Perhaps best known as the provence of christening gowns and wedding ensembles, heirloom techniques can be brought into a variety of projects to add a bit of elegant detail. Sometimes, extra fancy is just what you need. We incorporated straight tucks, wave tucks, entredeux, and lush ruffles into our heirloom pillow. Following the tradition of neutral fabrics and embellishments, we selected a lovely ivory batiste, adding just a subtle element of contrast with the woven brown silk ribbon.
Entredeux means “between two” in French. It is a narrow strip of batiste with tiny square holes down the center. We wove silk ribbon through those tiny holes and used two rows of the woven entredeux to divide our sections of tucking.
A lightweight fabric, like the batiste we specify below, is a good choice for the intricate folding and seaming in heirloom. That said, it is a little harder to work with in order to keep the shape intact. Spray starch is your friend.
For more background tips, we have three recent technique tutorials that would be quite helpful – especially if you’ve not done any heirloom work before: Basic Heirloom Stitching Using Your Sewing Machine, Sewing Tips for Specialty Fabrics, and Sewing with Sheers.
As with any new technique, practice makes perfect. Buy enough of the base fabric to give yourself extra with which to practice. The cotton we used was 56” wide, so we had plenty of scraps to play with to determine the best methods for marking and tucking.
There are vintage style buttons along the front entredeux and well as at the back to secure the envelope closure. The front buttons are optional, but they add a pretty little touch of dimensional interest. You may have some real vintage buttons in your stash, but even if you don’t, we were impressed with the options available in-store. All the buttons on our sample pillow were brand new, purchased locally.
With a lightweight fabric, you can get away with a dense ruffle. We ruffled nearly 170” to create ours. Using the Janome Ultimate Ruffler made quick work of that long length and gave us wonderfully precise gathers.
The techniques used on this pillow would translate well to table linens, such as an elegant runner. And of course, if you fall in love with the look, christening gowns and wedding ensembles won’t be far behind.
Our pillow finishes at approximately 20” wide x 16” high with a 2” ruffle all around.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Ruffler; optional but helpful when creating long lengths of ruffling
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1⅓ yards of 50"+ wide solid color lightweight cotton; we used 56” Savannah Cotton Solid in Ivory by Robert Kaufman – a batiste weight 100% combed cotton lawn
- 1¼ yards of entredeux; as mentioned above this is a narrow strip of batiste with tiny square holes down the center – our holes were approximately ¼” and the overall width of the strip was 1¼”, searching online for “heirloom entredeux” will yield a number of options, here is one, but you may be able to find it locally as well – ours came from Joann Fabrics
- 1¼ yards of ¼” silk ribbon or similar in a contrasting color; the width of the ribbon should match the size of the square holes in the entredeux – we used ¼” silk ribbon in a chocolate brown, purchased locally, May Arts produces a wide array of silk ribbon that can be found at many sewing and craft retailers
- 1½ yards of 20”+ lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape Flex
- SEVEN ⅞” - 1½” buttons in a neutral color; we recommend 2 or 4-hole buttons rather than shank buttons, and buttons with a “vintage look” – we purchased ours locally: THREE at 1” (two back buttons and one front button), TWO at ⅞” (two front buttons) TWO at 1⅛” (two front buttons)
- ONE 20” x 16” pillow form
- Spray starch; optional but helpful when working with batiste
- Pressing cloth; optional but many like using one when pressing shear fabric
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
NOTE: We always caution you when marking on the right side of fabric to make sure your selected tools will easily wipe away or vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron. It is especially important when working with lightweight fabrics, such as batiste, which are extremely see-though. Your marks are likely to show whether marking on the front or the back.
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- From the main fabric, cut the following:
ONE 41” wide x 17” high rectangle for the front panel
TWO 14” wide x 17” high rectangles for the back panels
THREE 5” x WOF (width of fabric or 56” in our example) strips for the ruffles
NOTE: You want approximately 150-180” for a nice, dense ruffle. Cut as many strips as needed from your WOF to yield this result.
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 21” x 17 panel
TWO 13½” x 17” rectangles for the back panels
- Cut the entredeux into TWO 22” lengths.
- Cut the ribbon into TWO 22” lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Marking for and creating the tucks
- If using batiste as we did, it is considered a “sheer fabric” and so may need a little special handling. Spray starch helps give the super lightweight fabric a bit more crispness for easier folding of the tucks and to help prevent stretching and distorting. Make sure you allow the starch to dry completely.
- You may want to tape the main panel to your cutting mat to help keep it flat while you mark. For more tips, see our full tutorial on Sewing with Sheers.
- Using a light-colored marking pen or pencil, draw 40 parallel vertical lines across the panel.
- The first line starts ¾” from the left raw edge of panel. The subsequent lines are exactly 1” apart. The final line will be 1¼” from the opposite right raw edge. As shown in the drawing below (click on the word drawing to enlarge the image), each tuck requires 1” and all the tucks fold over to the right.
- There will be ½” between each tuck as you move across the panel.
- There is also a ½” seam allowance accounted for on each side. Go slowly, carefully and firmly pressing along the way.
- If you are brand new to this type of pleating process, take a look at our full tutorial on Making Knife Pleats. When complete, your original 41” x 17” panel should be 21” x 17”. The perspective of the photos below is from above so the pleats are pointing to the left. When starting the wave tucks, do make sure you are working with the panel properly oriented with the tucks facing to the right.
- If you pressed well and had starched previously, you may be able to simply work with the panel as-is. However, we recommend adding a row of pins top and bottom to help hold the tucks in place.
- With all the tucks complete, the next step is to create the wave tucks in the center section. Measure 5¼” down from the top raw edge of the panel and use pins to mark a horizontal line.
- Repeat to mark another line 5¼” up from the bottom raw edge. We suggest pins for marking to keep the visible marking to a minimum, but you could certainly draw in a line to follow. These horizontal lines mark the top and bottom of the center wave tuck section.
- Baste along each of these lines in thread to match the fabric.
- Press along each of the lines of basting. Remember, all the tucks should still be folded to the right.
- Find the center between these two lines of basting. There should be 6½” between the lines, so the center line should be at 3¼”.
- Stitch along this center line as you did above to hold the tucks in place.
- To create the “waves,” fold the tucks on either side of the center line in the opposite direction (to the left), pinning each in place.
- Pin every tuck within each section in this opposite direction to give the left-right-left look of the center waves.
- Stitch through the center of each waved row of tucks, following your pin points, removing the pins as you stitch.
- Because the batiste is so lightweight, the fabric will appear to slightly wrinkle as you stitch the tucks into position. This is okay and results in a pretty, almost smocked effect across the center of the finished pillow.
Attach the entredeux and buttons
- Find the 22” lengths of entredeux and ribbon. Weave the ribbon through the center holes of the entredeux. The silk ribbon was too delicate to use a safety to help with the weaving in and out (the traditional solution). Instead we taped one end of the ribbon to help stiffen it and make the weaving easier. You will end up with about ½” extra at either side so that tape will be trimmed off.
- Position the entredeux on the pillow front, aligning the inner edge of each strip with the original lines of basting you created at 5¼” down from the top and 5¼” up from the bottom. Pin the strips in place.
- Stitch each strip in place along each long side.
- Trim the excess flush with the main panel.
- Find the 21” x 17” interfacing panel. Place it against the wrong side of the front panel. All sides should be flush.
- Even being super careful, all this tucking and manipulation can distort the lightweight fabric. Pin the corners to the interfacing panel first, aligning the straight tucks. Then, gently stretch the panel as needed to fit against the interfacing panel. Your interfacing is the correct size/shape, so you are using it as your guide. Take your time with this process, pressing as you go in order to get a proper ending measurement.
- Stitch the buttons in place. Follow our design (two along the top and three along the bottom) or create your own design. The edge of the first button in each of our rows is approximately 3” in from the raw side edge of the panel.
Create and attach the ruffles
- Find the 5” WOF strips. Stitch them together end to end to create one long strip. Press each seam allowance open and flat.
- Fold the strip in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 2½” wide.
- Ruffle the length down to approximately 75”. We used our Janome Ultimate Ruffler to make quick work of this long ruffle. You could also use traditional basting stitches, pulling them to gather the strip to its finished length. For more information, see our full tutorial on Machine Gathering.
- Find the finished front panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface. Starting the bottom center of the panel, pin the ruffle in place. The raw ruffled edge should be flush with the raw outer edge of the panel.
- Pin all the way around, easing around the corners.
- When you get back to the bottom center, overlap the ends about 2” then trim away the excess. Tuck in the raw edges of each end about ½” to create a clean finish.
- Overlap the ends again, tuckng one end inside the other. Make sure the ruffle sits flat against the front panel. Pin the overlap in place.
- Carefully pull the ruffle away from the front panel so you can get it under your sewing machine. Stitch a short vertical seam through the layer to secure the overlap.
- Replace the ruffle against the front panel and finish pinning securely in place all around.
- Baste the ruffle in place along all four sides.
- Set aside the finished pillow front.
Create the back panels
- Find the two panels for the back of the pillow and the matching pieces of interfacing. Place the interfacing against the wrong side of each panel. It should be flush top and bottom but will sit ½” in from one 17” side. This side will become the center overlap. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse interfacing to the wrong side of each back panel.
- Create a 2½” double-fold hem along the center 17” edges of each panel (the edge with the ½” fabric beyond the interfacing). To do this, fold in ½” and press.Then fold an additional 2” and fold again. Pin in place.
- Topstitch close to the inner fold to secure.
- Mark one panel for the buttonholes. These buttonholes should be in line with the rows of entredeux on the front. This means the center points of the two buttonholes will be 7½” apart.
- Following your machine’s manual, create two vertical buttonholes to match the size of your buttons. We created two 1” buttonholes. We also have a general tutorial on making machine buttonholes.
- Carefully cut open each buttonhole.
- Overlap the the panels so their finished width is 21” to match the front panel. They should overlap about 2" at the center. With right sides facing up, make sure the buttonhole layer is on top. Pin the layers in place across the overlap at the top and bottom.
- Machine baste just across the center overlap to secure the layers. It’s easier to so the final stitching when you're working with the back panels as a single unit. Keep these two short lines of stitching within the ½” seam allowance.
- Stick a pin through the center of each buttonhole to mark the button sewing point on the underlap panel below.
- Hand stitch each of the two buttons in place.
Layer and stitch to finish
- Place the front and back panels right sides together, sandwiching the ruffles between the layers. Pin together around all four sides. Make sure the back panels are unbuttoned.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, around all four sides, pivoting at the corners.
- Clip the corners.
- Turn the cover right side out through the back opening. Use a long, blunt tool, like a knitting needle or chopstick, to gently smooth out the seam all around. Remove any visible basting stitches and marking lines. Press flat.
- Insert the pillow form through the back opening and fluff out into the corners. Button closed.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Leah Wand