Gathering Foot VS. Ruffler Foot

The Difference Between a Gathering / Shirring Foot and a Ruffler Foot – What use to be a tedious and often frustrating technique of manually gathering and pleating fabric can now be achieved effortlessly with either a Gathering foot or a Ruffler foot. Both are great accessories to make your sewing life a little easier and faster. There are, however, a few differences between the two. The fabric is gathered differently with a Ruffler than with a Gathering foot and the end result looks slightly different. The way I see it, the Gathering Foot is great for normal, generic gathers, whereas the Ruffler Foot is more customizable and more versatile. The Ruffler foot takes a little more thought, where as with the gathering foot you can just screw it in and sew.

Gathering Foot

The gathering foot is really quite simple. You just slide fabric under the foot and sew. The volume of your gathers depend mostly on your tension. A tension of 7 is going create fuller gathers than a tension of 5. Also, a stitch length of 3.0 creates a little more volume than a stitch length of 5.0.

Tension: 7 – Stitch Length: 3.0

Tension: 7 – Stitch Length: 5.0

Tension: 5 – Stitch Length: 5.0

You may want even more body in your gather and thus will need to manually pull on the needle threads to bunch up the fabric. Just make sure you don’t back stitch and knot the ends when you are satisfied.

A great feature of the Gathering foot is you can gather and sew on a flat piece of a fabric at the same time. The fabric you want gathered goes under the presser foot like normal. the fabric you want attached to the gather slides into the top groove of the presser foot. So simple! This can take a little bit of practice to master, but none the less it is a total time saver and looks terrific!

Tension: 7 – Stitch Length: 5.0 Sew slowly

I don’t know about you, but about a million different apron ideas are going through my mind while looking at this!

The Ruffler

This contraption may look a little intimidating, but I promise is totally worth taking 15 minutes to get to know this little guy. Why? Because it is AWESOME! Basically, it pleats your fabric. However, it pleats your fabric at 3 different stitch intervals, which can be customized even further by adjusting your stitch length! But, wait, there’s more. You can also adjust the depth of the pleat. And it can be switched to a regular straight stitch. Sweet!

Here is what we need to know to install. Just like any other foot, you will be screwing it in.

Next, you slide the big U shaped hook on to the needle screw.

Test to make sure your needle while go through the hole correctly. When you are ready to sew your fabric, you slide it in following the arrows.

There are 3 things to consider when choosing the ruffle you want to make. First, take a look at the numbers located at the front of your Ruffler.


Star Regular straight stitch – No Pleating
12 A pleat every 12 stitches – least amount of Ruffling
6 A pleat every 6 stitches – medium amount of Ruffling
1 A pleat every 1 stitch – Maximum amount of Ruffling

Simply lift up on the lever to select the number you want.

To further adjust the fullness of your ruffles, you will need to change your stitch length. A smaller stitch length equals more ruffles. A larger stitch length equals less ruffles. Let’s compare.

Ruffle Setting: 12 – Stitch Length= 3.0 / Ruffle Setting: 12 – Stitch Length: 5.0

Ruffle Setting: 6 – Stitch Length: 3.0 / Ruffle Setting: 6 – Stitch Length: 5.0

Ruffle Setting: 1 – Stitch Length: 3.0 / Ruffle Setting: 1 – Stitch Length: 5.0

Pretty awesome, huh? And just like a Gathering Foot, you can join a straight piece of fabric to the ruffled fabric. You slide the fabric in just as you do normally. Then you slide in the straight piece of fabric beneath the fabric to be ruffled.

Follow the blue line for the straight piece of fabric. This may take a little bit of wiggling and maneuvering to get everything in correctly.

Pardon my Pucker.

I enjoyed sewing with both feet, but I personally had the most fun with the Ruffler Foot. On looks alone the Ruffler is awesome. I had a great time experimenting with the Ruffler and I like how much it can be customized. However, the Gathering foot is great to have if you are a beginner or if you need to sew in a hurry. Either way, both are time savers and make a great end product. Enjoy!


  1. I have a ruffler foot for my Brother machine and I love it! *Squeal* It didn’t take long to become friends with it. I would have liked to be able to ruffle at intervals other than 1, 6, and 12. What I didn’t realize until I read your post, is that the stitch length matters! I mean, of course it does, right? Now I should be able to get it just right :-)


  2. Love, love, love my new gathering foot but still getting used to it. Is there a technique to use when sewing the gathered fabric directly to the straight fabric? Is there a formula to use to ensure the fabrics match up end to end? Thanks for any guidance you can offer.

    1. Hi Roberta! Yes…well, sorta. Here is what I do. I take a scrap piece of fabric that is 10 inches long and test out a few different settings. Once I pick the one I like (as far as volume and distribution of gathers), I figure out the ratio. Let’s say, after I use my gathering foot, the 10inch strip of fabric is now 5 inches long. Our formula would be 10/5 = x/length with gathers. So, if I’m making a skirt that *with gathers* is 30 inches, how much fabric do I need to gather? 10/5 = x/30. If nothing else, sew the gathered piece super long and cut down to the right size. Can’t go wrong with that method!

      1. What is the formula with the ruffler foot? I don’t have the gathering one. My skirt if 66 inches around and the ruffle is 136 inches around, that means that the ruffle has to decrease to 48% of what it is unruffled. Please help me!

  3. Can you ruffle in the center of a strip. say 2 inches from edges of 4 in strip of bias or can you only work on the edge? Thanks!

  4. Can I use the gathering foot to make a ribbon ruffle? Grosgrain ribbon with the ruffle down the middle as Tammy asked about? How thick is too thick of fabric for this foot? Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Kristin! You can definitely gather ribbon with this foot, but I wouldn’t go with anything heavier than a medium weight cotton. For heavier fabrics, you have to manually gather by pulling on the bobbin thread after you’ve sewn the first line in order to get that true gathered look. if you choose to manually gather, remember not to back stitch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>