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Fresh Linens: Ruffled Lumbar Pillow from Fat Quarters and Layer Cake

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A lumbar pillow is the common term for just about any long and narrow bed pillow. It can be large or small, soft or firm. Though we've seen them in all shapes and sizes, we'd never seen one with ruffles and covered buttons, like the one we designed for our Fresh Linens guest bedroom. The deep pleat-like ruffles add a romantic touch and soften the geometric edges of the squares and points on the other pillows in our pile. That's the secret of an effective grouping of throw pillows: mix shapes and sizes and subtly blend textures and styles.

The majority of our Fresh Linens projects start with pre-cuts, thanks to our friends at Moda Fabrics who provided us with a full set of all the pre-cuts available for Joanna Figueroa's beautiful Fresh Cottons collection.

This collection of fabric has a softly nostalgic feel, but there's nothing old-fashioned about it. That's one of the magical things about Joanna's designs; she pulls in wonderfully vintage themes and colors but the result is never dowdy or out-of date. In fact, they are always new and fresh and fun. To learn more about Fresh Cottons, pre-cuts and our nine Fresh Linens bedroom projects, read our article, Fresh Linens Liven up a Guest Bedroom with Crisp, Comfy Color .

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • Fat Quarter bundle for pillow body and ruffle (we used just two of the 18" x 21" fat quarters in our bundle; if you choose not to use a Fat Quarter bundle, you'll need to cut two 18" x 21" pieces from your chosen fabric): we used Joanna Figueroa's Fresh Cottons Fat Quarter Bundle by Fig Tree Quilts for Moda Fabrics
  • Layer Cake for covered buttons (we used just one of the forty-two 10" x 10" squares in the standard bundle; if you choose not to use a Layer Cake, you'll need to cut one 10" x 10" square from your chosen fabric): we used Joanna Figueroa's Fresh Cottons Layer Cake by Fig Tree Quilts for Moda Fabrics
  • All-purpose thread to match your fabrics
  • Button or carpet thread (optional for sewing on covered buttons)
  • See-through ruler
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Tape measure
  • 1½" covered button kit (you need four buttons total, which may require you buy two kits)
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Curved hand sewing needle (optional for sewing on covered buttons)
  • One medium bag of polyester fiber fill or stuffing of your choice
    NOTE: Check out our tutorial on Understanding Filler Materials .

Getting Started

When using a fat quarter, it's important to make sure it's squared. Some fabric shops cut their own fat quarters, and they're not always as accurate as the ones you get from a manufacturer (like we used). It's also a good idea to press a fat quarter, since it's been folded up for awhile. Depending on the fabric, you may need to trim away any selvage edges too.

  1. Find the fat quarter you plan on using for the ruffles. Fold it in half along the 21" side.
  2. Cut off a tiny bit at the fold (a rotary cutter and ruler is really the best tool for this job). You will end up with two approximate 21" x 9" pieces.

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At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Find the fat quarter you plan on using for the body of the pillow. Fold it in half along the 21" side.
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, begin to sew along the 21" side to form a tube. Stop a little less than half way and back tack. Advance about 3", leaving an opening in the middle for turning right side out later. Start sewing again and finish your seam. Press the seam open.
    NOTE: This seam will be at the bottom of the pillow.
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  3. Fold one of the 21" x 9" ruffle pieces in half lengthwise (21" x 4½"), right sides together.
  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew the short ends. Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end.
  5. Trim the corners at a diagonal and press seam open
  6. Turn right side out. Push out the corners with your finger or a blunt-end tool, like a large knitting needle or a chopstick.
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  7. Sew a gathering stitching (or long basting stitch) ½" from the raw edges of the ruffle piece. If you are new to gathering, take a look at our tutorial: Gathering & Ruffles Made Easy.
  8. Gather the ruffle to approximately 8" long.
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  9. Repeat steps 3 to 8 to create the remaining ruffle.
  10. Place the ruffled edges inside the pillow body tube on either end. Pin the ruffled edge in between the layers of the pillow body.
    NOTE: Be sure to pay attention to the pillow body seam, it should end up along the bottom of the pillow. You may need to adjust your gathers slightly here so they are even.
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  11. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew the ends of the pillow.
    NOTE: You may want to lengthen your stitch a little to get through the layers.
  12. Turn the pillow right side out through the opening in the bottom seam. Press.
  13. Stuff the pillow with polyester fiber fill (or your chosen filling). We suggest a light stuff so the pillow isn't baggy but is soft and not quite taut.
  14. Cover the buttons using circles cut from the layer cake square.
  15. If you are new to working with covered buttons, we have two tutorials, using a kit (our choice here), and making them by hand.
  16. Mark the position for the buttons, 4" down from the top fold and 6" in from the side seam on the front and back of the pillow.
    NOTE: Remember, the body seam should be along the bottom of the pillow so your front and back (where you are marking the buttons) are un-seamed, clear fabric.
  17. Hand sew the buttons at the markings on the front and back. As noted in our supply list above, a curved hand needle sometimes makes this task easier, and button/carpet thread is a stronger thread option.
  18. Slip stitch the opening in the bottom seam of the body closed.
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Project Design: Alicia Thommas 
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Jodi Kelly



Comments (11)

Januk said:
Januk's picture

Hi there everyone at Sew4Home love this website all the great ideas and inspiration.

Can you please tell me if it is ok to print off any of these patterns as I see that you have Print and PDF options. Just thought I would ask first rather than just go ahead and print.

Many thanks in-advance


Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Januk, you can read our full copyright policy in the About section (see the main, top-right-of-page navigation on any page of the site), but in general, yes, our current policy is that you can use both the print and PDF functions for personal use. 

lhasoapsa said:
lhasoapsa's picture
Hi Liz, I just needed to think through the lumbar pillow a bit more. It will work well when we feed the baby.
I just finished sewing the Chic Pinafore Pillow together. I used Beatrix Potter fabric in this pillow, it looks just adorable.
The directions were great too!
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi lhasoapsa -- there isn't a step to cut one 10" square for the pillow body - so I'm a little confused. You need two Fat Quarters or two 18" x 21" cut pieces -- one will be the body, the other will be the ruffles. Then we specify a Layer Cake or 10" x 10" cut piece to use to make all the covered buttons. Does that help?
lhasoapsa said:
lhasoapsa's picture
Your direction to cut 1- 10" squares for the pillow body, but then say to sew along the 21" side. I don't understand that direction.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi teapotrose -- in the intro, we explain how this series of projects is made from "pre-cuts" -- these are pre-packaged cuts from the manufacturers in specific sizes. They have cute names, like "Layer Cake" (10" x 10" squares), Charm Squares, Jelly Rolls, etc. There's a link above for more information about pre-cuts, but here it is again:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi serenity - the finished pillow is about 20-1/2"x 8-1/2" with a 4" ruffle on each end. We designed ours to be made from a pre-cut Fat Quarter, which determined the size. You can certainly make it any size you'd like, simply size both the body and the ruffle up or down proportionately. How it all goes together wouldn't change. Sometimes, I'll cut a shape out of paper and put it on the chair, couch or bed that will be the pillow's "home" to help me visualize the size.
serenity said:
serenity's picture
Hi there! What size is the finished pillow? and do you have tips for adjusting the measurements for other sizes? I'm glad to have found this tut, I've been looking for something like this. thank you!
Kim Petroske said:
Kim Petroske's picture
What a fun idea. It gave me an idea of how to use up leftover quilt fabrics to make fun and cute pillows for the bedrooms.
Laurie Anderson (Southern Stitches) said:
Laurie Anderson (Southern Stitches)'s picture
Ooooooh! How pretty! Thanks for the tutorial too!!