How to Add a Ruffle to a Pillow

Empty white linen bedding set with ruffle pillows in morning shining sunlight.
Anastasiia Krivenok / Getty Images

Jazz up simple pillows by adding a ruffle to the edge. This tutorial features a technique called shadow applique, in which the fabric flowers are arranged on a backing and then nested below a layer or organza, and the edges are stitched through all of the layers. The stitching can be done by machine or by hand.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine
  • Marker
  • Pins


  • Fabric of your choice
  • Thread
  • Dental floss


  1. Cut the Ruffle Fabric

    Your fabric choice will be the final word in the amount of fabric you need for a ruffle, so take these measurements as a guide. A heavy fabric may only allow 1 1/2 times the cutter edge of the pillow, while a lighter-weight fabric may need two times the outer edge of the pillow to have enough fullness.

    To make your own decision:

    • For the length of the ruffle strip: Add all the edges of the pillow, and multiply that measurement times 1.5 or 2 to find the total length of the ruffle fabric. For a round pillow, set a tape measure on its edge and measure the entire edge of the pillow and follow the same formula using the edge measurement.
    • For the width: Decide the finished width of the pillow ruffle, double the finished width, and add 1 inch for the seam allowances (using a 1/2-inch seam allowance).​

    Guide for a 3" wide ruffle: Join strips of fabric (right sides together) to make a continuous strip the following measurements (Cutting from the crosswise grain of the fabric).

    • 10-inch pillow: 7 inches by 80 inches (approximately 1/2 yard of 45-inch-wide fabric; cut two 40-inch strips)
    • 12-inch pillow: 7 inches by 96 inches (approximately 3/4 yard of 45-inch-wide fabric; cut three 32-inch strips)
    • 14-inch pillow: 7 inches by 112 inches (approximately 3/4 yard of 45-inch-wide fabric; cut three 37 1/3-inch strips)
    • 16-inch pillow: 7 inches by 128 inches (approximately 3/4 yard of 45-inch-wide fabric; cut three 42 2/3-inch strips)
    • 18-inch pillow: 7 inches by 144 inches (approximately 1 yard of 45-inch-wide fabric; cut four 36-inch strips)
    • 20-inch pillow: 7 inches by 160 inches (approximately 1 yard of 45-inch-wide fabric; cut four 40-inch strips)


    The above fabric requirements will also allow for a 9-inch strip or 4-inch finished ruffle if the fabric has been cut straight. Do not include the body of the pillow.

  2. Fold, Press and Baste Edges

    Fold the length of the strip in half, wrong sides of the fabric together, matching the seams. Press well, and then baste the raw edges together 1/4-inch from the raw edge.

    Join Strips to Create a Continuous Strip
    Join Strips to Create a Continuous Strip Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to
  3. Apply Gathering Stitch

    Apply basting stitches or zigzag over dental floss, in the seam allowance to use to gather the ruffle.


    Be sure you are using quality thread that will not break when you are gathering the fabric.

    Apply Gathering Method
    Apply Gathering Method Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to
  4. Mark and Distribute

    Fold the strip in half and in half again. Mark the folds in the seam allowance to find even fourths of the strip. Match the marks on the strip to the corners of the front of the pillow.

    For round pillows, fold the front panel of the pillow into fourths and mark the fold marks at the edge of the pillow. Match the marks with the marks on the ruffle strip.

    Fold, Mark & Match
    Fold, Mark & Match Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to
  5. Gather and Pin

    Gather the fabric strip to fit the edges of the pillow front, evenly distributing the fullness. Keep the strip at the corner in from the edge to prevent accidentally stitching the ruffle to the side. Pin the ruffle in place.​

    Gather & Pin
    Gather & Pin Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to
  6. Sew and Prepare

    Sew the ruffle to the pillow front using a scant 1/2-inch seam allowance. Pull the ruffles at the corners away from the edges of the pillow front, and pin them to prevent them from being sewn into the sedge seams when you attach the pillow back.

    Sew & Prepare
    Sew & Prepare Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to