Charm squares are just that: charming little chunks of fabric, 5" x 5" squares from all the patterns and colorways within a given fabric collection. A standard charm pack usually comes with approximately 42 pre-cut 5" x 5" squares. They're a real time-saver and can make patchworking projects a delight. We used a charm pack in a unique way for this very quick and easy pillow project. The pillow front and back is made with just two simple yardage cuts. Then, you'll stitch charm squares end-to-end to create the ruffle strip. Fast, fun, and with a fantastically colorful result.
If you're new to working with the world of pre-cuts, take a look at our article that reviews some of the most popular options. We partnered with our friends at Fat Quarter Shop, who always have the inside scoop on the latest and greatest pre-cuts.
We originally used fabric from the Marmalade collection by Bonnie & Camille for Moda, which is an older collection that is no longer readily available. Below are a few new combinations we love that include 5-inch pre-cuts, again from Fat Quarter Shop. Click on an image to see more.
The pillows finish at approximately 16" x 16" with a 2" ruffle all around.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Janome automatic ruffler attachment, optional - but it's a great time saver! Check out our tutorial on this accessory.
Fabric and Other Supplies
Supplies listed below are for one 16" ruffled pillow, but these are such mix-and-match must-haves, you really won't be able to make just one!
- ½ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the pillow front
- ½ yard of 44-45" wide fabric for the pillow back
- One Charm Pack
NOTE: Each pillow uses 28 of the 42, 5" x 5" squares that come in most standard charm pack. If you choose not to use a Charm Pack, you would need to cut 28 coordinating 5" squares.
- One 16" x 16" pillow insert
- All-purpose sewing thread in colors to match fabrics
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- See-through ruler
- Tape measure
- Fabric pencil or pen
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the pillow front, cut ONE 16" x 16" square.
- From the fabric for the pillow back, cut TWO 12" wide x 16" high rectangles.
- We used the rule of thumb that says your ruffle should 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". Twenty eight charm pack squares is 140 running inches, minus a bit for all the seam allowances. We are golden. You could certainly add more or fewer squares for a tighter or looser gather.
NOTE: If you are new to gathering, take a look at our tutorial on machine gathering.
- Select 28 squares from the charm park and arrange them in an order that is pleasing to you.
- One of our strips is shown below. Alternate both color as well as motif size to get a pleasing pattern. For more mixing and matching tips, we have a good tutorial on blending colors and prints.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Sew all 28 5" x 5" squares together end to end. To do this, place two squares right sides together and stitch along one 5" edge, using a ¼" seam allowance. Repeat to create one long strip.
- Press all seams open and flat.
- Place the remaining raw edges (both ends of the long strip) right sides together and make one final ¼" seam to create a large ring.
- Fold and press this ring in half lengthwise wrong sides together.
- Gather the entire length of the ruffle to the 64" perimeter of the pillow front. You can gather using a traditional double row of basting stitching (our choice for this project) or try a Ruffler Attachment.
NOTE: As we mentioned above, if you are new to gathering, take a look at our tutorial: How to Make Gathers by Machine.
- Adjust the ruffles so you have an equal number of ruffled charm squares showing on each side. We had 28 squares total, which meant seven per side.
- LIGHTLY pin the ruffle to the right side of the front fabric panel. Align the raw edges of the ruffle loop with the raw edge of the fabric. You may need to continue 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.
- Machine baste the ruffle strip in place around all four sides.
- Find the two pillow back rectangles.
- Make a narrow double fold hem along one inside edge (one 16" edge) of each rectangle. To do this, fold the raw edge in ¼" and press, then turn under an additional ¼" and press again.
- Overlap the hems of the two pieces to yield the correct finished width (16" in our samples). Pin the hems together.
- Working as close to the edge as possible, stitch the two layers together at the top and bottom, staying within the ½" seam allowance. This secures the two panels to create one piece. It's easier to work with one piece to stitch front to back.
Stitch front to back to finish
- Place the assembled back panel right sides together with the front panel, sandwiching the ruffles between the layers.
- Align all the raw edges and pin in place all around. Carefully pin the extra ruffle fabric away from the corners so it doesn't get caught up in the stitching.
- Stitch together through all layers around all four sides, using a ½" seam allowance. Go slowly and make sure your layers stay flat. We like to stitch with the back piece on top and the front/ruffle piece against the feed dogs.
- Clip the corners diagonally. Be careful not to clip into your seam.
- Turn right side out through the back opening.
- Gently round out the corners from the inside using a long, blunt-end tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner.
- Pull out the ruffle all around. If needed, pick out any stray basting stitches with your seam ripper.
- Insert your pillow form through the envelope opening and fluff it out into the corners.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructions: Michele Mishler