In the whirlwind of today’s designer quilting cottons with their amazing coordinated collections of prints and solids, it’s easy to forget about the classics of the fabric world. We used our imagination to apply some old-fashioned goodness in a new way, creating a set of pillow covers wrapped in the southern charm of candy-colored seersucker. These square ruffled pillows, with their rick rack trim and button placket back closures, look best as a big, cushy, colorful pile. All that’s missing is a straw boater, a bouquet of jonquils, and the honey glow of a lazy afternoon (ya’ll can add that as soon as you’re done making the pillows).
Seersucker is woven so some of the threads bunch together, giving the fabric a wrinkled appearance in those “bunched” places. This rippling effect causes the fabric to stand away from the skin when worn, allowing heat to dissipate and air to circulate. It’s what makes seersucker the fabric of choice for summer garments, especially in hot and humid climates, like the southern US, where seersucker has long been considered a mainstay of any good summer wardrobe. This favorite warm weather fabric was also the choice for the summer service uniforms of the first female United States Marines. The “pre-wrinkled” texture means heavy pressing is not necessary. Because really, who wants to iron in the summer?!
We discovered that the word, seersucker comes to English from the Persian words “shir o shakkar”, which means “milk and sugar” and is probably a comparison of the smooth and rough stripes of the fabric to the smooth consistency of milk and the bumpy texture of sugar.
We found a lovely collection of seersucker from our friends at Fabric.com. There are classic stripes and ginghams as well as bold plaids, checks, and specialty stripes. The colors are as warm and happy as a country fair promenade. But remember, the secondary color in seersucker is always a true, snow white, never ivory. Keep It Crisp – that’s our seersucker slogan.
We’ve taken this garment staple and turned it into the perfect home décor pillow fabric, adding big, fluffy ruffles, playful white rick rack, and a shirting-detail button placket to close the back.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: The fabric and supplies shown below are for ONE pretty pillow. But as mentioned above, they look best in a bunch… so multiply by two, three, four or five to make your own pretty pile.
- 1 yard of 57″+ wide seersucker; we originally used Kaufman’s Classic Seersucker Stripe in Navy & White, Light Blue & White, Lime & White and Orange & White
NOTE: We always prefer to get a little extra so we’re not in a jam if we make a cutting mistake (yes… we make mistakes!). If you are clever with your laying out and cutting, you could get by with ¾ of a yard, but 1 yard is our recommendation.
- Scrap or ¼ yard of 44″+ wide medium weight canvas duck or twill; we used a standard cotton twill in white
- Scrap or ⅛ yard of 20″+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape-Flex
- 2 yards of 1″ – 1½” wide rick rack; we used 1″ white
- Three ½”-⅝” buttons; we used ⅝” white plastic buttons with a shell finish
- One 16″ x 16″ pillow insert
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- Slightly contrasting thread to wind one bobbin; we used ivory
- Bright color thread to sew on buttons; we used orange
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
The seersucker should be cut so the lines are all running on the vertical. The yardage above was figured with this in mind. This means all the “height” measurements should be on the vertical.
- From the seersucker, cut the following:
ONE 17″ x 17″ square for the front
TWO 17″ high x 9½” wide rectangles for the back overlap
TWO 5″ high x Width of Fabric (WOF) strips for the ruffle
NOTE: We based our ruffle length on the rule of thumb that says your ruffle should be approximately 2-2½ times the length of the edge to which you’re applying the ruffle. If you are new to this technique, you can check out our tutorial on machine gathering.
- From the cotton twill, cut ONE 17″ x 5″ strip.
- From the fusible interfacing, cut ONE 17″ x 2″ strip.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Prepare the back panels
- Find the 17″ x 5″ cotton twill strip.
- Fold back both 17″ sides ½” and press well.
- Fold in half again, wrong sides together, and press well to set a center crease.
- Open wrong side up so the crease line is visible and set the fusible interfacing strip along one side, aligning its edge with the center crease. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place. Then, re-fold along the original center crease line.
- Find the two 17″ x 9½” back panel pieces.
- Along one 17″ side of one piece, make a simple ½” double turn hem. To do this, fold back the raw edge ½” and press, then fold back an additional ½” and press again. Pin in place. Stitch close to the inner fold to secure the hem.
- Slip the cotton twill “placket” over one 17″ raw edge of the remaining 17″ x 9½” back panel piece, encasing the raw edge of the seersucker between the layers of the placket. The raw edge of the seersucker should be all way up against the inside of the placket’s center crease. The interfaced side of the placket should be against the right side of the seersucker. Pin in place.
- Thread your machine with thread to match the placket fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Topstitch the placket in place, making sure the placket in smooth and flat and that you are catching both the front and back of the placket with this one seam.
- Mark the placement for three vertical buttonholes centered side to side and top to bottom within the placket. Make sure you are using an easily erasable/removable fabric pen or pencil.
- Following your machine’s instruction manual, make the three buttonholes.
- 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 often leads to cutting into the buttonhole stitching.
- Press well and remove any visible marking pen/pencil lines.
- Take both finished panels and overlap them to yield the correct finished width (17″ in our sample, which means the center of the buttonholes on the placket should be at the 8½” point).
- Pin the two panels together.
- Working as close to the raw edges as possible, stitch just across the overlap to secure and create one piece. It will be easier to work with one piece instead of two later when you stitch front to back.
- 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 sew on the three buttons.
- We stitched our buttons with a fun contrasting orange thread. It added a cute pop of color.
- Set aside the completed back panel.
Prepare the front panel
- Round all four corners of the 17″ x 17″ front panel, using a tape roll, small salad plate or other simple curved object as your template.
- Find the length of rick rack.
- We often describe rick rack as having hills and valleys or waves. When applying rick rack into a seam, you want the stitch line to go right down the center of the trim so the hills (or the crest of the waves) are revealed and valleys (the crash of the waves) are in the seam.
- Our rick rack was 1″ wide, which meant we placed it on the fabric with the “hills” flush with the raw edge of the fabric. Our ½” seam allowance then went down the exact center of the rick rack. If your rick rack is a different size, adjust it accordingly in order to insure an even reveal from the ½” seam line.
- Starting in the middle of one side, place the rick rack around the entire outside edge, curving around the rounded corners.
- When you get back to your starting point, adjust the overlap to best match the waves of the rick rack. Turn back the end of the rick rack slightly in order to bury it in the seam. Pin in place.
NOTE: We suggest using a slightly different color thread (an ivory) in the bobbin for your basting stitch. Later, this will allow you to better see this original seam line and re-stitch along it when assembling front to back.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, machine baste the rick rack in place.
- Find the two 5″ x WOF seersucker strips.
- Sew the strips together end to end to create a loop. To do this, place the two strips right sides together and stitch along both 5″ edges, using a ½” seam allowance. Press both seam allowances open
- Fold and gently press this long ruffle loop in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, so it is now 2½” in width.
NOTE: This is going to be a LOT o’ ruffling – especially if you are doing more than one pillow. We opted to use a ruffler attachment for our Janome machine. These puppies look intimidating but are actually quite easy to use; check out our tutorial on the ruffler attachment. If you don’t have a ruffler attachment, you can certainly ruffle the traditional way with two lines of unsecured machine basting. Again, you can take a look at our tutorial: Gathering & Ruffles Made Easy. Janome also has a good video tutorial on their Ultimate Ruffler, which works on the majority of brands that accept snap-on presser feet.
- Gather the entire length of the ruffle to the approximate length of the four sides of the pillow (approximately 64″ in our sample). We set our ruffler attachment on ONE ruffle per stitch with a depth of about 5-6. No need to have an exact measurement, you can tighten or loosen the gathers by pulling the threads.
- Pin the ruffle to the right side of the front fabric. Align the raw edges of the ruffle with the raw edge of the fabric, sandwiching the rick rack between the layers.
- 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.
- Use the short side seams of the ruffle loop to help center the gathers. First, align one seam in the center top of the front panel and pin in place. Align the other seam in the center bottom of the front panel and pin in place. Then, adjust the gathers as necessary around the remainder of the panel, and fill in with pins to attach the ruffle securely on all sides.
- Machine baste the ruffle in place around all four sides, using a ⅜” or smaller seam allowance.
Assembling the layers
- 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 finish back/button placket panel on top, right side facing down. Your pieces are right sides together and the ruffle is sandwiched between the layers.
- Carefully align all the raw edges and pin in place.
- Stitch together through all layers around all four sides, using a ½” seam allowance. Go slowly and make sure your layers stay flat. We stitched with the front panel on top so we could see and follow along in that slightly different colored line of stitching that was the machine basting line for the rick rack; that should be a perfect ½” seam.
- At the corners you have a rounded corner (the front) against a square corner (the back). Your seam should follow the rounded corner.
- When your seam is complete, trim the corners and press open the seam allowance.
- Turn the pillow cover right side out the the open back overlap.
- Pull out the ruffle all around. If needed, pick out any stray basting stitches with your seam ripper.
- Press lightly to make sure the rick rack is flat all around.
- Insert your pillow form through the envelope opening and fluff it out into the corners.
- Button the placket closed.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever