Ok, let's rock......
1. Choose imperfection. Ruffling/gathering is so hard to get uniform. A Lot of the ruffles I see in the stores these days are random and imperfect ON PURPOSE. If you chose "randomness" instead of perfection before you start, you will feel better about the end result and you will achieve it much quicker.
2. Use knit. That way you don't have to hem....AT ALL. Woohoo! knits and t shirt fabrics and a few other blends don't fray. That takes a lot of time off right there.
3. Tools to help gathering easier. I have a gathering foot. I keep it right by my machine in a case with that little screw driver next to it so that it won't be a pain to get out. My machine is a Baby Lock so I have a Baby Lock brand foot. It was only 12.00 but I know they sell generic gathering feet at fabric stores and such for even less. For this particular project I didn't even use my special foot. I just set the tension to it's highest ( which was 9), and set my stitch length at it's highest (which was 5). Then...all I had to do was sew in a straight line along the edge of the fabric strip and the fabric gathered all by itself. The different materials gathered differently but I like it. All part of the randomness.
4. Pleat, pucker and smoosh where needed to save time and effort. On this project, as well as most things we add a ruffle to, I was attaching it in a continuous circle. I saved time by estimating how long the ruffle should be, then attaching it into a continuous circle while pleating, pinching, smooshing or stretching as I went along to make it fit just right. Make sense? The circumference of the ruffle was not the same as the circumference of the shirt, I just made it work.
5. Don't measure. As you will see in the picture below I didn't measure my long strips of fabric before I cut. As long as you have a pretty straight edge on one end you can just fold the fabric about 4 or 5 times, make sure the edges line up and then cut straight for about 6 inches. I can handle that!! It's the cutting straight for a few yards that I have a hard time with.
I am IMPERFECTION at it's finest!
For this shirt I bought a long t shirt and randomly attached ruffles a little under the sleeve. I think it would be cute to attach right at the belly button or at the bottom as well. If the shirt isn't very long you could just attach some plain fabric to the bottom or make the bottom ruffle longer. I hope this makes sense. My compulsive urge to be an imperfectionist is making this tutorial very IMPERFECT.