Monday, February 6, 2012

What's the Ruche?
Or, a shortening trick for when time is short

It all began with one ring.

I do not normally wear rings, on account of my blatantly knobby knuckles (any ring that fits over the joint is far too loose around the base of my finger, and I just hate those adjustable rings), but I have noticed recently a number of ostentatious rings for sale with elastic bands that I believe would be quite compatible with my finger anatomy. This peacock ring was part of a 5-for-10 sale at Claire's, so I bought it and waited eagerly for the chance to let it shine (It doesn't really shine, as you see, it is made of an antiqued brass that might even be described as dull).

It was 2 weeks ago when I realized I could wear it with my asymmetrical green skirt and a blue top and pull off one peacock of an analogous color scheme...but I had to give the skirt a little more breathing time after its last big appearance, so I waited til this week.

When I tried the outfit on Sunday night, I discovered to my horror that the shirt was too long and looked awful with the midlength skirt! Normally when an article of clothing is too long, I'll hem it, with either thread or Res-Q Tape, depending on whether I want the change to be permanent or temporary, but this shirt was too thin, stretchy, and long to look good with that sort of treatment.

Fortunately, fashion is on my side, and the ruched look is in.

If you're wondering what "the ruched look" is, you can see it already on the neckline and the ends of the sleeves, where the fabric has been bunched together to create wrinkles or waves.*

I am going to ruche the sides of this top and, in so doing, bring up the bottom hem by a few inches! For this project, you'll need nothing more than a hand needle and thread!
  1. To start, turn the top inside out.

  2. Pick a spot on the side seam where you want the top of the ruching to start, and another spot where you want it to end. Cut a piece of thread several inches longer than that and thread the needle.

  3. Put the needle in at the top of your intended ruched area and tie a secure knot. The entire weight of your shirt is going to be pulling on that knot, so don't be skimpy. Double it or triple it. Tug lightly on the thread to make sure it doesn't slip out of the fabric.

  4. Then, using the simple over-under stitch you probably learned in first grade, sew down the length of the seam until you've reached the intended end point.

  5. Holding onto the fabric at the end point, pull on the loose end of the thread. Your fabric will begin to bunch up near the top.

  6. When you have shortened the length to your liking, tie off the thread, as close to where it exits the fabric as possible. For this shirt, I used a knot, but I now prefer to use a twist tie because it is so easy to undo! Simply wrap the thread around the twist tie a bunch of times, then wrap the ends of the twist tie around the thread. It is unlikely to slip, but if you want to undo it at the end of the day, or you have ruched too much and you need to lengthen the seam again, all you need to do is untwist and let out some of the thread! True, a twist tie is a little bulky, but since you've created so much texture with the ruching, people are unlikely to see one little lump under your shirt.

  7. Distribute the wrinkles evenly down the length of the thread.

  8. Repeat these steps for the other side seam.
And you're done! Wear with pride, but wear with care! Normally, ruching is done with elastic strips, and the fabric is firmly sewn onto the elastic. In our simpler solution, all that's holding the look together is a strand of thread. If you break the thread, you're doomed! Or maybe just set back a little. One of my knots came out while I was at work today, but I noticed it early enough that I didn't lose all the ruching. And that's when I discovered the twist tie method.

You may also find that your ruching succumbs to gravity, slipping down to the bottom of the strand of thread over time, so periodic redistributing of the wrinkles may be in order.

*If you're astute, you're thinking back to my post about the brown dress, and wondering what's the difference between "gathers," which I denounce because they're unflattering, and "ruches" which I find most helpful? Well, I'm not a fashion dictionary, but to my best knowledge, gathers are usually used as a sort of structural feature, to create a transition between a wide area with a lot of fabric to a narrow one with a little fabric, whereas ruches are generally a cosmetic feature, serving no practical purpose but to add texture to a seam. According to this definition, I may be more correct in saying the sleeves and neckline are gathered rather than ruched.

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