by overlapping ¼” and stitch down the center of the overlap.
  • Gathering stitches
  • I prefer to use two lines of basting stitches for the top ruffle.
To make this easier, use nylon bonded thread in the bobbin. 
  • The top ruffle is the one that shows the most and I like it to be particularly precise.
  • For all other ruffles you can use zigzagging over fishing line, ruffle attachment or Johnson Ruffler.
  • Gather all your ruffles in one of the methods above, adjust to be about 36" wide. 
Getting ready to steam
  • Using small mini clamps and a metal 36" yardstick (long ruler).
  • Clip the top edge of a ruffle to the ruler. Clips should not extend past the stitches.
  • Use a handheld or upright (Jiffy type) steamer.
  • Be very careful of the hot steam!
  • Starting at one end (I prefer starting at the far right), and beginning with about 4”-6” of the gathers, begin to arrange that section. Pull (the tension makes it possible) ruffles into
straight, even radiating lines without gathers folding over each other.  
  • Hold them in place once you are happy with them.
  • Being very careful of the hot steam, steam them gently, hovering over them rather than pressing them down. MOVE your fingers out of the way when you get close to them. The steam will scald you.
  • This takes some practice and some net is fussier than others.
    • You can also “rake” (using your fingers in the valley of the ruffles, pull the ruffles into straight radiating lines).
    • You can also pin the ruffle (ends) in place, I find this more time-consuming. With a little practice doing it without pinning results in the same look.
  • Repeat for the entire ruffle.
  • Domestic net needs little steam to set them
  • Italian net is springy and needs a fair amount, often net softens then hardens up when cool.
  • Australia or stiffer nets need more steam to set.
  • Use only as much steam as needed to set them. Too much will soften the net.


  • Once done, hang up or set aside to cool.
  • Repeat for all the other ruffles.
  • Top ruffles need the most care, others (that will be under it) can be done rather quickly and less care if you wish. 
  • Once you practice this method a little, it goes rather quickly.

 Why pre-steam ruffles?  
  • You can control the look of the ruffles (small more precise), which affects the finished look of your tutu.
  • It’s easier to tack.
  • You do not need to steam AFTER the tutu is constructed other than a little touch up usually underneath.
  • Pre-steaming flattens the top edge making it easier to sew onto the panty.
  • Delicate, precise gathers, are easily yours with this method.
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