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The classic pillow shape is the square. But if that seems a little too, well… square for your home décor happiness project, soften it with a beautiful ruffle. Not only does does a ruffle give your pillow a more interesting shape, it’s also a great way to bring in a second fabric and really make a pillow pop. Today’s hip-to-be-square pillow is the third of our trio in Jennifer Paganelli’s Happy Land collection, part of our 10 Designers & 10 Collections series for FreeSpirit and Rowan Fabrics. The back features a pretty double-bow envelope closure, which means you can pull out the insert and make a new pillow cover whenever the mood strikes you.

Our thanks to the great folks at FreeSpirit and Rowan Fabrics for sponsoring these four weeks of Resolution Inspiration from ten of their amazing designers. What’s Jennifer’s resolution?

“Goals I continually aim to achieve are meditation and caring out spiritual moments of calm. I’ve come to realize these moments of resolution and renewal are important to acknowledge many times throughout the year – not just in the New Year. For me, this encourages a healthy, positive mindset.”

The Happy Land collection has three color palettes, which I believe is happiness cubed: Ecstatic with paler blues and softer greens; Joyous with rich midnight blues and fuchsia; and Serendipitous with hot pinks and candy apple reds. It came out in October of 2012 in both a cotton and a laminate. We were able to still find a good selection of the cotton at Sew4Home Marketplace vendor: Fabric.com. Remember, not all shops take delivery and/or display fabrics on the same schedule, so actual in-stock dates may vary. Also, you can always ask your favorite local independent fabric retailer to special order fabric for you. Check out the Westminster Fibers Retail Locator for shopping options near you.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

The yardage shown below allows extra for fussy cutting.

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the main body of the pillow (Candice in Green in our sample), fussy cut the following:
    ONE 16½” x 16½” square for the front
    ONE 16½” high x 12″ wide rectangle for the back envelope overlap
    ONE 16½” high x 14″ wide rectangle for the back envelope underlap
    FOUR 12″ x 1½” strips for the ties
  2. From the fabric for the ruffle (Madison in Blue in our sample), cut THREE 5″ x WOF (Width of Fabric) strips. 
    NOTE: We used the rule of thumb that says your ruffle needs to be approximately 2 to 2½ times the length of the edge to which you’re applying the ruffle. The perimeter of our pillow is 64″ (16″ x 4). So we should start with 128-160″. We wanted a softer gather and so opted for 128.” With a 44″ useable fabric width, that means three WOF strips (128″ ÷ 44 = 2.91, rounded up to 3). If you are new to gathering, take a look at our tutorial: How to Make Gathers by Machine
  3. From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
    ONE 16½” x 16½” square for the front
    ONE 16½” x 9″ rectangle for the back envelope overlap
    ONE 16½” x 13″ rectangle for the back envelope underlap

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Pillow front

  1. Find the front pillow square and the front pillow interfacing. 
  2. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing the wrong side of the pillow front.


  1. Find the three 5″ x WOF strips. 
  2. Sew the three strips together end to end. To do this, place two strips right sides together and stitch along the 5″ edge, using a ¼” seam allowance. Repeat with the third to create one long strip. Press all seams open.
  3. Hem one end of the long ruffle strip. To do this, turn one end under ¼” and press, turn under again ¼” and press, then sew in place close to the folded edge.
  4. Fold and press this long ruffle piece in half lengthwise wrong sides together.
  5. Prepare the strip for gathering. You can gather using a traditional double row of basting stitches, a corded zig zag or try a Ruffler Attachment
    NOTE: If you are new to gathering, check out How to Make Gathers by Machine tutorial.
  6. Gather the entire length of the ruffle to the 64″ perimeter of the pillow front plus about 2″ for overlap, so gather to approximately 66″.
  7. Starting with the hemmed end at the bottom edge of the pillow, LIGHTLY pin the ruffle strip to the right side of the pillow front square. Align the raw edges of the ruffle with the raw edge of the fabric. You may need to adjust your gathers slightly to fit, but be careful not to pull too hard or you will break the stitching and have to re-ruffle… not fun.
  8. When you get back around to the beginning, overlap the hemmed end of the ruffle.
  9. Cut off the excess so your overlap is about 1″. Un-pin the ruffle, then hem this end in the same manner as you hemmed the beginning. If you’ve used a ruffler attachment, you’ll need to switch back to your regular presser foot.
  10. After hemming, pin the ruffle back on the front of the pillow, overlapping the two finished ends. Pin securely in place this time. 
    NOTE: Make sure the right side of the ruffle is against the right side of the pillow. The only way to tell is by the hems; both finished sides of the hems should be against the right side of the pillow. So, you’re looking at the turned under side (the back side) of the hems when you are pinning the ruffle in place.
  11. Machine baste the ruffle in place around all four sides, using a ⅜” or smaller seam allowance.


  1. Find the four 12″ x 1½” tie strips.
  2. For each strip, fold and press each 1½” end ¼”.
  3. Fold in each 12″ raw edge ¼” and press.
  4. Fold the entire strip in half lengthwise, aligning all the folded edges.
  5. Lightly pin in place.
  6. Edgestitch across both ends and along the folded edge.
  7. Repeat to create four matching ties.

Make the pillow back

  1. Find the two pillow back pieces and the two back interfacing pieces.
  2. On the 16½” high x 12″ wide back envelope overlap, make a 3″ hem along the inside 16½” edge (if your fabric is not directional, simply pick one edge to be your inside edge. To do this, fold under the raw edge 1½” and press. Fold under an additional 1½” and press again. Edgestitch along the insdie folded edge to make a clean double turn hem.
  3. On the 16½” high x 14″ wide back envelope underlap, make a 1″ hem along the inside 16½” edge (again, if your fabric is not directional, simply pick one edge to be your inside edge. To do this, fold under the raw edge ½” and press. Fold under an additional ½” and press again. Edgestitch along the inside folded edge to make a clean double turn hem.
  4. Following manufacturer’s instructions fuse the appropriate interfacing piece to the wrong side of each back panel. The interfacing should be flush with the outside raw edges and butt up against the inside fold of each hem.
  5. Place the underlap panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Place the overlap panel on top, also right side up. With the top and bottom raw edges aligned, overlap the hems to yield the correct finished width of 16½”. 
  6. Find the four finished ties. 
  7. Place one set of ties 4½” from the top raw edge. The second set of ties is 4½” from the bottom raw edge.
  8. For each set, pin one tie flush with the exposed hem line of the overlap panel and the other tie directly opposite it flush against the fold of the opening.
  9. Stitch each end of each tie in place with a 1¼” long box of stitching.

Assembling the layers

  1. Carefully pin the extra ruffle fabric away from the corners so they do not get caught up in the stitching.
  2. Carefully fold up and pin the ties on the back so they do not get caught in the stitching either. It also helps to pin the envelope opening closed so it lays flat. 
  3. Place your finished front/ruffle piece on your work surface right side facing up.
  4. Place your finish back/tie piece on top, right side facing down. Your ruffle and ties are sandwiched in between the layers.
  5. Carefully align all the raw edges and pin in place.
  6. Stitch together through all layers around all four sides, using a ½” seam allowance. Go slowly and make sure your layers stay flat. I like to stitch with the back piece on top and the front/ruffle piece against the feed dogs.
  7. Clip the corners diagonally. Be careful not to clip into your seam
  8. Turn right side out through the back opening.
  9. Gently round out the corners from the inside using a long, blunt-end tool, such as a knitting needle or chopstick.
  10. Pull out the ruffle all around. If needed, pick out any stray basting stitches with your seam ripper.
  11. Insert your pillow form through the envelope opening and fluff it out into the corners.
  12. Tie two neat bows on the back.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas  
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Aimee McGaffey

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