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Corded Pintuck Tutorial

Corded pintucks are a beautiful and subtle vintage detail that you can add to almost any lightweight garment! A thick thread (embroidery floss* here) is used in the bobbin to create a raised surface detail.

Already have a pair of tap pants sewn up, but looking for an extra detail to make them stand out? Adding pintucks to the yoke of your Nutmeg tap pants adds pizzaz and you’ll have tons of fun playing around with designs! The actual sewing is quite simple, but the set up takes a bit of research, a few essential tools, and practice. So, grab a green tea and let me give ya a little lesson…

Sewing pintucks is easy when you have the right pintuck foot. Choosing a pintuck foot depends on two things: the brand of your sewing machine and the desired width of the pintucks. Most machines require a specific presser foot designed for that brand, but there are also “one style fits all” pintuck attachments that can be found online. Luckily, a regular ol’ pintuck foot ranges from about $10 to $40 making it a very worthwhile investment that (hopefully) won’t break the bank!

Okay, the second thing you need to know is how to choose the right pintuck foot. Each pintuck foot has a series of grooves that determine the width of the tucks; the fewer grooves, the wider your tucks and vice versa. For this tutorial, we wanted narrow pintucks so we chose the Bernina Pintuck Foot #32 which has 7 grooves.

Next, you’ll need to a double (or twin) needle, and the width between the two needles must correspond with the width of the grooves. Twin needles are constructed with two needles attached to a single shaft that stitch a parallel line in a single pass. There are two numbers on a package of twin needles: one describes the size of the needle while the other number reveals the distance between the two needles in millimeters. We used a Schmetz Twin Needle 130/705 (needle size) 2.0/80 (width between the needles). To choose the twin needle for this tutorial, we brought the pintuck foot to the fabric store and tested different sizes to find the right fit. The twin needles should fit perfectly between two grooves on the foot. Read more about twin needles HERE.

To sew with a twin needle, you’ll also need to be able to use two spools of thread on the top of your machine. Check your machine manual to see how to set this up and properly thread it for use with a twin needle. We used a regular spool of hot pink thread and a bobbin wound with the same hot pink thread. Keep in mind that these threads will be showing on the right side of your garment.

Thread the needles with one thread in each eye. The photo below is a little blurry, but you can distinctly tell that there is only one thread per hole. (Click the image to enlarge)

The reason we call this tutorial a corded pintuck is because we incorporate embroidery floss* to give the tucks a raised appearance. The embroidery floss is wound by hand in an empty bobbin case, then inserted into the machine as usual.

Once everything is threaded, practice sewing a simple line on a scrap piece of fabric. It’s very, very important to keep the machine set to a straight stitch (unless your machine states otherwise) or else you’ll cause the needle to break (we speak from experience!!).

If everything is threaded correctly, the pintuck should look like this:

And the wrong side of your fabric should look like this (notice the teeny tiny zig zags keep the cord in place):

If it things aren’t threaded correctly, it may look lumpy like this:

And the wrong side of your fabric may look like this:

If it does look all wonky, no biggie! Just rethread the machine and try again.

If it looks a-okay, practice sewing some designs! This part is so fun! First, draw on a few simple designs with a fabric marker and then sew as you normally would. Here are a few ideas:

Now you are totally a pro at corded pintucks and can get sewin’ on your tap pants or another garment! Psst…this is the easy part.

You will need:

-a Nutmeg pattern in version 2 (tap pants) and all necessary supplies, or another pattern of your choice.

-a twin needle

-a pin tuck foot

-two spools of thread to match the fabric (or one spool and a bobbin wound with matching thread)

-an empty bobbin case

-embroidery floss

-fabric marker

Step 1: Sew up your garment according to the pattern instructions. You could also do pintucks before assembling the pieces, depending on the design. In this case, we’ve first made our Nutmeg tap pants, then decided where to place the detail.

Step 2: Read the introduction to this tutorial, gather your supplies, get your machine threaded properly, and practice sewing pintucks.

Step 3: Draw a design on the yoke of your tap pants.

Step 4: Sew pintucks over your design. Backstitch.

Step 5: You’re done! Just remember to wash the fabric marker out!

* ETA: We used a lovely 3-ply rayon embroidery thread made by EdMar for this, but as others have suggested in the comments, a perle cotton would probably also work. You can experiment with different heavy threads to see what works for you and what look you prefer.

Rachel Rector



April 19, 2011 #

What a terrific tutorial! I have the Sencha blouse pattern and have already made one and am planning on making a second. This would look terrific on the front yoke of the Sencha, I think. But, right now I’m in the process of switching my sewing room around and making improvements in my organization (to fit more fabric into my already massive stash).

This is definitely on my list of things to try.

Thanks so much!



April 19, 2011 #

Another fabulous tutorial! I’ve seen this embellishment on vintage garments (I once owned a 1950s dress with a circle skirt all done with these), but never quite figured out how to do it myself. I thought it would be so much trickier, but it doesn’t have to be!

One little note: it looks like you’re actually using perle cotton on the bobbin rather than the typical embroidery floss that is only loosely twisted strands. I think this could be an important point since I don’t believe regular embroidery floss would work as well. I don’t think it’s structural integrity (?) would dependably hold-up as well as the perle cotton you appear to have used.

Thanks again!


April 19, 2011 #

Good point, Carolyn. I think Rachel and I actually used a fancy rayon floss (hence the shininess), but perle cotton would probably work great too.


April 19, 2011 #

Thank you for the great tutorial– what a beautiful embellishment!

I had the same thought as Carolyn about the perle cotton — and if it is perle cotton, would you happen to know which size it is?


April 19, 2011 #

We actually used a fancy rayon embroidery thread, because we had it on hand and it worked well! It’s made by EdMar, and is a 3 ply heavy thread. I’ll add this as a footnote to the post.

MB @YarnUiPhoneappv1.2

April 19, 2011 #

Corded pintucks! Wait til you try making a corded buttonhole…you’ll never have a bad buttonhole again. With cording the buttonhole doesn’t sink into the fabric and especially look good on thick fabrics like fleece. Also would like to see tutorials on the edge joining foot too./


April 19, 2011 #

Just one question—-is the stitch set to a zig-zag or straight stitch? I was not quite clear. This looks like fun! Thanks!


April 19, 2011 #

Hi Jean… it’s just set to a regular straight stitch, but the machine automatically creates the zig zag in back.


April 19, 2011 #



April 19, 2011 #

Love this tutorial! Thank you so much.


April 19, 2011 #

Wow, how fabulous! Thanks so much for the tutorial. I will definitely keep this in mind for when I’m feeling like trying a new technique!


April 19, 2011 #

Great tutorial! Thanks!


April 19, 2011 #

Very helpful. You’ve inspired me to use my Bernina in a new way AND you’ve saved me the time of figuring out the needles, etc. Thanks!


April 19, 2011 #

Love love love! Thanks, I can see myself using this on a lot of things.

Karen LePage

April 20, 2011 #

looks like it’s time to head over to Modern Domestic and buy some new feet for my lovely Bernina!


September 27, 2011 #

Interesting tutorial. I have a question though: why do you need a special foot for these? Won’t just the needle suffice if for example you’re just doing straight pintucks?


September 27, 2011 #

Yep, you can do these without the specialty foot, but the grooves in the foot help you to form neater tucks.

cailyn mcgregor

November 8, 2011 #

great information! i was looking at presser feet and couldn’t figure out which one would do what i wanted. now i know :o)


January 9, 2013 #

I know this post a little old now but I spent some time playing with pintucks for a couple of projects and have a couple of findings to add. My machine (Pfaff 1475) has a little hole before the feed dogs through which I can feed cord. So I use regular thread in my bobbin and feed my cord through the hole, catching it between the needles as I sew. Gives a lovely raised pintuck. I have used rayon embroidery thread, which looks very pretty shimmering under the zigzags but also got just as good results with dental floss! Which is why there is a packet of it in my sewing kit (also useful for gathering and basting) :)

Turning the tension up can also help raise the fabric but I’ve also turned the tension down to do rows of top-stitching using the pintuck foot to guide the distance apart of my rows. Stitching over the rows again gives a lovely definition to them, very pretty. August 2011 of my blog shows such a project. I recently decorated an applique heart with a diamond pattern of pintuck lines, its a fun way to spend an afternoon just playing with patterns! I’m now trying to tackle tucks…