The Ruffler: a closer look at an antique Singer ruffle foot

When I was figuring out what all the attachments for my 1907 Singer sewing machine were, by far the most exciting discovery was the antique ruffle foot. I had seen YouTube tutorials of people using its modern day equivalent but I had no idea that they existed this early on. I do not know the exact date of this ruffler but the presence of one in the parts catalogue I found suggests that they existed from as early as 1902.

At first look, the ruffler is a bit confusing. I recognised the part of the foot that would attach to the needle clamp as it was pretty much the same as my modern day walking foot. From fiddling around with it, I also figured out that the ruffles are created by a serrated edge blade which moves forwards and backwards with the motion of the needle clamp. I also saw a gauge which I assumed related to the length or depth of the ruffle.

A close up of the ruffler.

At this point, I consulted the manual for more information, I’ve included a photo of these instructions below.

I haven’t tried to ruffle with two pieces of material yet!

I then attached my ruffle foot to the machine, making sure the lever was placed around the needle clamp and that the needle was in its highest position.

The foot then screws in place.

The way that the foot creates ruffles is by pleating the fabric using the serrated blade. As the blade is serrated I wouldn’t recommend using fine fabric – I have used medium weight cottons and they work fine.

The ruffler in action. You can see the remains of pleats here which didn’t quite go according to plan!

Getting the fabric into the ruffle foot is a little bit fiddly. As you can see in the image above, the fabric is woven between the metal prongs at the end before being passed between the serrated blade and the metal plate below. I found this easier to do when the foot was lowered, and I used the end of a pair of scissors to push the fabric on the other side of the foot.

As with a lot of things about antique Singer machines, a lot of the fine tuning is trial and error. I would recommend using samples to try different tensions, ruffle depth and stitch length before using this foot on your fashion fabric. I have found the the gauge only works between 2 and 3, the latter creates ruffles with greater depth. Different effects can be achieved by changing the ruffle depth and stitch length. I have included some of my samples below.

I really love the effect the ruffler creates, the delicate but very precise knife pleats are very unique. It’s going to take a lot more practice before I’m really confident using this foot but I am hoping to use it on future projects.

To Izzie – I hope this helps, if you want any more information please let me know!

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