How to Add a Ruffle to a Pillow

The Shadow Applique Pillow With Ruffles

A shadow applique pillow with ruffles
The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

The pillow shown does not only feature a ruffled edge. It also features a technique called shadow applique, where 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. This pillow is a great way to add to a simple pillow for visual appeal.

Cut the Ruffle Fabric

These measurements are a guide. Your fabric choice will be the final word in the amount of fabric you need for a ruffle.

A heavy fabric may only allow 1 1/2 times the cutter edge of the pillow; 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, 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" for the seam allowances (using a 1/2" seam allowance).​

Measurements to Cut

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

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

Fold, Press and Baste Edges

A piece of cloth being folded for needlework
The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

Fold the length of the strip in half, wrong sides of the fabric together, matching the seams.

Press well.

Baste the raw edges together 1/4" from the raw edge.

Apply Gathering Stitch

A piece of cloth being stitched with dental floss
The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

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.

Mark and Distribute

A piece of cloth folded further for stitching
The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove
  1. Fold the strip in half and in half again.
  2. Mark the folds in the seam allowance to find even fourths of the strip.
  3. 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.

Gather and Pin

A gathered piece of cloth with hatpins
The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

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.​

Sew and Prepare

Finishing the ruffles on a pillow
The Spruce / Debbie Colgrove

Sew the ruffle to the pillow front using a scant 1/2" 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.