TUTORIAL: Ruffled Streamers

by Dana on May 3, 2011

Hello color-loving friends!
Today kicking off the summer with a rainbow of never-ending fun.  So get ready to decorate  and throw a party! cause these are so easy to make you’ll be trying them in every color:

To watch a full video of this tutorial, just click the play button below.
Or for the step-by-step photo instructions, continue reading below.

Standard streamers feel like the oldest party decor in the book. But Ruffled streamers?…in multiple colors?….that can be used over and over? (if you’re careful when you take them down). Fun, right?!

I first spotted the idea two years ago on My Paper Crane and the colorful image was burned into my brain. So I finally sat down and made my own. And guess what, they’re easier to make than you’d imagine! (and they go perfect with napkin Wallflowers)
I’ve even got a tricky shortcut to help you go from standard crepe paper streamers:
to colorful ruffled ones! (no strings to pull!)
And then you’ll be ready for any party that comes your way.
Cinco de Mayo plans this week?? You’ve got the decor!
And hopefully the Lime Chicken Fajitas to go along.
Okay, let’s get started.

You need standard crepe paper streamers in a variety of colors. I purchased mine at Hobby Lobby for about $1.
Using two or three colors (or more), overlap them so they come together in the middle.
Then we’re ready to gather and ruffle the streamers.

Now, standard gathering is done by sewing one or two lines on to your fabric and then pulling the strings to gather up the fabric. You use your hands to push and shift the fabric down the thread till it’s gathered to your liking. It’s a good method. I use it often. But when you’re talking about yards and yards of gathering? UGH. NO THANKS.

Let’s cheat!
First, set your machine to the longest stitch possible. Mine is a “5″.
Next, change your tension from normal tension to the strongest tension possible. Mine is a “10″.
Do a quick forward and back stitch and then sew right down the middle of your streamers (so that both layers are sewn together). As you go, watch the streamers ruffle up before your very eyes!
Now, this is not an exact ruffling science, obviously. Depending on the weight of your fabric and streamers, the machine may or may not ruffle up as much as you’d like. So here’s the other cheating tip….
Use your right hand to slightly hold the thread as you sew. This increases the tension even more and you’ll really see the streamers ruffle up.
I held the thread the entire time for my streamers–just slightly–and it was perfect.
One more tip that might save your sanity too…..
As you continue to sew and pull streamers from the roll, do not pull them up in a spiral or the streamers will constantly be twisted. Instead, pull them up straight or pull a bunch of streamers off the roll at once and let it sit in a pile on your table (or the ground). I know it’s silly to point out. But I was going insane when I first started pulling up in a spiral!
Another method is to use something to hold the streamers as you go (as seen on the Patriotic Streamers post). I used a small wooden dowel (you can also use a pencil or something similar) to hold the streamers at my knees. Then I easily pulled them out sections at a time.
And sewed them up!
When you’re done, you’ll have a lovely ruffled garland:
For 3 colors, overlap two colors as we did above and then overlay one additional color in the middle (so they’re all overlapped in the middle). Then sew down the middle!
It might feel awkward at first, trying to keep it all somewhat straight. But don’t stress. It doesn’t need to be perfect. These are streamers! Any messy spots will be hidden in the cute ruffles anyway.
In an hour, you can sew up rolls of colorful beauty.
Then you’re ready to decorate.
If your little helper is like mine, she’ll be more than eager to do her part–delicately laying streamers here and tucking them over there. She was in heaven.
Owen, however, was content sitting at the table chanting “Cinco De Mayo!” over and over again. It was the funniest thing he’d heard all day.
As you’re decorating, you may need to cut your streamers. No problem. But you need to place a piece of tape on each cut edge or the thread will start to unravel.
When you’re done with the party, roll them on up in a large roll, just as they were when you bought them and place a piece of tape on the end to keep it all together.
If you’re looking for a unique birthday idea, why not send a bunch of ruffled streamers to a friend so their birthday decor is extra special?
I actually packaged up all these streamers and sent them to my sister in California so she can secretly use them to decorate my mom’s house, since today is my her 61st birthday! Decor surprises are my favorite kind.
Thank you Delia for asking me to Color my Summer! Can’t wait to see what the other guests share throughout the month. Make sure you pop over to Kojo Designs too to see how they’re coloring things up.

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dee January 19, 2012 at 3:37 am

Love, love, love this idea! I featured it on my CraftBliss blog and linked back to you. Wonderful tutorial, and I appreciate the extra tips.

Thanks for creating and sharing,

~Dee

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2 Amy January 20, 2012 at 11:03 am

I love this idea. Your ‘lesson’ covers everything. I especially like the tied up bundle at the end. I think I will send one to my daughter in college for her b-day. thank you for taking the time to share your talent, now I am going to cruze through your blog.

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3 leslie February 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I found something on pinterest that took me to your page… OMG… everytime I read the next “simplified” step, my jaw dropped more! Thank you Thank you! I can’t wait to get the big spool of streamers and go to town! I have a chopstick and a sewing machine up to the challenge! So great! So schmancy!

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4 Beverly February 9, 2012 at 12:50 am

What a wonderful tutorial!!! These are amazing and so pretty.
Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful evening,
Beverly

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5 Joy February 11, 2012 at 12:54 am

Thank you for sharing!!! These ruffled streamers really liven up boring old crepe paper. I am brand new to sewing and with your instructions I was able to easily tackle this project. Everyone is going to go nuts for them at the upcoming party I’m throwing!

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6 Jacque February 22, 2012 at 10:28 am

Love it!!!!

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7 Anita February 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm

This is so amazing, loooove the colors and the photography! I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for sharing this tutorial! :-)

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8 Andrea February 22, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Just made some! Thanks for the great tutorial. They were simple and turned out great! I didn’t even have to hold the spool and they ruffled perfectly. Can’t wait to hang them for my daughter’s Birthday party on Saturday!

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9 Diyana AR February 23, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Great Idea! thanks for sharing….

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10 JaneEllen Jones February 25, 2012 at 3:19 am

Wow talk about color, fantastic. Makes me happy just looking at all the colors. What a great project and can give so much joy to so many. I’ve just got to print that one out. Thanks for sharing a great project. (also how nice that it’s quite inexpensive.)

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11 MaraMay February 26, 2012 at 4:24 am

Oh my gosh! I am in so much love I seriously want to make a million yards in all the colors of the rainbow. It was sooooo easy! You’re brilliant! Thank you so much for this tutorial. You have definitely saved me from a nightmare. :)

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12 Jill February 26, 2012 at 10:57 pm

This is a phenomenal idea! Thanks so much for sharing! Smiles, Jill

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13 Adventures in Dressmaking March 1, 2012 at 12:03 am

Ooooh, wow, what an amazing idea! They’re so much prettier multicolor and ruffled!

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14 Erin March 2, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I tried many times to get this to work, unfortunately, when I turn my tension up high enough to ruffle the streamers, the top thread breaks! I do have a cheap machine, maybe that’s it. I soooo wanted to make these for my daughter’s bday tonight!

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15 Liz M. March 17, 2012 at 11:47 pm

A note for anyone using a Husqvarna sewing machine – I used the longest stitch, an upper tension of 9, and lower tension of 6, and did not have to hold the thread, and it worked perfectly! (I started with a lower tension of 9, and it used a lot of streamer length to make a super tight ruffle, so I lowered it to 6.) Thanks for this great idea for inexpensive decor. I’m decorating an entire gymnasian for a luncheon and it cost me just $30 for everything! (I’m also doing huge tissue paper flowers and matching mini-ones on skewers as cupcake toppers.)

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16 Marisa Giguere March 24, 2012 at 2:14 am

WOW, just made these for a friend and it was perfect! Your tips were great!! I can’t believe how easy it is, for such a cute look! Thank you for sharing!! Would you mind if I shared it on my blog, referencing your site for the tutorial?! :)

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17 Sarah Kufel April 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm

My streamers ruffled perfectly, however, I started to hang them on the wall and I cant get them to hang straight down without curling….any tips?? Thanks!

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18 Tania {Rocajo Studio} April 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

Hello. I found your tutorial through Pinterest. I’m always on the lookout for great party decoration ideas and your tutorial is so detailed (love the ‘cheat’ tips!), there’s really no point in me making one myself (tutorial that is, not the ruffle streamer, I’ll definitely give that a try one day).
I’ve posted about your tutorial on my blog with a link back to yours.
Bookmarking your blog for further exploration :)

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19 Steph April 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm

This is the very first time I’ve ever tried to use a sewing machine but I really want to make these for Cinco de Mayo, so I gave it a shot. It’s NOT working at ALL! I kept looking over your instructions to make sure I’ve got everything set right. The sewing machine only goes to a 9 (tension) and so I would hold the spool of thread a bit to create more tension and it didn’t gather at all. So, I held it tighter and then the thread broke. UGH! Any advice for this lame-o over here would be greatly appreciated!!!!!

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20 Steph G. April 27, 2012 at 10:35 am

are you using the longest stitch possible?

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21 Nicole April 25, 2012 at 9:26 am

I made these last night and used my grandma’s older sewing machine…they turned out so cute but it took me forever because the top thread kept breaking also! So frustrating…I’m a novice sewer but do you have any tips? Should I have used a thicker thread?? They are super cute, thanks for the tutorial!

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22 Steph G. April 27, 2012 at 10:33 am

I also used an older sewing machine that I had inherited. I had bought a new spindle of all purpose thread and had the same problem of the thread breaking occasionally. I found that if you didn’t go too fast, the thread would be less likely to break. A heavy duty thread may work out better, I may go to the craft store and buy some. I will let you know if it works! Ialso think the problem is with the tension on the highest setting. I did try turning it down, but did not get as good of an affect with the ruffling. I will be back at it tonight to complete the rest. It is very time consuming, but totally worth it. My husband will be so surprised at his 30th Cinco de Mayo Birthday Party! Thank you for the wonderful idea! His party is going to be amazing!

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23 Steph G. April 27, 2012 at 10:34 am

I would try heavy duty thread! I will give it a go tonight and let you know!

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24 Jenni April 30, 2012 at 7:02 am

Love, love these! Your tutorial made it so easy. These decorations will make the biggest impact at my Cinco de Mayo party, and all for less than $6! Thank you so much for this fantastic idea.

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25 Yasmin April 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Just wanted to say that i used this method in my final piece for art. It was for the paper ruffle skirt i made, so thankyou so much for sharing this! , it really helped :) xxx

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26 Maria May 6, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Thanks for posting this I made several ruffles for my fathers 89th birthday, to help decorate the dinning room. He and everyone else we amazed you could sew paper. I knew you could sew paper but never tried this. I had to show my friend your website so they could see your wonderful streamers. I enjoy all your posts. Keep up the creative ideas!

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27 E&S Creations May 16, 2012 at 12:28 am

I just tried this – and it looks beautiful! thanks heaps

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28 Sonya May 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I’m a rookie with my sewing machine and this didn’t work for me at all. :( My needle kept going through the streamers but not actually sewing. I tried using the needle suggested for delicate fabrics, using 3 layers of streamers, fiddling with the tension…everything I could think of but no go. Any suggestions as to what I might be doing wrong?

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29 Sonya May 28, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Ok, nevermind. I solved the machine problem. (Yay!) Except that now that it’s sewing properly, my streamers won’t ruffle at all in spite of following your instructions to the letter. (Boo.)

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30 Imani June 5, 2012 at 3:57 am

OH. MY. GOD. I am going to make these. Just because.

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31 Terra July 4, 2012 at 2:23 am

Thank you for helping me make the holidays that much more special for my family.

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32 Allyson July 17, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial! I had come across similar ones but couldn’t get the ruffle without holding the thread like you suggested!

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33 Heather July 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Just made mine on my little mini cheap sewing machine!! Love it it’s way too cute I’m going to use the 3 layer to cover her piñata!! Thanks so much!! :-)

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34 Phyllis Edwards August 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Wow! I made one using 3 full rolls of crepe streamer and it took 30 minutes start to finish. Its great! Like Julia Child says about cooking, don’t talk about the mistakes! I’d do it again. I have a Brother machine and used a 2.5 stitch and 9 tension. Worked like a charm. Thanks for the tips. I used a long knitting needle to hold the streamers.

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35 Angela September 10, 2012 at 5:05 am

That’s such a fun & gorgeous idea! love it

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36 Juany September 15, 2012 at 9:37 am

What a great idea. I can’t wait to try this on my Dad’s 88th birthday next month. We are going with a Mexican theme.

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37 Komal September 27, 2012 at 4:43 am

Hi,
All I can say is EXQUISITE at your crafts:) I loved this idea..wanted to make something to decorate a gift bag,not sure if I can sew it..will need to ask mum in law to do it:) thank u so much for sharing your talent with us:)

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38 Komal September 28, 2012 at 6:07 am

Hi,
I made these right the moment I saw them:) didn’t have streamers but loads of pink,purple and white crepe paper,so I cut long streamers and attached them together,can I give a suggestion to the novice or no stitching experience friends?? As my mUm n law taught me..I was just waiting for the magic to happen the moment the sewing machine started but after two trials I found out that wasn’t happening than my mum n law took over and magic started happening:) trick is that while the machine is moving,with ur right hand slowly push the streamers
inside the foot so that they get a little curved when the foot and needle pass over them.i hope my description has helped,as I am sure all those ace stitches knew how to do the ruffles this way:) I attached the streamers to a goodie bag and also made a medallion to attach ..I don’t know how to attach the photograph to this comment..thank you so much for this tutorial. Let me know how can I attach the photograph ..take care..have a nice day

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39 Kat P October 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Loved the tutorial! I just made two lengths of orange and black garland to decorate for halloween! I didn’t need to adjust the tension on my machine, it gathered up beautifully!

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40 Dana February 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm

So I have a Euro Pro sewing machine and I tried this several times. My thread would get stuck down where the bobbin is and eventually my needle tip BROKE! I could get it to stitch down the middle at some point but it didnt ruffle the paper at all! Any suggestions? Is anyone else using a Euro Pro and have you been able to make them? I’m just not sure if my settings are wrong but I was sure I did exactly what it says!

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41 Crafty and Cake April 29, 2013 at 8:56 am

Cool Tutorial. I had fun making some for my friends party. I’m so glad I have finally worked out a quick way to ruffle. I’m going to add ruffles to everything now! I mentioned your tutorial on my blog and added a link back to you!

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42 Yvette May 25, 2013 at 10:32 am

@Leslie…Ah, chopstick! Wish I had thought of that…thanks :-)
Off to ruffle some crepe…

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43 Leahna May 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm

These are awesome! I am a pretty ordinary sewer but I just made these for my sons first birthday party this weekend and they look great. Thanks for the tutorial and idea

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44 Kelli September 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I decided to browse around your site after finishing the circle skirt. I love this idea! My baby turns one this month so I had pink and white streamers for the party. I just finished sewing them all together. They look so much more professional this was. Thanks for the idea.

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45 Myula October 25, 2013 at 3:38 pm

So I really wanted to make these and had a lot of trouble at first but figured a few things out that I wanted to share. First when I started doing it, my thread kept breaking and it was driving me nuts! It turned out not only was I using old thread (which breaks easily) but the thread I was using was too heavy and wasn’t making the streamers ruffle. I switched to new and thinner thread and the magic happened! Hope that’s helpful for people who can’t get the streamers to ruffle.

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46 Hannah November 16, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Hey, I found this on Pintrest, and I gave it a go. I put it on the longest stitch, and no.10 for tension. I didn’t ruffle….what did I do wrong?I’m using a Bernina machine…and normal sewing thread.

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47 Dana November 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

You’ll need to hold it with your hand a bit as I show in the tutorial to give it extra tension. It’s not a true science, just play with the tension by your hand, holding the spool of thread just slightly

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48 LUANNE February 21, 2014 at 5:20 am

This is so contagious! I might just try this in the morning and get sewing for my two boys birthday. The bad thing though I can’t find crepe papers that are rolled here instead they are folded.

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49 Alli March 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I love this so much. I want to stop everything I’m doing right now and get my sewing machine out to try it! Thank you for the fun inspiration!

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