Monday, November 21, 2011

Rough Guide to Ruffs - part 1

Hello there! Me again :D
I've got several tutorials ready, part-ready, or existing still mainly in the unsorted scary attic known as My Mind. In the past I've had a couple of projects printed in a miniatures magazine, but that's probably not going to happen anymore - the amount of preparation and thinking-time involved is immense! So I'm thinking of offering some of these ideas to my blogfriends. This all might be seen as a way of avoiding carrying on with my current little medieval weaver's house, and that would be true - it's languishing out of sight, but not unloved. So here's how I made an Elizabethan ruff. I had this written-up almost completely, so you 're going to get it all, including the introductory waffle :D

An Elizabethan ruff in 12th scale

The iconic accessory to Elizabethan dress, ruffs were worn by both men and women in England as well as all through Europe.
Ruffs were in vogue from the second half of the 16th century to the early 17th century, and their size, shape and settings (the way the edges were arranged) varied greatly during this time. Ruffs from Holland were known for their exceptionally fine fabric and delicacy of set. English ruffs tended to be larger with wide loose sets, the better for adding lace to the edge. English ones are much easier to make in 1:12!
The expense involved in these ruffs, including the labour of handspinning and handweaving the ultra-fine cloth and the lace, as well as the constant employment of those involved in washing and re-setting them, was frowned upon by the puritanically-minded. They called ruffs 'the cartwheels of the devil's chariot of pride', and starch 'the devil's liquor'. The rich, however, didn't care - if you had money, you flaunted it!
They can't have been comfortable to wear, and a shower of rain would ruin them until the next starching. Spoons sometimes had to have very long handles!
A clever laundress could set a ruff with starch and hot irons in many different ways - figure-of eight, inverted Vs, rounded sets, flat sets, multi-layered, etc. Coloured starch was popular in England - it could be coloured yellow, red, blue or purple, and more. A blue starch was often used to give the illusion of bright white, a practice which existed until recently with 'blue bags' in the rinse.
I have designed this ruff to include tiny beads in the underlayer. This helps to keep the sets, or pleats, consistent.

Materials needed for a plain white ruff
fabric - a 45cm square of finely woven white pure cotton
PVA glue
sharp pencil
long fine-edged ruler
graph paper with 2mm squares
white sewing cotton #40
beads - approx. 55 x 1.5mm colourless transparent
(- Mill Hill Beads #00161 recommended)
beading needle
fine sewing needle
needle threader (optional)
sharp scissors
fine sharp awl or large sharp needle
paper towel


'1.5mm bead' means that the bead measures 1.5mm along the centre hole. An easy way to measure them is to thread 10 of them together and this will measure 15mm.

Because fabrics may vary slightly in thickness, and beads may also vary slightly, this will affect the length of fabric and number of beads needed. It is best to cut the fabric longer than needed, rather than run short. It can be trimmed later to suit.

Working a sample first is recommended to get used to the method. Making the ruff requires very gentle handling throughout, so as not to stretch the bias fabric or risk fraying.

End of part 1.


  1. I know how much work is involved in writing a good tutorial Glenda, and I appreciate your time and effort spent on this one.
    I have always loved these ruffs and one day would like to make a miniature lace day...
    I will have to try out your tutorial.

  2. Um trabalho super bem feito, lindo! Agradeço por compartilhar. ;)

  3. Thia is so GOOD to see you are posting again, dear Glenda! And thank you for sharing your talents and knowlege with us:)

  4. Echoing everyone here about how good it is to see you here again.

    This tutorial deserves to be published in a book! So detailed! Although I may not be making a Elizabethan collar anytime soon, I can use the technique for other similar stuff.

    I do think people can be so impractical when it comes to dressing :). What in the world is a ruff good for? keep your food from falling on the floor? At least, a pair of killer heels make us look tall right? Even if we can fall to our death from wearing them..teehee.

  5. These are adorable and it looks like they are not easy to make. The question that needs to be asked is why anyone would wear one! see a Victorian dollhouse where you would want to wear a Ruff

  6. Gracias por mostrarnos este tutorial, es fantástico :)