Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pillow Week: Shirred Pillow Tutorial from Obsessively Stiching

We are through the roof that Care, from Obsessively Stitching, is here with us today. She is sharing such a beautiful tutorial for out second day of Pillow Week! Be sure to visit her and see all of her tutorials.  If you don't fall in love with her finger puppets...


Hello, I'm Care from Obsessively Stitching. I've been creating and sewing for as long as I can remember, and I absolutely love having a blog as an outlet to share my projects! I've got oodles of fun tutorials, and would love for you to stop by and visit!

I'm thrilled to be here as a guest today, and am so excited to share my shirred pillow cover tutorial!

I've recently realized that I love TEXTURE. I've been experimenting with many ways of creating texture with fabric. This shirred pillow showcases one of my very favorite textures -- gathers galore! Why shirring? Because I wanted as many lines of gathers as possible, but without having to actually do any gathering myself! AND, with elastic thread, all your gathers are ensured to be perfectly even!

My instructions are for a 16" square pillow cover, but you could certainly adjust the measurements to fit any size. Here we go!

What you need:
~ 16" pillow form
~ One yard fabric of your choice
(a solid-color fabric that is not too heavy works best for this pillow. I used a cream quilt-weight cotton.)
~ Elastic thread
~ Disappearing ink marker
~ long ruler or yardstick
~ spray bottle
~ iron
~ your sewing machine, of course!


Cut your fabric as follows:
one 17" square
two 17" x 12" rectangles
one 18" x 30" rectangle

Load your BOBBIN with the elastic thread:
You will need to wind the elastic thread onto your bobbin by hand, being careful not to stretch the thread. (Sounds like a huge pain, but it goes quickly!) You will definitely need more than one bobbin of elastic thread.

Hem one long edge of each of your two 17" x 12" rectangles:
Press the edge down 1/4", then 3/4" and hem.

You're ready to sew!

STEP ONE: Set your machine's stitch length to about 4 1/2. With your elastic thread loaded in the bobbin and a thread to match your fabric loaded in the top, begin sewing along your marked lines. Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each line! When I get to the end of a line of shirring, I like to turn the fabric around and sew the next line the other direction. This minimizes waste on the elastic thread, and also means I don't have to clip threads until I am completely done with the shirring.

Shirred! I am loving the texture already!

STEP TWO: Spray your lines to make them disappear. You want them to be GONE before you press, since ironing over your disappearing ink may make it permanent!

STEP THREE: You need to press your fabric while it's wet to shrink up your elastic a little more and create even more texture. Pin one end to your ironing board, spreading it as flat as possible.

STEP FOUR: S-t-r-e-t-c-h your fabric flat ahead of your iron and press. (Don't you love my old-school iron? I could never replace that baby!) Once you've steamed all the water out of your fabric, you're done!

STEP FIVE: Lay your 17" square on a flat surface. Layer your shirred fabric on top (elastic side DOWN -- that's the back!) and pin one side as shown. Your shirred fabric will be scrunched up smaller than your 17" square. *Note that, pre-shirring, your fabric was 18". This was intentional, as the shirring will take up just a little bit of that width. Just make sure you are lining up one edge (in my case, the top) with the edge of your 17" square.

STEP SIX: Sew your pinned edge with a 1/4" (or less) seam allowance. Make sure those raw edges line up nicely!

STEP SEVEN: Repeat for the opposite side.

STEP EIGHT: The purpose of the second layer of fabric is to stabilize the stretchiness of the shirred layer. You now need to sew the top and bottom edges of your layers together. Pin your fabric to your ironing board, stretching it so that the 17" square underneath is flat.

Pin the two layers together at the top and bottom. Stretching the top fabric to exactly the width of your square will mean you have perfectly even gathers all the way across. Yay!

Carefully sew, again using a 1/4" (or less) seam allowance.
(*Note: When you sew the one edge that doesn't match up exactly to your square, sew it from the BACK to ensure you are making your square a finished 17" -- then trim away that little bit of excess fabric on the front.)

STEP NINE: I decided to tack my two layers together in four places on my pillow top. I used pints to mark where I wanted to tack...

...then carefully sewed a back and forth a few stitches right on top of the shirring, stretching all those gathers out of the way. The tiny little tack marks will hide in all those gathers.

Your pillow top is done -- now you just need to add the back!

STEP TEN: This is an envelope-style pillow cover, which means you don't need any piping, binding, zippers, or handstitching to finish it off! Lay your pillow top right side UP on your ironing board, again pinning it flat. Layer each rectangle on top, right side DOWN, with the hemmed edge towards the middle and the raw edges along the outside edges. Pin.

STEP ELEVEN: Sew all the way around, using a 1/2" seam allowance.
Turn it right side out and TRY IT on your pillow form to check for fit!

If it fits, go ahead and serge or zigzag your raw edges. You are FINISHED!

TA-DA!! Gorgeous!

I just LOVE all that yummy texture, and can't stop myself from running my hands over it just to feel it!

THANKS to Melissa and Leslie for having me here as a guest! I hope you will give my little pillow tutorial a try!


Thank YOU, Care!  We love the pillow and one (or two) may soon find their way to our couches and beds=)

Tomorrow, come back and visit Natasha, from Samster Mommy, and her pillow refashion=)


  1. I am visiting from Care's Blog, thanks for sharing her tutorial this morning!

  2. this is lovely....i am also visiting from Care's blog. the tutorial is great. pillow week is such a fun idea

  3. I too came from care's blog, this pillow looks lovely!

  4. LOVE this!!! I linked to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:


  5. I love texture too. I actually reached out to touch the computer screen, just incase.

  6. Care always comes up with the greatest stuff- this pillow looks so chic :)

  7. Wowwwwwwww I came here first time though Google search and so happy to find you... your this cushion is a big big wow... its not easy I know... you did a great job ... very lovely and unique... I may go for it... I said MAY beacause it needs strength to do ... very lovely...
    Going to follow you too Dear
    I would love if you please peek a little at
    Sure you will find a crafty project of your choice from my library…


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