Freshen up your bedroom or a guest room with a set of beautiful bed linens. We’ve designed a coordinated set of shams and pillowcases, both of which are sized to fit standard bed pillows (20” x 26”). This article includes the steps for the shams with their pretty all-around ruffles and cute button-back closure. Pillow shams are always a favorite way to keep things tidy up top. At the end of the introduction, you’ll find a link to the pillowcase project.
All the decorating books and home design television shows love the pillow sham. And we would have to agree they do make a wonderful base from which to build the look of your bed.
In this set, our pillowcases are done in a gorgeous large floral print, so we wanted the shams to take on a more subtle role in the pillow pile. A classic gingham was just the ticket – a perfect pairing of sweet and nostalgic. Both our original fabrics are from the Julia’s Garden collection for Northcott Fabrics.
As mentioned, we wanted both the cases and shams in our set to be able to fit a standard 20” x 26” bed pillow. If you want to do the math to adjust to a larger size, a king sham is usually 20″ x 36″, and a Euro sham is traditionally a 26″ x 26” square.
New bed linens are one of the fastest ways to update a room, and with mostly straight seams and simple rectangular cuts, they are also a very easy DIY project, even if you’re brand new to sewing.
Make the full coordinating set, or choose to just make the shams. They can sit in front and cover up more ordinary pillows. Just like in real life… the pretty ones are always in the front row!
Our shams finish at approximately 20” x 26”, excluding the 2½” ruffle, to fit a standard size bed pillow. Click here to go to the instructions for the matching pillowcases.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Ruffler foot; optional, we used our standard presser foot, which worked fine, but if you are planning to make a lot of shams, a ruffler accessory can make quick work of the process.
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: The fabric and supplies shown below are for TWO pillow shams.
- 3 yards of 44″+ wide quilting weight gingham or similar; we originally used Gingham in Turquoise from the Julia’s Garden collection by Northcott Fabrics
- Scrap or ¼ yard of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape Flex
- FOUR ⅞” – 1” buttons; we used ⅞“ blue plastic buttons
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- From the gingham, cut the following:
TWO 21” high x 27” wide rectangles for the front panels
FOUR 21″ high x 17” wide rectangles for the back overlap panels
SEVEN 6″ high x Width of Fabric (WOF) strips for the ruffle
NOTE: It can be easier when cutting WOF to fan-fold the panel into a more manageable width. The gingham has a built-in “grid” to make lining up the folds easy.
- We based on ruffle length on the rule of thumb that says your ruffle should be approximately 1½ – 2½ times the length of the edge to which you’re applying the ruffle. We wanted a softer ruffle and so chose 1½ times, making the math 92” (the perimeter) x 1.5 = 138” for each sham or 276” for the two shams. Divide your total by the width of your fabric (44”) to get the number of strips needed. In our formula that meant 276” ÷ 44” = 6.27, which we rounded up to 7 strips – 3½ per sham. The width of the strips is based on our finished reveal of 2½”. If you are new to gathering, you can check out our full, step-by-step tutorial: Gathering by Machine.
- From the lightweight interfacing, cut FOUR 20″ x 2″ strips.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Cut ONE of the seven 6″ x WOF ruffle strips in half (apx. 22″). Break the cuts into two sets of three and a half strips.
- Sew together one set of three and a half strips end to end to create one continuous length. To do this, place two strips right sides together and stitch along the 6″ edge, using a ½” seam allowance. Continue to add the third full strip and the one half strip in the same manner.
- Press the seam allowances open.
- Fold and press this long ruffle strip in half lengthwise wrong sides together so it is now 3″ in width.
- Using your favorite method, gather the entire ruffle strip to the approximate length of the four sides of the sham (approximately 92″ in our sample + an extra inch or two for the overlap to finish).
- As mentioned above, if you’re brand new to gathering by machine, we have an easy-to-follow tutorial you can review prior to starting the project.
NOTE: This is a lot o’ ruffling – especially if you are doing more than a couple shams. You might want to consider a ruffler attachment. These puppies look a little intimidating but are easy to use; check out our tutorial on the ruffler attachment. If you don’t have a ruffler attachment, you can ruffle the traditional way with one or two lines of machine basting.
- The Janome Skyline S7 we used for our construction has a one-touch setting for machine gathering.
- Find the front 21” x 27” panel. Starting at the center bottom edge of the panel, pin the gathered ruffle to the right side of the panel, aligning 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 could break the stitching and have to re-ruffle… not fun.
- Pin the ruffle securely around all four sides.
- When you get back to where you started, trim away any excess, leaving about 1” for an overlap.
- Turn in the raw edges of the overlapping end approximately ½” to create a clean finish.
- Slip this clean finished end over the raw edges the under-lapping end and pin in place.
- Pull the ruffle away from the panel just a bit and topstitch the overlap in place.
- Place the finished ruffled back against the panel and pin. You should now have a continuous ruffle pinned in place along all four sides. Take another minute to re-adjust the gathers so they are nice and even all around.
- Machine baste the ruffle in place around all four sides.
- Repeat to create the second front panel with its ruffle.
Prepare the back panels
- Find two of the 21” x 17” back panels and two of the four 2” interfacing strips.
- Place the panels wrong side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place an interfacing strip along one 17” side of each panel. If you have a directional print, make sure you place the interfacing along what will become the inside, overlapping edge. The interfacing should sit ½” from the 17” edge and ½” in from the top and bottom of the panel.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse each strip in place.
- On each panel, fold back the 17″ side ½” and press well, which means you are folding right along the edge of the interfacing.
- Again on both panels, fold back an additional 2” and press well.
- To finish each hem, pin in place and topstitch close to the inner fold.
- On one panel (which will become the overlapping panel), mark the placement for two vertical buttonholes centered within the hem. Our buttonhole start points are each 5½” from the raw edge of the panel.
- The drawing below shows you the overall dimensions of the finished back of the sham.
NOTE: As with any time you’re working on the right side of the fabric, make sure you are using a marking tool that will easily wipe away or vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Following your machine’s instructions, make the two buttonholes.
- We love how easy it is to use the automatic buttonhole feature on our Janome machines. They are perfectly sized to the button thanks to the button holder at the back of the automatic buttonhole foot.
- When you cut the buttonholes open, cut in a little from each edge towards the center. This is better than trying to cut them open with one action, which can often lead to cutting into the buttonhole stitching.
- Take both finished panels and overlap them to yield the correct finished width of 27” (the width of the front panel). Remember the panel with the buttonholes is the overlapping panel.
- With the panels correctly overlapped, place a pin at the exact center point of each buttonhole. Make a mark on the opposite panel at this pin point. These points are where you should hand sew on the two buttons on the under-lapping panel.
- Repeat to create the overlapping panels for the second sham.
Assemble the layers to finish
- On the front panel, carefully pin the extra ruffle fabric away from the corners so it does not get caught up in the stitching.
- Make sure the back panel is unbuttoned.
- Place the finished front/ruffle panel on your work surface right side facing up.
- Place your finished back/button panel on top, right side facing down. Your ruffle is sandwiched between the layers.
- Carefully align all the raw edges and pin in place all around.
- Stitch together through all layers around all four sides, using a ½” seam allowance. Go slowly and make sure your layers stay flat.
- Clip the corners
- Turn the sham right side out through the open button-back. Pull out the ruffle all around. If needed, pick out any stray ruffle basting stitches with your seam ripper. Press lightly.
- Insert your pillow through the back opening and fluff it out into the corners.
- Button closed.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Leah Wand