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You Can Do It! S4H EZ-2-Do Rag Edge Pillows

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One of the reasons Sew4Home came into existence was our desire to get new people interested in sewing. We wanted to prove sewing was within anyone's reach, even if you'd never even turned on a sewing machine before. It's why we're so focused on providing detailed instructions with helpful photos and make-no-assumptions steps. It's also why we make it a point to showcase the wonderful world of fabric, so you can see how easy it is to dip in and pull out one trendy look after another. You (and I do mean YOU) can create projects that are just as cool... if not more so, than what you find in those high end catalogs and über-expensive stores. Just remember one word: confidence. That's what You Can Do It! week is all about. We kick things off with today's super easy rag edge pillows. "Ragging" is seen most often in quilts and throws; a project is sewn together so the seams show on the outside rather than being hidden on the inside. After washing and drying, the seams gently fray or 'rag,' producing a softly distressed look and feel. 

The trick to a good rag is to choose cotton and other natural, loose weave fabrics, which are more likely to ravel when washed and dried. A wider seam allowance is also common with this technique so you have more exposed edges, resulting is a deeper rag. Our thanks to for providing all the wonderful flannels for our leaning tower o' pillows, as well as the bold buttons. has a wonderful selection of flannel in solids, prints, plaids and more. We chose a great blend of prints that mimic the look of classic woolen patterns.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Amounts shown are for ONE 12" x 12" finished pillow

Getting Started

  1. Normally, we would recommend preshrinking your fabric, however, for this project, we will do our washing within the project, because the frayed edges are part of the finished look of the project.
  2. From the unwashed flannel, cut TWO 13½" x 13½" squares.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Sew a line of stitching ¾" from ONE edge of each flannel square. 
  2. Place the two squares WRONG sides together, aligning the raw edges all around and matching up the sides with the stitching. 
    NOTE: The lines of stitching along the un-sewn side of the pillow cover are there as a "rag stop." This side will be left open during washing and drying. Without a line of stitching, you could end up with too much ragging and not enough good fabric for a final seam.
  3. Pin in place along the three sides without the stitching.
  4. Using a ¾" seam allowance, stitch the three sides without the stitching. Remember to lock your seam at the beginning and end and to pivot at the corners.
  5. With the small, sharp scissors, snip all along the outside edges of the pillow approximately every ¼". These little cuts "distress" the edge of the fabric and are what will allow it to fray or "rag."
  6. Along the sewn sides, you are cutting through both layers. 
  7. Along the open end, cut each layers, snipping up to but not through the stitching line. 
  8. When clipped all around, wash and dry the pillow to soften and rag the edges. You may need to launder it more than once to achieve a good amount of ragging. 
  9. You can also use a nap wire brush to help start the raggedy edge. And, you can use your scissors to trim away any especially long, loose threads.
  10. When you are happy with your ragged edge, insert the pillow form
  11. Match the two lines of stitching at the open end and pin in place. 
  12. Stitch the two layers together, following along the previous line of stitching.
  13. Measure and mark the center of the pillow on both the front and back.
  14. With the large hand sewing needle and doubled thread, take a few stitches at the pillow center on one side to secure the thread. 
  15. Slip one button onto the doubled thread, then insert the needle through the center of the pillow so that it comes out at the exact center of the other side. 
  16. Slip the second button onto the doubled thread. 
  17. Hand stitch back and forth between the buttons four or five times, pulling the thread up snuggly with each stitch so the buttons sink into the pillow. 
  18. To finish, take a few stitches in place under one of the buttons to knot off. Trim ends.

Hints and Tips

For beginners, check out these tutorials:

Hand Sewing: Thread the Needle & Tie the Knot

Hand Sewing: The Basics

How to Sew on a Button

Basic Machine Stitches

Sewing a Basic Seam


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler



Comments (15)

Stef said:
Stef's picture

i am wondering if you could rag the edges of a flannel pillowcase as opposed to making a complete pillow. Doing a pillow case lets you wash it easier. Ant thoughts?

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

@Stef -You could totally try ragging the eges of a pillocase by using outside seams. You'd probably want to keep the open end as a hemmed cuff as I don't know that a ragged edge close to where your face lies would be very comfortable. 

Mary McKinney said:
Mary McKinney's picture

Thanks for this project its been easy so far. I have one problem... Is there a trick to sewing the final side closure? Its hard to fit under my machine. I went off the line I wanted to sew on due to the pillow pulling it. Thanks!

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

@ Mary McKinney - there's not really a trick. Perhaps your pillow is a little too large? Just try pushing the pillow towards the sewn side as best you can to give yourself a flatter area against which to sew. 

marymckinney said:
marymckinney's picture

Ok thanks, I'll keep trying. Thank God for seam rippers, LOL!

iamsewsew said:
iamsewsew's picture

Even though I have been sewing for years, your projects are always showing me new information.  Thanks and keep up the great work.

joanie nasholm said:
joanie nasholm's picture

i have some flannel plaids that wuld be perfect for my sons apartment these would look good for his place and you know watching tv you could always use a pillow to lay back on and they are manly too

GloriaLaVonne said:
GloriaLaVonne's picture

I don't know how I missed these pillows.  LOVE IT.  I am still working on the last minutes type things.  Those guys are snoopy and so if I wait till the last then they don't know.  he he he  BUT this one is for me.  Thank you on the directions.  I had always wondered on how to make the fringe.  Thank you.  

MarciaFlorida said:
MarciaFlorida's picture

The plaids and stripes are perfect fabrics for the rag edge. These are so pretty.

Catherine said:
Catherine's picture

These look wonderful and cosy for autumn!  Can't wait to make a couple.

Wendys said:
Wendys's picture

  Your tutorials are just fabulous! thank you.

  Could l ask is there a secret to topstiching on reversable table runners, every time l sew the topstiching

it looks very messy. l have looked on other sites but still can not get a good look.

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

@ Wendys - since you said "messy" rather than "wiggly" - I'm guessing it might be a machine tension issue. The trick to topstitching is keeping your stitch line nice and straight, but that doesn't seem to be your issue. If the thread looks messy, your machine might have tension issues in the top, the bobbin or both. Might be time for a trip to your local sewing machine dealer. The only other tip I have is to consider lengthening your stitch; a longer stitch length is usually a nicer look for most topstitching.