How To Make a Rag Pillow by Inspired Quilting by Lea Louise

I’m thrilled to welcome Lea from Inspired Quilting by Lea Louise for the first in a series of sewing guest posts. Today, Lea is showing you how to make a rag pillow. This is a simple project that a beginner sewist or quilter can make with this tutorial.

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no added cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links. Photos in this post are © Lea McGee/Inspired Quilting by Lea Louise and are used with permission.

About Inspired Quilting by Lea Louise

Lea Louise is a Christian, wife, mother, and grandmother blessed with a creative spirit who shares the joy of creating in many forms.  She is the quilt teacher and blogger behind Inspired Quilting by Lea Louise, providing quilting inspiration and instruction to quilters of all levels. She is a fabric and fiber fanatic not bound by convention, but driven by a love of nature’s beauty.  A lifelong quilter inspired by color and design, Lea Louise provides artistic inspiration through knowledge and experiences, so quilters of all skill levels can create more beauty in their life every day through her creative journey.

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How To Make a Rag Pillow

Easy Rag Pillow Sewing Tutorial by Inspired Quilting by Lea Louise

Do you sometimes see an item in a store and know that you could make it yourself? How often have you actually made what you saw? Sometimes we simply decide not to make it, or even forget about it altogether. Or maybe it’s just more than what we want to take on. Here is a rag pillow project that looks just like those currently promoted in a variety of forms on many retail sites. They changed the name to Rag Cushion, but it is what it is. Who knew a rag pillow could be so popular? Even better is how easy it is to make!

Pillows are a perfect project to learn a new sewing method. They’re small and quick to make. As a quilter, I love making pillows to try out a new quilt idea. This rag pillow project is all about the surface texture that seems to be so popular in interior designer boutiques right now. Plus, you’ll love the super simple rag seam technique that makes finishing this pillow a breeze.

This is a very simple pillow to make that you can probably finish in an afternoon. The idea is to sew narrow strips of fabric onto your pillow to create the dimensional frayed design. You choose whether your strips will be the same or contrasting fabrics. Once you begin to sew, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll be finished!

Fabric & Supplies you’ll need for an 18” Rag Pillow

  • One 18” fabric square of woven cotton for pillow front
  • 1 Fat Quarter for pillow back (Note from Underground Crafter: Not sure what a fat quarter is? Find out in my beginner’s guide to choosing fabric for quilts!)
  • 1 yard of fusible fleece optional
  • 16 cotton fabric strips of 1” x 18” for ragged trim or at least 320” of assorted 1” strips to mix and match.
  • Basic sewing supplies (rotary mat, acrylic ruler, and rotary cutter, fabric shears, disappearing pen for fabric, pins, etc.)

Supplies needed for Quick Tie Pillow Finished Method

Let’s get started!

Mark Your Sewing Lines

  • Lay your pillow front right side up. Using a disappearing pen, mark a 16” square in the center of your pillow top fabric. This is the seam line for your finished pillow.
Pillow top marked with sewing guidelines.
  • Now mark a straight line from edge to edge that is 1/2” (0.5″) inside the 16” square. Do the same on the opposite side. Continue to mark lines 1” apart across the drawn square. You will have a total of 16 lines equally across the inside the 16” square. These are the guidelines for sewing your fabric strips.
  • To ensure your lines are evenly spaced, pre-mark their position. First make 14, equally spaced small dots between the first two drawn lines. These should be about 1” apart. Then draw your lines over those dots. Remember to measure twice and mark once!

Fuse Fleece to Pillow Front

  • Adding fusible fleece to your pillows creates a super soft exterior surface. It also makes a sturdier layer to support all the surface stitching for this pillow.
Fleece fused inside the seam guidelines to the wrong side of fabric. Note the visible 1” margin of fabric without fleece.
  • Cut and place a 16” x 16” piece of fleece on the wrong side of the pillow front. Make sure it stays within the drawn square outline to ensure it’s centered. Following the manufacturer’s directions, fuse fleece in place.

Cut the Fat Quarter for the Pillow Back

  • Lay the fat quarter on your cutting mat with the selvage away from the side you’ll be cutting. Cut two rectangles for the pillow back. First cut a 16” x 18” piece. The second piece will measure 5” x 18”. All that will remain is a narrow strip including the selvage edge.

Fuse Fleece to Pillow Back

  • Cut a 14” x 16” piece of fleece for the top section of the pillow back. Then cut a 3” x 16” strip for the narrow, bottom section of the pillow back. Center fleece pieces, glue side down, on the wrong side of pillow back rectangles. Following manufacturer’s directions, fuse fleece to pillow back pieces. You will be pressing on the right side of your fabric.
Cut pillow back before fusing fleece.
  • Once fused, fold one fabric edge over the fleece along the 18” side of each rectangle. Press to hold in place. This is where the pillow opening will be.

Prepare Pillow Back with Closure

Sew Hook and Loop Fastener to Pillow Back

  • Place the narrow, pillow back strip right side up with the folded end facing down. Center and pin the hook side of the VELCRO® Brand Sew On strip along the folded edge on the right side of the fabric. Pin and sew in place following the strip’s edge closely.
VELCRO® Brand Sew On strips pinned in place. Note that the ‘hook side’ (to the left) is sewn on the right side of the pillow back right along the folded edge.
The loop strip (to the right) is sewn to the wrong side of the larger pillow back. Place it along the raw edge of the fold, keeping it about ½” from the folded edge.
  • Place the larger back rectangle wrong side up with the folded edge facing up. Center and pin the loop side of the VELCRO® Brand Sew On strip 1/2″ away from the folded edge. This VELCRO® Brand Sew On strip will not be sewn right along the edge. Keep the edge of the VELCRO® Brand Sew On strip even with the raw edge of the folded fabric to eliminate any raveling edges. Sew in place following the VELCRO® Brand Sew On strip’s edge closely.
The hook strip (to the left) and the loop strip (to the right) will overlap to close the pillow back.
  • Attach the VELCRO® Brand Sew On strips together ensuring your pillow back measures at least 17-1/2” x 17-1/2” (17.5″ x 17.5″).Tack the side seams in place to keep the back square while assembling your pillow. Set finished pillow back aside.
The finished  pillow back should measure at least 17-1/2” x 17-1/2” (17.5″ x 17.5″). Adjust the VELCRO® Brand Sew On strip closure if needed to get the correct size.

Sew 1” Fabric Strips to Pillow Front

  • Fabric strips are sewn along the 16 drawn lines to create the rag surface. Working from one side of your pillow front, lay a 1” fabric strip from edge to edge along the first drawn line. This will be one of the lines that is marked ½” from the drawn pillow seam line. Keep the strip ends even with the pillow edges. Sew the strip down the center, from side to side across the pillow front. Continue adding strips in the same manner until all 16 strips are sewn in place.
Overlap strip ends as you sew them to the pillow front.
  • If you choose to make a scrappier version with multiple length strips, sew them in place without joining them with a seam. The raw edges will add to the overall rag look of the pillow rather than having exposed seams. As you come to the end of a strip, place the next strip underneath with about a 1” overlap. Then sew across both layers and continue to the pillow edge adding strips as needed.
Finished pillow front.

Trim Pillow Front

  • Lay your completed pillow front on your cutting mat with right side facing up. Trim about 1/4” (0.25″) from each side to square up your pillow. It should measure 17-1/2” (17.5″) square after trimming. Now is also a good time to snip off the corner points.
Trim pillow front to 17-1/2” (17.5″) square.

Assemble Your Pillow

  • Place your pillow back on your cutting mat with the right side facing down. Lay your pillow front on top with the right side up. It’s okay if the pillow back is slightly larger as the seam will be trimmed once it’s sewn. Place a few pins to hold in place.
Fold & pin fabric strip edges to keep them from getting caught in the seam.
  • Sew a 3/4” (0.75″) seam from edge to edge along all four sides. When sewing across the strip ends, be sure they lay flat and do not fold over. The other two sides will need a couple pins to hold the fabric strips out of the way as you sew. These strips will overlap the seams once your pillow is completely sewn together.

Clip Your Seams for Perfectly Ragged Edges

  • Clip the fabric strips on the inside of the seam line first. The clipping will be different on the raw edge outside of the seam line.
  • Using a sharp pair of scissors, begin clipping your fabric strips. First make a ¼” clip close to where each strip is sewn along the seam.  Then continue making 1/4” (0.25″) clips along the fabric strip edges, spacing them between 1/4” to 1/2” (0.25″ to 0.5″) apart.
Clip fabric edges to create the frayed, rag effect.
  • Next clip around the entire pillow edge. First snip about a 1/4” (0.25″) triangle off each corner. Note in the diagram how the corner tip is snipped off. This will eliminate excess knotting in the corners when the fabric frays. Then make 1/4” (0.25″) angled clips on each corner. Continue making ¼” clips along the outer edges, spacing them between 1/4” to 1/2” (0.25″ to 0.5″) apart. Be sure to clip both the pillow front and back being careful not to cut the seam thread. Should that happen, resew the seam to secure.

Wash & Dry for the Big Reveal!

Closeup view of rag strips.
  • Wash your clipped pillow adding a second rinse cycle to remove as many threads as possible. Adding a towel or two will help increase the agitation to loosen the cut threads. Some cottons ravel more than others, but all woven fabric will result in a beautifully frayed edge. Now put your pillow in the dryer. Finally, trim off any long or knotted threads that didn’t wash away.

Stuff & Fluff Your Pillow

Enjoy your beautiful, new Rag Pillow!
  • Open the hook and loop fastener closure and insert your pillow form. Tuck it into the corners and make sure it fills them evenly. Give your finished pillow a few pats to fluff it up and enjoy your new rag pillow!
© 2021 by Lea McGee/Inspired Quilting by Lea Louise and published with permission by Underground Crafter. This pattern is for personal use only. You may use the pattern to make unlimited items for yourself, for charity, or to give as gifts. You may sell items you personally make by hand from this pattern. Do not violate Lea’s copyright by distributing this pattern or the photos in any form, including but not limited to scanning, photocopying, emailing, or posting on a website or internet discussion group. if you want to share the pattern, point your friends to this link: Thanks for supporting indie designers!

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