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Stitch Magic Stitch-Along: Pintucks

 Welcome to week 2 of the Stitch Magic Stitch-Along! Today we’re talking pintucks, a beautiful design detail to add texture and interest to your sewing projects. This chapter begins on page 55 of Stitch Magic by Alison Reid. Do check it out, as there are tons of great ideas plus two beautiful projects—a table runner and a very cool tote bag.

First, let’s talk about the method that the author uses, which is a twin-needle pintuck with a special pintuck foot on your sewing machine. (Don’t worry if you don’t have these supplies, I’ll give you hand and machine alternatives later in this post.)

Pintucking with a Twin Needle and a Pintuck Presser Foot 

Install the foot and needle in your machine, and thread two spools of all-purpose thread in your upper thread mechanism. (Yes, I just wrote the word thread three times in a sentence. It couldn’t be helped, I’m afraid!) It’s just like threading as normal, but with two strands, which then go into the two separate needles. You can use different colored threads if you like, which will give you a different color of stitching on each side of your tuck.

Grab some test fabric. I’m using 10” tall strips of muslin that I can cut down into 10” squares once I’m done experimenting. (The idea is that we’ll have a bunch of 10” samples at the end of the Stitch-Along. For this exercise, you need to cut the squares down to size after stitching, since the tucks make the fabric smaller. Make sense?)

Now, just sew as you normally would! Start by sewing down the lengthwise grain of the fabric in rows. A tuck forms in the groove of your foot as you sew. When you go on to the next tuck, your first tuck should go into a parallel groove on your foot to keep the tucks evenly spaced.

Try making groups of tucks. 


Experiment with printed fabric too. I’m using a beautiful floral silk organza here. Make perpendicular groups of tucks for a plaid effect. I love this look! I will definitely be doing this when I finally make this fabric into a dress.

Next, try some creative loops and curves. When you’re using a pintuck foot, you don’t have to tuck along a straight grain. Go crazy! This would be a fun effect for whimsical home décor, especially in a child’s room. 

You can try all sorts of experiments with your pintuck foot: using stripes, prints, curved tucks, and different spacing options. Have fun!

Machine Tucks with a Single Needle

You don’t need a twin needle and pintuck foot to make pintucks. In fact, “authentic” pintucks (such as those used in historical costumes and heirloom sewing) are made by pressing the fabric in a fold and sewing along the fold with a single needle. This method is best used only on the straight grain of the fabric.

Start by marking your line with chalk or disappearing ink and then press the fabric on your line. Stitch 1/8” (or however far you choose) from the fold. Press the tuck to one side. That’s it!

Try groups of pintucks. To get evenly spaced tucks, mark all the lines on your fabric first, before you begin tucking. The distance between the lines should be the desired width between tucks plus two times the finished tuck width.

You can try bigger tucks too! (Though these aren’t technically pintucks anymore, just regular old tucks.) I had a dress from Anthropologie that had a series of big tucks placed horizontally around the hem. It was so cute! I tried out a 5/8” tuck on the bottom of my sample below. 


Pintucks by Hand

 You can also recreate this effect by stitching along the fold by hand rather than machine. Use the technique above, but substitute a running stitch by hand for the machine stitching. Use tiny stitches and press to one side.

Aren't pintucks fun? I can't wait to incorporate them into some garments. To do this, you'll likely want to pintuck your fabric first, and then cut out your garment pieces.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of the Stitch-Along. How are your samples going?

Reader Comments (20)

Hand pintucks always start with a pulled thread or two. Then tiny stitches along the pulled thread line.
Chris - professor of fine sewing.

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchris

I am in complete awe of your pin-tucked rose fabric! It was already a lovely print, but the addition of the tucks elevated it to something really quite indescribable. You would never find this in a store, it is completely one of a kind. I can't wait to see the magnificent garment you will make with this.

I ordered Stitch Magic since I just can't get enough of these elegant techniques that turn out to be so doable once you break them down into small steps. I'm really looking forward to getting the book and in the meantime I'll definitely be following the Stitch-along.

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

I never thought of doing crazy pintucks - thank you for that :)

And for regular pintucks, they always look best in groups of odd numbers :)

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodie

This is so cute! I really like the effect of the circle pin tucks. I'm going to have to look to see if I have a foot like this. The regular method with sewing 1 line at a time looks easy enough.

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSaeriu

hey - how would you do the circle pintucks? I love those!! but I cannot seem to wrap my head around how you would do those..

Jenny H

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenny Holmes

beautiful pin tucks. I like to add them to a collar or cuff for detail. Also great for yoke on nightwear, a Victorian style embellishment. For Heirloom sewing loaded with pin tucks, check out Martha Pullen's site, I have no affiliation but have attended two schools and learned a lot.

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCorinne

ohhh, luv the spiral pin tucking!

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGraca

Chris, that's very interesting! Can you tell us more? Why is the thread pulled--to find the grain?

Glad you're enjoying, readers!

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGertie

FUN FUN FUN!! And definitely an interesting way for embellishing the fabric itself, it makes it unique! I'd like to give it a try.

Thanks for sharing!

August 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVolute

I think I need a pintuck foot right now.

August 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRose

I sew 1860's era dresses for living history reenactments. Tucks were often added to the bottom of girl's dresses and pettycoats so as they grew the tucks could be let out. Just an interesting historical use for tucks.

August 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

I don't understand how the pin tuck foot works (I don't have one for my 1970s kenmore). Is there a bobbin thread as well? What does the wrong side of those pintucks look like?
Would a twin needle and a tight bobbin thread tension work?

August 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

The stitches for hand sewn pintucks are generally much smaller and more uniform than the ones shown in the sample. It's also a good idea to baste pintucks.

August 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPintucker


I assume the pulled threads suggested by Chris create a natural sewing guide for the running stitch. Sounds like a good method, if the thread can be pulled.

I learned another method, which involves making a sewing gauge out of oaktag. One slides it along the length of the pintuck fold and sews. You can also try a tape that marks the stitches in increments. "Tiger Tape" is an example. Pintucks should be considerably under 1/8" when sewn by hand.

August 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSewer

Yes the pulled thread is to make sure you are perfectly on grain. It really makes it very easy to make a hand done pintuck. The pulled thread is hidden in the hand stitches.
Grace is correct in that a hand pintuck is 1/8" or less. You can also do a hand whip stitch over those tiny pintucks for another variation.

August 4, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchris

I just bought a pintuck foot a week ago and *love* it. I had to resist the temptation to pintuck everything to avoid looking like a human accordion. =)

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElle

To Chris - "professor of fine sewing": I'd love to take your class! Thanks for the great hand-sewing tip.

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSolange

Hi all! Jenny, there's no special trick to the spirals. Just set up your machine with the foot and twin needle and sew in circles and loops as you please. I wouldn't advise trying to plan your design, just have fun and be creative with it.

Grace, yes, there's a bobbin thread as usual. The backside of the twin needle stitching looks like a zigzag. Twin needle stitching is also useful for hemming knits since the zigzag stretches. And yes, a twin needle and tight bobbin tension is another way to approach pintucks. I didn't try that one since I don't like messing around with my bobbin tension unless absolutely necessary, but let me know if you try it!

Leslie, thanks for that info on using tucks on girls dresses--makes so much sense!

August 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGertie

Wow! I didn't even know there was such a thing as a pin tuck foot! I will have to run to my sewing machine store and see if they have one! Makes it so much simpler!

August 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodi

I have been testing pintucks using a pintuck foot and twin needle, and my machine seems to "drop" a stitch occasionally. Does anyone have any idea why? I don't like to mess with my bobbin tension, but could that help? I was using polywrapped cotton thread and changed to polyester embroidery thread, but the result was the same. Help!

August 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSari

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