Over the course of a few months, I kept seeing this drawstring ruching technique pop up everywhere: a couple of RTW tops I saw on Pinterest, a top I saw in Burdastyle’s non-plus size line (see below) and a pattern hack by Shauni of the Magnificent Thread (see below). All of these sightings inspired me to try to do a pattern hack to recreate the look!
I consider my hack to be a riff off of Shauni’s, because the technique is not exactly the same, but very much inspired by hers (thanks, Shauni!!). While Shauni’s hack created a separate casing for the drawstring, mine utilizes the seam allowances to create built-in casings for a double drawstring.
Here we go!
1. Pick your pattern: here I have used the Blank Slate Patterns Blanc Tee pattern (which you can get for free by joining their Facebook group, or if you purchase another pattern) because it’s the perfect blank slate for pattern hacking (har har, did you see what I did there?!). You can basically choose any knit t-shirt or tunic pattern that you like for this hack, though. Honestly, I think this hack would work for a woven top, too, if that strikes your fancy! Or a skirt or dress, to create pick-ups. Or at the ankles on your favorite pants or leggings. Or on a swimsuit. The possibilities are endless! That’s the joy of pattern hacking: you can make it what you want.
2. Determine whether you want to lengthen the pattern to accommodate the ruching/gathering. Depending on your pattern, you may want to lengthen, at a minimum, the area where the drawstring gathers the garment, as the gathering will obviously shorten it at that point. On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to lengthen it because you want the drawstrings to gather it in or up! It’s your call!
Here I arbitrarily choose to lengthen my tee by 3″ so that I wouldn’t end up with a crop top. I also decided to go up a size to give myself a little bit of room: my measurements put me at a L/XL bust and XL hip, so I went with XL bust and 1XL hip. In retrospect maybe I should have devised a way to just lengthen the pattern in the general vicinity of the ruching, rather than all over. Another time…
3. Decide where you want your gathers to be. You can go two ways, as I see it. Well, three ways really, but two ways using this tutorial. My tutorial works if your ruching/casing starts at a seam and ends at a hem. If you want to go seam-to-seam, you’ll have to fudge around a bit to figure out a slightly different method. But here are the two options I see for this seam-to-hem method:
a. Create a seam/casing. The location of your drawstring casing is up to you! There are so many options. Shauni’s comes straight down from her shoulder to the hem, the Burdastyle pattern has the gathers running diagonally from shoulder to side seam, and I have seen all sorts of variations while Googling around, including on the sleeves, up the center front of the bodice, diagonally from shoulder to hem…
For mine, I decided to go from one shoulder, diagonally to the hem. Since it was meant to be cut on the fold, I traced my front pattern piece twice and taped it together to form one piece. I drew a line about 3″ away from the neckline to the hemline, 3/4 of the way to the other side seam and cut down that line:
b. Use existing seams for your casing. An alternative option for creating your casing is to take advantage of your pattern’s existing seams, such as the center front or back bodice seams, princess seams, side seams (or just one side seam), shoulder seams, raglan sleeve seams, or outer leg seams.
4. Widen your existing seam allowance to create casings, or add seam allowance to your new seam. Essentially what you’re trying to do is create a double drawstring casing from the seam allowances. If you’re using an existing seam, you may need to widen the seam allowances to accommodate the drawstring, especially in a knit, where the seam allowances are often small (1/4 or 3/8″). It also depends on the width of your drawstring, but ¾” seems like a safe bet for most. If you’re creating a new seam by slashing your pattern, you’ll need to remember to add your seam allowances in. Again, I suggest 3/4″, as I did here:
5. Hem garment. In order for your drawstring to emerge from the end of your casing, you need to leave an opening at the bottom hem. That means you have to hem the portion of the garment with the casing before sewing the casing seam together. I used zig-zag stitch to hem both of my front pieces.
6. Sew the casing seam. Before fully constructing your garment, sew the casing seam (in my case, the diagonal seam across the front bodice).
7. Finish the seam allowances and press them open. In a knit, you may not have to finish the seam allowances, but if you’re using a woven, you’ll want to finish the seam allowances separately. Then, for knit or woven, press the seam allowances open.
8. Topstitch the seam allowances. To create the casing, topstitch the seam allowances you just pressed open on either side of the seam. Again, how wide you do your topstitching depends on your drawstring, but ½” to 5/8” should work.
In the photo below I’ve topstitched one side and threaded the casing through. I recommend topstitching both sides before threading the drawstring, though. I wanted to test it to make sure I had made it wide enough, but having the drawstring in there made it really hard to sew the second side!
9. Create your drawstrings. You’ve got some options here. You can use your fabric to create your drawstrings, or you can use some sort of store-bought cording or ribbon. If you use fabric, cut long strips (longer than your seam/casings, ensuring extra length so you can tie a bow if you like) and then either sew them in a tube and turn it right side out, or fold the two long side inwards and then fold in half again and stitch.
For my t-shirt, I cut two width-of-fabric strips and then folded them in thirds and topstitched. They ended up far too long (I cut off over 25″ from each one) and were quite fiddly. Next time I might sew them right sides together and turn the tube. I just knotted the ends at the hem and left the end to be threaded through flat, as it will be enclosed in the seam.
10. Thread your drawstrings through the casings. Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread your drawstrings through the casings on either side of the seam.
11. Baste the drawstrings in place at the top of the seam. In order to secure the ends of the drawstring, baste them in place at the seam, within the seam allowance. In my case, I basted them at the shoulder, but it depends on where your gathering starts.
12. Construct the remainder of the garment. Now that you’ve created your casing and inserted the drawstrings, it’s time to complete the rest of the garment. In my case, this meant hemming the back bodice, sewing the shoulder and side seams, and finishing the neckline and armholes, as instructed in the pattern.
I did go off pattern here a bit, using a very narrow neckband (the leftover piece cut off from my overly long drawstring) instead of turning and stitching the neckline as the Blanc pattern suggested. I felt the neckline needed a bit more support to hold up the weight of the drawstrings without stretching out of shape. I cut the neckband to about 83% of the length of the neckline, which seemed to work well.
Speaking of weight, I think I may have made a poor fabric choice for this one. The rayon lycra jersey is weighty and has 4-way stretch, so the front, with the extra fabric in the casings and drawstrings, is pulling the whole t-shirt forward. You can see particularly on my right shoulder, that the shoulder seam is pulling to the front. I think this would be less drastic in a more stable knit with only 2-way stretch. This rayon lycra jersey was also a nightmare to sew for some reason- very finicky!
All in all, I am pretty happy with this pattern hack! It’s cute, fun and pretty much looks how I expected/hoped. I think I need a few days away from it to really appreciate it, though… it was one of those projects. You know, the ones where everything goes wrong: fussy fabric, silly mistakes, fabric eaten by the machine, etc.