Use soft ruching as a banding for added interest.

How to Ruche a Cushion

by Linda Erlam

Ruching is parallel rows of gathering. It's a sewing technique that creates interest on an otherwise flat surface and elevates a flat cushion to a decorator-inspired accessory. Ruching can be used on the whole surface of the cushion, just on the boxing of a boxed cushion, or in sections across the surface of a decorator pillow. Use the same fabric on the front and the back of the cushion and ruche both sides or only one. Thin fabric works best for ruching; think of lace, sheer fabric or metallic craft fabric for added excitement. One ruched cushion in a bright, attention-getting color makes a little girl’s bed-scape special and unique to her.

Plan your cushion ruching. Draw a sketch of your cushion and determine how many rows of ruching you want across the surface (or edges) of the pillow and write down the spacing measurements. For example, if you want one large gathered surface, you will make two rows of gathering, each 1/2 inch from the outside edges. If your cushion measures 24 inches wide and you want three rows of stitching -- two columns of ruching -- your lines of stitching will be at 1/2 inch from each edge and one row down the middle at 12 inches.

Cut the front piece of your fabric to the desired finished cushion width plus 1 inch. Cut the length equal to three times the desired cushion finished length plus 1 inch. Following the example, cut the fabric 25 inches wide and 73 inches long.

Cut the back fabric, if it is not ruched, to the finished cushion measurements plus 1 inch. In this example, cut the back to 25 inches wide and 25 inches long. If you are ruching the back as well, cut the back piece to the same measurements as the front piece and duplicate the ruching on it.

Lay the fabric out, wrong side visible. Draw the lines of ruching on the fabric, using a self-erasing marking pencil.

Set your sewing machine top tension to loose. Refer to your machine manual and experiment on scrap fabric until you have a stitch that allows you to pull the top thread easily, gathering the fabric.

Sew the first line of ruching, back-tack several stitches at the start of the row to lock the stitch and prevent it from pulling out. Sew to the end of the marked line.

Sew the remaining ruching lines, back-tacking at the start of each row.

Gently pull on the top thread of each row -- the loose end of the thread, not the back-tacked end -- gathering the fabric down to the required length. In this example, gather the fabric down to 25 inches long. Repeat the gathering on the remaining lines of ruching.

Set your machine stitch back to normal tension with a stitch length of 10 stitches per inch or fewer and sew along the gathered lines again, locking the gathering in place.

Place the back and front sections right sides together and sew with a 1/2-inch seam. Leave an opening along one edge for inserting the filler.

Insert the filler and hand-sew the open seam.

Items you will need

  • Tape measure
  • Cushion fabric
  • Scissors
  • Self-erasing fabric marking pencil
  • Ruler
  • Sewing machine
  • Matching thread
  • Straight pins
  • Hand-sewing needle


  • Prewash your fabric to prevent shrinkage later.

About the Author

Linda Erlam started writing educational manuals in 1979. She also writes a biweekly newspaper column, "Design Dilemmas," in the "Lakeshore News" and has been published in "Design and Drapery Pro" magazine. Erlam is a graduate of the Sheffield School of Interior Design and is a practicing interior decorator and drapery workroom operator.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images