Plays, Poems & New Writing Photo story

How to make an Elizabethan ruff

 It’s a traditional piece of Shakespearean clothing that looks fabulous on stage, and the Midsummer Mechanicals are ready to help you to make your own!

3 minute read

For the Midsummer Mechanicals no costume is complete without a theatrical neck ruff! A ruff is the funny circular frilly nonsense you might have seen worn around the necks of rich and important folk from Shakepeare’s time (like Ms Queen Elizabeth the First), as they were the only people who could afford the reeeeeally expensive lace used to make them at the end of the 16th century (1500s for those of us who aren’t history buffs). We Midsummer Mechanicals wear ruffs as part of our ‘incredible’ acting (actual audience quote) – not only does it make an actor’s head look good, but it also soaks up all the yucky neck sweat you get from acting all day!

With our next tragical, magical masterpiece playing as part of Summer 2022 at the Globe, we were in a ruff sort of mood and thought you might like to make one of your own. It’s so easy even Snug could do it – and Snug once tied his shoes to a horse.

A makeshift Elizabethan ruff on a surface.

Never fear, the Midsummer Mechanicals are here to help you make your own Elizabethan ruff!

You will need...

  • 6 pieces of white A4 paper (whatever ‘A4’ is)
  • 50cm of ribbon, string or wool (whatever ‘cm’ is)
  • a pair of scissors (I’ve heard of them)
  • a hole punch (sounds painful)
Several sheets of white paper, on top of which sit a pair of scissors, some ribbon and a hole punch.

What you need: paper, scissors, ribbon and a hole-punch (ow!)


1) Fold your pieces of paper in half length-ways and cut along the creases to make strips of paper (be careful with those scissors!)

A pair of scissors cutting a piece of paper in half.

Cut along the fold of the paper, but be careful with those scissors!

2) Pleat your strips of paper. For each strip make a fold so you have a pleat 1 cm wide, then turn the paper over and make another fold to create another pleat the same size. Repeat until the end of the strip, to make a ‘zigzag’ effect.

A hand pleating a sheet of paper.

Pleat your strips of paper to create a ‘zigzag’ effect.

3) Using a hole punch, make holes in the middle of each pleat along one side of each strip (be careful not to punch a hole in you! Snug did that once by accident…).

A pleated piece of paper with a hole in the top-center, next to a hole punch.

Punch a hole (ow!) in the top=center of the pleated paper.

4) Using a piece of ribbon, string or wool, thread together all your pleated strips.

A pleated piece of paper with a ribbon threaded through it.

Thread the ribbon through the holes in the pleated paper.

5) Put your ruff around your neck and ask someone to fasten it for you by tying a bow (but not too tight, or your face will go as blue as Flute’s lipstick).

A pair of scissors, a folded piece of paper, a hole punch and a finished, makeshift ruff.

And here’s a ‘ruff’ idea of what the finished thing will look like!

And once it’s finished, you wear your ruff whilst doing your own acting OR bring it with you to wear while you’re watching us Midsummer Mechanicals – you never know, we might need you to join in with the performance!

Want a print-out of these instructions? Download a parchment copy with special drawings by Snout!


A family show for all ages,  Midsummer Mechanicals plays in our Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 28 July – 21 August 2022 as part of our Summer 2022 season.