Group shot--ruffle, zigzag, satin, serger (top down)

There’s nothing prettier than a delicate undulating lettuce edge, whether on lingerie or rib knit. The waves can be created on stretch knit fabrics, or the bias edge of a woven fabric, and vary in shape and size depending on the character of the base material and the stitch used to finish the edge. Things that stretch the most can create bolder ripples and those with minimal stretch, smaller waves.

A lettuce edge can be created over a folded edge or directly over the fabric raw edge, and it can be sewn with a conventional machine zigzag, satin stitch or a serger. Coats Dual Duty XP Fine works well for lingerie and other lightweight knits, while Dual Duty XP All Purpose thread works well for sturdier knits like T-shirting. When using the serger, either of those, or Surelock produce fine rippled edges. For fancier garb, try Metallic as the edge finish.

To create a lettuce edge, either press under 1/4″ along the desired crosswise knit edge, or decide to stitch over the cut edge. Stitching can also be done over the fold on a double-layer rib neckline. Test on a sample to determine which edge finish gives the best look for your particular knit fabric.

One caution: Be careful of knits that run when stretched. On those types of knits, it’s always best to press under a narrow hem before lettucing, rather than pulling on the cut edge and losing stitches.

Set the machine for a medium-width zigzag and medium length. (Testing will determine if any adjustments are needed.) Hold the edge under the pressure foot so that the right swing of the zigzag goes off the edge and the left swing is anchored into the fabric. Stretch the fabric edge as you’re sewing, holding it in both the front and back of the presser foot (don’t pull it under the presser foot as that can break the needle)—the maximum stretch of the fabric is the goal. Once you’ve stitched the edge, let go and you should see a rippled effect—the lettuce edge.

Folded edge, zigzag stitch

Folded edge, zigzag stitch


For a bolder looking edge, set the machine for a satin stitch, or use a serger with a closer and wider stitch than normal for seam sewing.

Satin stitch on folded edge

Satin stitch on folded edge

Serger used on folded edge

Serger used on folded edge

In addition to finishing edges like hems and sleeve hems, lettucing can be done on both sides of a narrow fabric strip to make a ruffle.

Single layer ruffled strip

Ruffled strip


About the Author

Linda Griepentrog is a writer, editor and designer who lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband (a long arm quilter) and dog, Frank. She loves all things fabric! Linda also leads fabric shopping tours to Hong Kong. Contact her at

One Response to Hem Knits with a Lettuce Edge
  1. I never thought to do a lettuce edge with my sewing machine (I know this sounds probably unbelievable!) but I have a NEW! serger 🙂 and I’m anxious to see it run it’s paces – I’m just making a ribbed cotton t now (Jennifer Lauren) and the short sleeves will be perfect to try out the lettuce edge. Thank you!


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