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30-Minutes with Workroom Tech: Episode 28 / Fabric Flanges

On this episode of The Sew Much More Podcast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech, Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock talk about fabric flanges.

You can listen to the podcast here: Episode 28 / Fabric Flanges

A flange is basically a flat lip or band that is sewn in the seam, or inset on pillows, drapery leading edges, or other soft furnishings like slipcovers and duvets. Some people call it an “empty welt”.

A fabric flange is a very popular detail on pillows. It’s an alternative to ruffles, and a more tailored look. To make a flange, cut the strips like you would for ruffles… twice the finished size plus 1-inch for seam allowances (or adjust based on the size seam allowances you prefer). The strips are pressed in half and then sewn in the seam.

Susan will often use a 1-inch flange. "This looks really smart in pillows, but the size can range from 1/2” to as much as 4 inches on a pillow sham". The smaller sized 1/2” flanges are more difficult to apply because any differences in the seam allowance will be very noticeable.

You can also add welt cord next to the flange. It gives you the opportunity to add yet another detail, and there are a lot of ways to finish the flange at the corners of a pillow. It can be joined with a mitered seam, or pleated.

"My favorite way to add a flange is to sew individual pieces to each side of the pillow, so that the flange isn’t joined at the corner", Susan said. "I think that little “V” that’s created at the corner looks sharp, and I’ll be honest – it’s a lot easier to sew"! The boxed pillow pictured below has a 1/2-inch flange sewn in individual pieces.

Boxed pillow with a small flange.

A mitered corner is popular, but it does require an advanced skill level so it has more value. It's a custom touch, and it’s more expensive (you charge more because it takes longer).

Sewing a Fabric Flange with a Mitered Corner

When sewing a flange with a mitered corner, Susan suggests to cut the pillow face and back pieces slightly larger than needed. That will give you some wiggle room.

Then cut and press the four pieces for the flange.

Lay out the flange pieces on the worktable the size of the pillow, taking into account the seam allowance. You will create a frame, folding over and pressing the mitered corners. "I like to add a little fabric glue under the fold to hold the pieces in place until it is sewn". Sew each mitered corner, trim away the excess and fold right sides out and press.

When you pin the flange to the pillow front, you have to clip the seam allowance at each mitered corner to make it turn the corner. It’s best to clip the sewn corner, not the fabric. To keep all the stitches from coming out, add a little iron-on fusible tape inside the flange at the corners, to stabilize the edge so that when you clip, it will not come unstitched. "This is where cutting the pillow a little larger comes in handy. If your flange frame isn’t exactly square, you can fudge it", Susan said.

Sew the flange to the pillow front. When you get to a corner, seat the needle down and pivot...fold the flange out of the way and continue to the next corner

Sew the front to the back, being careful to fold the corners out of the way so that you don’t catch the flange in the seam. An invisible zipper works great in this style. In the photo below, Rebecca with Plucky Pillows is sewing a flanged pillow in class at Workroom Tech.

Rebecca sewing a pillow with flanged and mitered corners in class
Mitered corner flange on a pillow

Flange with Pleated Corners

Pre-plan how many pleats that you want in each corner. You may want just one pleat, or several pleats around the corner. For example; if you allow 6 inches for each corner, make a flange piece that is the finished pillow size plus 24 inches (6 inches x 4 corners). Sew the flange in a big loop, so it’s already connected.

Mark the flange in fourths, and the pillow front is marked on the center of each side. Pin together the marks and then pin to the corners, with the excess flange pleated around the corner. You can do knife pleats, or box pleats, rounding off the corners so the pleats will lay flat.

The photo below shows one pleat in the corner combined with a Turkish corner style pillow.

turkish corner pillow with pleated flange

You can also gathered the flange around the corner. (See the photo below).

pillow sham with a small flange that is gathered around the corners

Another way to make a detailed corner design, is to cut out a section of the flange so that it is finished, and not sewn in the seam. This gives space to manipulate the flange for a different look. "I think there are a lot of variations with the cutout flange that have not even been tried yet", Susan said. You can find the instructions for the cut-out flange method here: Pillow Flange with Cut Outs

Here is a short video showing how the corners are hand stitched.

You can add a flange to boxed pillows and boxed cushions, too.

Susan shared that one of her favorite things to do with a flanged pillow is to add a center pleat on each side. "It’s a beautiful design detail and it give you wiggle room for fitting a flange with mitered corners". The pillow below with mitered corner flange with center pleats was made by Rebecca, Plucky Pillows in class at Workroom Tech.

A center pleat is added to the flange.  This pillow was made in class at Workroom Tech by Rebecca with Plucky Pillows.

You can also inset a flange on the face of a pillow. It doesn’t have to be in the seam on the edge. To do this, sew the flange like an applique. You can view and download Susan's instructions for this style of pillow here: Pillow with Inset Inset Flange

Flange with center pleat

Ceil asked, "can a flange can be added to a round pillow"? "I’ve never done that. That’s an interesting idea to play around with", Susan said. "I’ve added a flange to round bolsters. It’s a great alternative to a ruffle. But that is different than a round pillow".

A bolster pillow with a fabric flange

Flanged Pillow Shams

You can make pillow shams for bedding with a small flange as described above, but often pillow shams have a different look and fabrication method because the flanges are larger and need to be padded, so they don’t flop over. Fusible batting is a good choice for adding to larger flanges.

The quickest and easiest way to make a flanged pillow sham is to apply fusible batting to the back of the fabric and then sew a knife edge pillow with welt cord, the finished size including the flange, including an invisible zipper inset on the back. Cut another piece the finished size of the pillow without the flange (plus seam allowances) and sew welt cord around the edge. Press the seam allowance under, and inset on top of the larger pillow, pinned in place and sewn by "stitching in the ditch" next to the welt cord. Voila! You have a pillow sham.

A flanged pillow.
detail showing welt cord on a flanged pillow sham

Adding a Flange to Draperies

When used with drapery, many people don’t call it a “flange” but instead refer to this detail as French welt, empty welt or even banding. But it’s the same thing.

You will sew it in the leading edge just like you would a welt cord. Susan suggests adding a facing strip that can be folded under as a side hem, instead of pillow casing the edge.

"I love a small inset flange on a drapery, even if it’s all the same fabric… like a linen drapery with an inset flange detail", Susan said. "Of course, a contrasting color would really pop".

And with a drapery leading edge, you can add a flange with, or without welt cord.

Ceil shared that a flanged edge is pretty on duvet covers, too. All the ideas discussed in this podcast for pillows can work with a duvet.

There are so many ideas to try. "Something as simple as making a flange with two fabrics (one color on one side, and a different color on the other side) could be so creative" Susan shared. "There’s a double flange, too. That’s a great look".

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