How to Add Tucks to a Sewing Pattern - Sew Vintagely

How to Add Tucks to a Sewing Pattern

I love adding special vintage details, like tucks, embroidery, or lace insertion, to basic modern sewing patterns. Tucks are easy to do (with a little math), and they give a casual top a classic, sophisticated look. I love how this Willow Tank by Grainline Studios turned out. 

The Willow Tank is an easy-sew pattern, fits well, and it looks great with this charming detail!

The difference between tucks and pleats is that tucks are sewn down the length of the fold. Tucks can be made only at the neckline or all the way down to the hem.

For this tank, I decided to sew tucks down the entire front. 

The trick to sewing tucks

The trick to sewing tucks is to sew the tucks before you cut out around the pattern. And you don’t need to cut or modify your pattern! Because tucks use up fabric, you have to add extra width, but you can do this by moving the pattern away from the fold. Cut a rectangle around the fabric, sew the tucks, reposition the pattern, cut around the pattern. Here’s how:


  • Calculator
  • Acrylic quilter’s ruler
  • Seam gauge
  • Water soluble marker

Do the math for your tucks

And, yes. I did mention math.  You’ll need to figure out how much width to add to the front and determine where to place the tucks.

First, think of the overall design. What size should your tucks be? How many? How far apart?

I added ten 3/8” tucks, 1” part, leaving 3” flat in the middle.

To determine how much extra width you need, think of 1/2 of your design, i.e. five tucks, not ten, because your pattern is cut on the fold and the pattern piece is 1/2 of your front.

Convert the fractions to decimals:  .325 x 2 = .75.  Therefore, one 3/8” tuck uses 3/4” of fabric.  Now take that number and multiply it by how many tucks on 1/2 of your pattern: .75 x 5 = 3.75.  So you’ll need to add 3 3/4”. I like to round up and add 4”.  This measurement doesn’t have to be exact.

Place the pattern on your folded fabric and cut a rough rectangle.

Position the pattern 4” from the fold. With a water-soluble marker, trace the armhole, shoulder, and neckline. Continue the neckline straight across to the fold. Flip the fabric and pattern over, position it 4″ from the fold and trace the same way. You don’t have to be exact with these lines. You will redraw them later.

Open up the fabric and lay it flat. The fold of the fabric should be center front. Using a large, clear quilting ruler, draw 2 horizontal lines about 8” apart to create a grid that will help you draw straight vertical lines for the tucks. Match the lines on the ruler with the fold to make the horizontal lines perpendicular to the fold.

Now you will make a mark at the neckline for each tuck. Later, you will fold the tuck on these lines.  Working from center to the right and then from center to the left, measure 1 1/2” from the center front to the right and make a mark. From that line measure 1.75” and make another mark. Repeat 3 more times. Do the same to the left of the center front.

Use the quilting ruler to match the lines on the ruler with the horizontal grid lines on the fabric and draw a vertical line for each of the marks you made. Draw these lines from the top edge of the fabric to the bottom edge of the fabric.

How do you sew a tuck?

A 3/8” tuck is made by folding the fabric like a pleat and sewing the folded fabric together 3/8” away  from, and parallel to, the fold. 

To sew the tucks, fold on the lines you drew and line up the edge of the fold with the 3/8” mark on your sewing machine to stitch 3/8” from the fold. Start at the first tuck to the right of center and stitch each tuck to the right. Then sew the first tuck left of center and each tuck to the left.

Steam press tucks to the right and to the left of the center.

Position pattern piece and redraw or pin and cut around the pattern.

Sew the rest of your top according to the pattern instructions.

Happy Sewing Everyone!

2 thoughts on “How to Add Tucks to a Sewing Pattern”

  1. Thank you for sharing this tutorial. It is very clear and easy to understand. I will definitely be adding this feature to my next plain Tank Top… or maybe even a shirt.

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