The inspiration for today’s pillow came from a beautiful blouse in Alicia’s closet. Taking ideas from garment construction is a fun way to incorporate unique techniques and embellishments into your home décor. We used the softness of double-layer ruffles to create romance-in-the-round on this beautiful neckroll pillow. An overcasting stitch finishes the raw edges, adding to the shabby chic design. When you see this raw-edge effect on garments, it’s often been done with a serger and what’s called a ‘lettuce edge.’ We show you how to create a similar effect with your sewing machine. We pre-washed our tissue linen fabric and scrunched it slightly to a give the pillow its slightly distressed texture and antique feel. The shape is a 6″ x 20″ pillow insert; you could alter the size, but you’d want to refigure the number and width of the ruffle strips.
We used a Soft Touch® 6″ x 20″ neckroll insert by Fairfield. This shape is also available in a 9″ x 20″ and a 9″ x 14″. We can’t stress enough how important it is that your pillow projects use quality inserts or fillers. The difference in the finished look is dramatic.
The pillow finishes at 6″ x 20″, excluding the pony tails on each end.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 2¼ yards of 54″ lightweight tissue linen or similar; we used a beautiful taupe linen purchased locally
NOTE: To get the proper look to the pillow we advise pre-washing the linen. The yardage shown above accounts for shrinkage.
- One 6″ x 20″ Fairfield Soft Touch® Neckroll pillow insert or similar
- 1¼ yards of ¼” piping cord
- ½ yard of low loft batting – optional
NOTE: We did not use batting as we felt our pillow was lovely and light without it, and we did not want the delicate linen to stick to the batting, but if you use a different type of fabric, you may want to consider a layer of batting for softness and a smooth finish.
- 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
- Pre-shrink the linen, washing on gentle with a mild detergent and drying on cool. Remove immediately from the dryer; do not iron.
- From the fabric, cut the following:
ONE 21″ x 21″ square for the main base panel
FIVE 3″ x 40″ strips for the bottom ruffles
FIVE 2″ x 40″ strips for the top ruffles
TWO 10″ x 35″ rectangles for the pony tails
TWO 1½” x 30″ strips for the ponytail ties
TWO 1½” x 22″ bias cut strips for the piping
NOTE: If you are new to bias cuts, it’s the same technique to create the strips for quilt binding; see our tutorial.
- Cut the piping cord into two 22″ lengths.
- If using batting, cut ONE 21″ x 21″ rectangle.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Prepare the piping
- Find the two bias cut strips and the piping cord.
- Place the strips wrong side up on your work surface.
- Place a length of cording down the center of each strip.
- Wrap the strip around the cording, aligning the long raw edges of the strip.
- Attach a Zipper foot.
- Thread your machine with thread to match the piping fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Stitch the length of the strip, staying as close to the cording as the foot will allow. If possible on your machine, you can move your needle position to the left to snug up your seam line even closer.
- Set the piping aside.
NOTE: If you are new to piping, check out our step-by-step tutorial.
Finish the edges of the ruffle, stack and stitch
- Find all 10 strips, the five 2″ and the five 3″.
- As part of the shabby chic design of this pretty pillow, we did not want a folded/clean finish to the ruffles. Instead, the edges are finished with a double overedge machine finish stitch. You can use this same finish or another of your choice, even a simple zig zag. Of if you own a serger, you could use a serged edge. For more information on the double overedge and more, check out our machine sewn finishes tutorial.
NOTE: On our Janome, we adjusted our stitch for a tighter appearance, reducing the height to 4.5mm and the width to 1.8mm.
- Overcast both long sides of all 10 strips.
- Stack the strips into five sets of two with the 2″ strip centered on top of the 3″ strip. Lightly pin the strips together.
- Run a gathering stitch up the center of each set through both layers. A gathering stitch is your standard straight stitch set to its maximum length and without any stitch locking at the beginning or end of the seam. Leave the thread tails long at both ends.
- Pull the tails of the gathering stitches to create the ruffle. Pull until the length of each strip is 21″, matching the width of the base panel.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial on Machine Gathering.
- Find the 21″ x 21″ base panel.
- Using a marking pen or pencil and your see-through ruler, draw placement lines for the five ruffle sets.
- First draw one line ½” in from each side edge.
- Next, from this ½” line, draw a parallel line 2″ in – again on both sides.
- From each 2″ line, draw a parallel line 4″ in.
- Finally, draw the final center line, which should be 4″ from each previously drawn 4″ line.
- Pin the ruffle strips in place so one is centered along each 2″ and 4″ line.
- When finished, all five strips should be pinned in place and the two ½” drawn lines should still be visible along each edge.
NOTE: Straight placement of the ruffle is very important. Start by lining up the bottom edge of the ruffle strip with the bottom edge of the base panel. The center gathering stitch should be right on top of the marked line. Gently adjust the gathering as needed so it is even. Place a pin about every 1½” – 2” through all the layers all along each strip. You will have quite a few pins, but it will keep the center of the ruffle right on top of the marked line.
- Stitch each ruffle strip in place, running your seam directly on top of the original gathering stitch, removing the pins as you go.
- When complete, pull out the original gathering stitch as best you can. If some stitching is too hard to remove from under the final seam, don’t worry. You simply want to remove any of the obvious loose stitching.
- Find the two lengths of piping.
- Center one length of piping along each edge of the base panel. The raw edges of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric panel. The ends of the piping will extend a bit. This is okay, it allows you just a bit extra to work with to insure your piping is a perfect match.
- Pin the piping in place. Hand or machine baste each piping strip in place. If machine-basting, use your Zipper foot.
NOTE: If using batting, baste or fuse it in place now to the wrong side of the completed base panel.
Adding the ponytails and completing the tube
- Find the two 10″ x 35″ pony tail panels.
- Along one 35″ side of each panel, run a double overedge finishing seam.
- Along the opposite 35″ side of each panel, run a gathering stitch, staying within the ½” seam allowance. Pull the gathering stitch to reduce the width from 35″ to 21″.
- Place the main panel (with the piping basted in place) right side up on your work surface.
- Place the gathered side of one pony tail panel right sides together along each 21″ raw edge of the panel, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place.
- Still using the Zipper foot, stitch the ponytail panels in place through all the layers. As above, stay as close to the piping as the foot will allow. It should be a ½” seam allowance.
- If you choose to use linen as we recommend, you’ll want to finish this seam to prevent raveling. We used a serger; for additional choices, see our machine sewn finishes article.
- Press the ponytail panels away from the center panel, revealing the piping.
- Fold the entire piece lengthwise, right sides together, aligning the long raw edges.
- Very carefully line up the ends of the piping as well as all the ruffle strips. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch in place.
- Trim away the excess piping.
- As with the above pony tail seam, finish your seam allowance, using your favorite method.
- You now have one long tube. Turn this tube right side out. Roll the tube so the seam is at the center back. Lightly steam.
Finish the ends and make the pony tail ties
- Slip the pillow insert inside the tube. Center it side to side; it should end right at the piping line on each end.
- Find the two 1½” x 30″ pony tail tie strips.
- Fold in the raw edge of each end ¼” and press.
- Then fold in each 30″ raw edge ¼” and press.
- Fold the entire strip in half lengthwise, aligning all the folded edges.
- Lightly pin in place.
- Edgestitch along the folded edges of each tie.
- Run the seam down the side and across each end.
- Gather each end like the pony tail it’s named for, wrap it with a tie, and make a pretty bow.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild