How to Sew the Collar and Cuffs for a Clown Costume

  • 01 of 10


    Clown Collar
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to

    These directions for a fluffy clown collar and cuffs give you a great way to transform a simple sweat suit or pajamas into a great clown costume. A costume that transforms pajamas or a sweat suit saves money because it leaves usable clothing after the holiday.


    • 1" wide ribbon - see step 2 to calculate how much ribbon you will need.
    • 1-2 yards of bleached muslin (depends on the size of the clown)
    • For color on the edge of the collar and cuff -- Colorful double fold bias tape, or a sewing...MORE machine with a dense decorative stitch or a serger
    • Quality thread or string and thread (recommended) depending on your method of gathering
    • A tape measure
    • Scissors
    • A sewing machine
    • Optional: rotary cutting tools
    Continue to 2 of 10 below.
  • 02 of 10

    Calculate the width and length of the ruffle

    Length of Ribbon and Width for a Clown Collar
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to

    Clowns come in different sizes. The length and width for a toddler and for an adult will not be the same.

    The length of the ribbon for the collar:

    • Use a tape measure to measure around the neck, leaving a comfortable space around the neck and plenty of "tail" to tie the collar in place. For a small child, rather than leaving ribbon to tie, leave just enough ribbon to turn under and sew a snap to each end. This will help prevent a strangulation danger.
    • Cut your ribbon to the desired...MORE measurement.
    • Mark the center of the ribbon and the ends of the ruffle where the tie area begins.

    The length of the ribbon for the cuffs:

    • UsingĀ a tape measure, measure around the wrist (and ankles if desired) leaving enough space for comfort and possible sweat suit cuffs under the cuff ruffle.
    • Add one inch to each end to turn under.
    • Cut the ribbon to the desired length and mark one inch from each end.

    The width of the ruffle:

    • In most cases, the ruffle will be 2 to 4 inches wide. A ruffle 2" wide will be ideal for a small child, while a 4" wide ruffle will be ideal for an adult clown. Experiment with your tape measures to find the desired width.
    • The width of the ruffle will be two times the desired finished ruffle.
    • If you will be turning under the edges rather than encasing them with bias or a serged edge, add an inch to allow for a 1/4" baby hem on each edge.

    Length to cut ruffle:

    • For the ruffle made with bleached muslin weight fabric, measure the ruffled area on your ribbon and multiply that measurement times three. Three times the finished length will give you a nice amount of fullness.
    • Cut 2 to 4 lengths of ruffle depending on that desired amount of fullness. The more layers you have, the fuller the ruffle will be.
    Continue to 3 of 10 below.
  • 03 of 10

    Prepare Strips

    Seams and End Hem
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to
    • Join strips of muslin to achieve the desired length by sewing them together if needed, using a 1/4" seam and zig-zagging the seam allowance.
    • Turn under the ends of the strips 1/4" and press in place.
    • Turn under again to enclose the raw edge.
    • Sew the end hems in place.
    Continue to 4 of 10 below.
  • 04 of 10

    Edges of the Ruffle- using double fold bias tape

    Double Fold Bias Tape Decorative Edge
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to

    Using double fold bias tape:

    • Find the narrower edge of the bias tape.
    • Set the edge of the ruffle into the center of the bias tape, lining up the edge of the ruffle with the centerfold of the bias tape.
    • Turn under the ends of the bias tape to enclose the raw edge.
    • Baste the bias tape in place.
    • With the narrower edge up, stitch the bias tape to the ruffle, sewing close to the edge of the tape.
    • Continue to enclose all edges on all layers of the ruffle.
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Edges of the Ruffle- using a hem and decorative stitches

    Decorative Stitching on a Hemmed Edge
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to
    • Turn under the edges 1/4" and press.
    • Turn under again to enclose the raw edges and press in place.
    • Using white thread, sew the hem in place, sewing close to the inside edge.
    • Using a bright color or a color thread that matches the sweat suit or pajama (in the bobbin too), choose a dense decorative stitch and sew it on the hems of the ruffle.
    Continue to 6 of 10 below.
  • 06 of 10

    Edges of the Ruffle- using a serger

    Decorative Edge Using a Serger
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to

    A serger is the fastest way to give the edges of the ruffle a decorative, colorful edge.

    • Set up your machine for a 3 or 4 thread overlock stitch.
    • Shorten the stitch length so the stitching is dense.
    • Serge the length edges of all the strips.
    Continue to 7 of 10 below.
  • 07 of 10

    Find the center

    Find the Center and Gathering Stitches
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to
    • Stack the lengths of ruffle, aligning all the edges.
    • Fold the length of the strips in half to find the center.
    • Gently press the center fold to mark the center.
    Continue to 8 of 10 below.
  • 08 of 10

    Gather the ruffle

    Gather and Sew the Ruffle
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to

    Gathering a length of fabric, thick fabric, or multiple layers of fabric requires very strong thread or use of a string to achieve a uniform gather. It's very frustrating to have a gathering thread break just as you are almost done, only to have to start over again. Since this is multiple layers of fabric, it's recommended that you use a string to gather the ruffle.

    • Using a piece of string that is longer than the un-gathered ruffle, lay the string in the centerfold of the ruffle.
    • Using...MORE white thread in your sewing machine, with the unfolded layers of fabric strips laid flat on the sewing machine bed, zig-zag over the string, but not stitching on the string so that the string remains free to move.
    • Knot or tie off one end of the string so it doesn't get pulled through as you gather. It can be temporarily tied to a door handle or chair.
    • Tug the string to gather the fabric.
    • Gather the fabric until it is gathered up to the desired length that is on your ribbon.
    • Evenly distribute the gathers.
    • Pin the center of the ruffle to the center of the ribbon.
    • Pin the ends of the ruffle to the ends of the ruffled area of the ribbon.
    • Using a straight stitch, sew the ruffle to the ribbon, sewing in the center of the ruffle and the center of the ribbon.
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Snap ends

    Fluff the Ruffle
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to

    A snap rather than a tie is a safer way to secure the ruffle on a child and eliminates ribbons that could get caught or tripped over on the cuff ruffles.

    • On the end of the ribbon, fold the end under twice to enclose the raw edges.
    • Sew the end hem in place.
    • Hand sew a part of a snap on each end or use pronged snaps.
    Continue to 10 of 10 below.
  • 10 of 10

    Fabric Pom- Poms and Spots for a Clown Costume

    Snap Ends
    Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to

    Two or three pom-poms down the front of the costume help convey a clown costume. These can be done with fabric that is left over from your ruffles.

    • Cut a length of the fabric strip, half the width of what you cut for your ruffle.
    • Finish one edge of the strip the same way you finished the edge of the ruffle.
    • Use a gathering method on the unfinished edge of the strip.
    • Gather the strip of fabric.
    • Turn in the raw end of the strip.
    • Roll the gathered strip to form a flower or pom-pom.
    • Use a hand sewing...MORE needle to sew through the rolled up fabric at the gathered edge. Sew and secure the rolled up layers.
    • Hand baste the pom-pom to the belly of the sweat suit or pajamas, remembering to start spacing them below the neck ruffle. Clown Costume Spots
      • A solid color sweat suit or pajamas can be transformed even more by either hand basting or using fusible web to attach round spots randomly on the clothing. Using fusible web will be pretty permanent which will probably make the pajamas a favorite pair but may stop the use of a sweat suit so use your discretion for attaching spots.