How to Sew Ruched Fabric Pillow Shams

High-end, fabric pillow shams can be a splurge when decorating a bedroom. With basic sewing skills, inexpensive white cotton can be transformed into beautiful, designer look-alike shams at a fraction of the cost.

Handmade Ruched Pillow Shams on Bed

Marian Parsons

Marian Parsons

Materials Needed:

  • 3 yards 45" wide white cotton fabric (for two standard shams)
  • iron and ironing board
  • sharp scissors
  • pencil
  • yardstick
  • sewing machine
  • all-purpose white cotton thread
  • quilting ruler or square

Prep and Cut Fabric

Wash and press fabric then spread on a flat work surface. Measure, then mark and cut out the following fabric pieces for two standard shams:
(2) 21" x 28" pieces for pillow back
(2) 4" x 21" pieces for envelope flap (6-8" wide for loftier pillows)
(2) 45" x 28" pieces for pillow front
(12) 13" x 2" pieces for ties
(4) 4" x 21" pieces for trim

Measuring and Marking Fabric

Make Ruching

Spread one 45" x 28" pillow front piece onto work surface with right side facing down. Line up yard stick or measuring tape along pillow width (28"). Make a pencil mark at 9" and 18". Note: At this point, fabric will be divided into thirds, with one third being 1" wider than other two. (This side will be hemmed in step 6.) Use a quilting ruler or square to draw a straight pencil line at each of these marks down the length of fabric. Sew along both pencil lines with all-purpose white cotton thread — but do not double back at the start or end of stitches to knot (Image 1). Gently pull on thread at one end to ruche fabric (Image 2). Repeat on other stitched line. Once gathered, spread ruches evenly over 20" (Image 3). Repeat with other piece cut for pillow front.

Sew Trim

Gather four 4" x 21" pieces cut for trim. Place one fabric piece horizontally on ironing board. Visually divide fabric piece into quarters length-wise. Fold over top 1/4 of fabric and press (Image 1). Fold up bottom 1/4 of fabric and press (Image 2). Repeat with three other fabric pieces. Place one trim piece over each ruched seam with folded edges face down and pin into place (Image 3). Sew along each side of trim to secure (Image 4). Repeat with all trim pieces. Tip: A coordinating or contrasting ribbon can also be used for trim.

Hem Back and Envelope Flap

Gather pieces cut for back and envelope flap. Create a double hem by folding fabric over twice on one 21" side of each piece. Press when folded (Image 1) and stitch hem into place. Repeat until one side is hemmed on each 12" piece. If using a fabric with a "right side", make sure hem is on bottom of fabric piece.

Ironing Fabric to Create a Seam

Make Ties

Gather fabric pieces cut for ties. Position one horizontally on ironing board. Visually divide into quarters length-wise. Fold top 1/4" over and press then fold bottom 1/4" up and press. Fold entire piece in half, with raw edges covered in the fold, and press (Image 1). Sew along top and end of tie to secure (Images 2 and 3). Repeat until all 12 ties are made. Trim threads.

Attach Envelope Flap and Ties

Gather both pillow fronts, envelope flaps and 6 ties. Position pillow front on work surface with widest 1/3 fabric section facing towards you (mentioned in Step 2) and facing up. Place envelope flap on top, right-side-down, raw edges facing you. Insert raw ends of three ties, spaced evenly along pillow case edge. Pin everything together, pleating ruched fabric by hand (Image 1). Sew along pin line and remove pins. Fold over and press along seam line. Pin envelope flap and front of pillow together (Image 2). Sew line about 1/8" from seam edge to hold envelope flap in a folded position and create a small trim edge (Image 3). Repeat with other pillow case.

Sew Ties to Back

Gather both back pieces and six remaining ties. Fold bottom raw edge of ties under and pin to inside hem of back piece (Images 1 and 2). Make sure ties line up with those sewn onto front of pillow sham. Sew ties to pillow back (Image 3). Repeat with remaining back piece and ties.

Assemble and Sew Pillow Sham

Place back piece on work surface, face up. Place pillow front directly on top, face down. Ties should be facing same direction and envelope flap should be visible on top. Line up edges and pin three sides, leaving side with ties open (Images 1 and 2). One side will need to be gathered by hand, due to ruching. Sew along three sides, leaving about 1/2" seam allowance. Remove pins and trim all threads. Turn pillowcase right-side-out, insert pillow form and tie ties (Image 3). To create an optional edge, sew along three seams 1/8" in as in Step 6. Tip: Enlarge this pillow case to create Euro or king shams or even a matching duvet cover.

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