Whip it, Whip it Real Good!

Or directions for making whipped-rolled gathers, useful in many applications, chiefly fine sewing for ladies & children.

We have already discussed how to make a plain rolled hem. The next step from that simple hem finish, is to use it in-conjunction with another technique to produce fine gathers. These gathers can be found on the ruffles of men's fine shirts but most commonly, as the ruffles on day caps for women & young children.

Photos for this tutorial are coming soon! Had I been thinking ahead I would have taken the step by step photographs while finishing the ruffle on my newest Regency era day cap. I didn't. I am not, however, crazy enough to take it off & do all that work again just for a tutorial! Instead I'm working on another cap which I will will remember to photograph. Good thing I can never have too many caps.

To start, cut the piece you wish to gather. Finish 1 long and both short sides of this strip with a plain rolled hem. For ease, this will be called the "ruffle" for the rest of the tutorial.

Decide where you are going to attach your ruffle. This is happens to be the band of a mid-18th century French day cap.

Finish the hem edge of your attachment piece with another plain rolled hem. This is the piece that will remain flat & un-gathered once the ruffle piece is attached. Alternately you can finish this edge with a very narrow plain hem if the piece won't take a rolled hem neatly.

The next step is to begin whipping & gathering your ruffle piece to fit the attachment piece. This is two step process but time & patience will result in very nice little gathers.

First roll the unfinished edge of the ruffle with your fingers, as if starting yet another plain rolled hem. I know, groan.

However, instead of sewing a straight stitch & whip stitch combination as you would with a plain rolled hem, only sew a whip stitch over the finger rolled edge. I prefer this to go from the outside over to the interior for neatness.

This whip stitch needs to be a little wider than you would normally sew the rolled hem edge. When you have sewn a few whips, pull just enough to gather up the fabric. If your stitches are too closely spaced at this point, the fabric won't gather up & you'll end up with a ruffle-less ruffle. If that's the case, as it was for me the first (few) times I attempted these gathers, just snip off your starting knot, pull out your thread & start over, spacing your stitches a bit further apart, yet still even of course.

Continue down the entire length of your ruffle. Alternatively, if you run out of thread, or your ruffle piece is particularly long, you can separate the piece into sections. Just remember to leave nice long tails on your thread so that later we can adjust the gathering as needed.

Once your ruffle edge has been finished it's time to gather! Finally!

Start by pinning the short finished ends of your ruffle to the ends of your attachment piece or where ever the ruffle is to end. Make sure the finished sides are together.

Pull your loose threads, gathering up the ruffle until it fits the size of your un-gathered attachment piece. Adjust the gathers back & forth to make sure they are neatly balanced and not all concentrated at one end or the other. This is where using several threads can help on large pieces, making the adjustment of the gatherings easier to well, adjust. Pin like crazy.

The final step is to actually attach the ruffle to the attachment piece. To do this you simply whip stitch over every single one of those gathers, in the same places where you whip stitched over to create the gathers in the first place. I have found it easier to stitch with the gathered side facing me, that way I can easily get the needle between each of those gathers.

Crack open a beer, you're finished! No more rolled hems & endless whipped stitches on top of whipped stitches. Open out the two pieces, tugging slightly so that they lay flat & marvel at your handiwork. Vow to stick with pleats after all.


  1. Thank you for this wonderfully thorough explanation! I have a copy of The Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing, and managed to figure out how to do whipped gathers, but it is so helpful sometimes to hear instructions put another way (along with handy tricks)!

    Do you use a pattern when you make your regency caps? If so, which do you prefer? I'd like to make one for myself, but I can't seem to settle on a pattern.


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