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Techniques for Adding Texture to Fabric

There are a number of ways to physically manipulate fabric to create special textural effects that can enhance the look of your sewn project. Some are as simple as folding fabric over on itself and others can be technically challenging and time consuming. Below, I introduce some of the various techniques that you can use to add textural depth to your fabric.

Applique is a well-known quilting technique where smaller pieces of fabric are applied on a larger base fabric to create a design or image of some sort. There are many ways to do applique depending on the desired finished look. In traditional applique, the raw edges of the applied pieces are turned under before or while they are being applied.

Applique Class

Embroidery uses decorative hand or machine stitches and specialty threads to create images and designs on the surface of fabric. For more information about embroidery, visit the Embroidery Site here at Bellaonline.com.


Gathering is the process of running a line of straight stitches through fabric either by hand or machine and then pulling on the thread, causing the fabric to bunch up along the thread. This is a generalized technique that is the basis of several other, more specific, applications such as ruching or shirring.

Test Gathers

Pleating, in its simplest form, is the process of folding fabric over and back on itself so that the fabric overlaps. Pleats are used to shape fabric and control fullness. Pleats can be pressed or sewn down to create a crisper, more formal look or left loose. A common use of pleating is at the waist of garments such as in this example of a pleated skirt shown below.

And another high-waisted pleated plaid skirt.

Pleating can be done in different ways to achieve specific results. Below, I will briefly introduce a few of the different types of pleats.

Accordion pleats are made by folding fabric back and forth in equal width folds (think of how a fan is folded).

Vintage Brown Suit

Box pleats are created by making two pleats in such a way that the folded edges face each other. Box pleats add more fullness than standard pleats.

Box Pleated Cuff

Knife pleats are same size pleats folded in the same direction in a uniform manner.

Vintage, knife pleated full skirt. Small

Click to learn about Ruching, Ruffles, and More

If you are looking for more inspiration, check out these great books!

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