UPDATE – you can also see how to make a pillow through the eyes of a complete beginner who followed my tutorial!
Jill Approved followed this tutorial and shares her experience and how it turned out for her!
A pillow is one of the easiest and fastest sewing projects, and is great for beginners. My nine year old recently agreed to learn to use the sewing machine and her first project was a pillow. She likes to sew by hand but has been a bit afraid of the machine up until now. Might have something to do with the fact that the machine is almost as big as she is? 😀 I need to dig out my old machine for her – it’s smaller and much less intimidating for a beginner.
Anyway, I decided it was time to share a tutorial on how to make a pillow with an envelope closure. It’s so easy and fast and I assure you if you can sew a straight line with a machine you can make a pillow. And if you can’t sew a straight line with a sewing machine then you probably just need a guideline added to show you where to line up your fabric 😉
Step 1: Cut your fabric
My experience has been that if you make your finished size the exact size of the pillow form, the pillow will not seem ‘full’ enough. So my rule is this – cut the top piece of your pillow the exact measurements of the form. My form was 16×26 so I cut it 16×26. The seam allowance will make it end up smaller but that will give you a full looking pillow when stuffed.
For the back pieces you need to cut two for an envelope closure. The first measurement will be the same as the sides of the top – for mine it was the 16 inches. The second measurement will be half the long measurement plus enough for overlap and a hem. I add at least 3 inches to each piece. Mine were cut 16×16.
Step 2. Use a serger to finish one edge of each back piece.
If you don’t have a serger use a zig-zag stitch or turn back 1/4 inch and topstitch.
Step 3. Turn serged edge under 3/4 inch, press, and topstitch.
Add a tag if you have one 🙂
You will have neatly hemmed edges for you back pieces and the serging keeps the edges neat and unfrayed on the inside.
Step 4. Detail your pillow top however you wish.
Mine was for a friend’s birthday gift.
Step 5. Place one back piece onto the front with the finished, hemmed edge towards the center of the pillow top.
If you are using a tag with your name on it, the tag needs to be on this first piece.
Step 6. Place the second back piece onto the pillow top, overlapping the first piece.
The finished, hemmed edges will be in the center (ish) of the pillow top. Off-center a bit because they need to overlap.
You can see that the overlap is several inches. It doesn’t have to be this big but I prefer it this way to keep the back from gaping to show the pillow form.
Step 7: Pin together – you may place as many pins around the edges as you need to. I pin at the centers to hold my layers together.
Step 8. Now it’s time to sew the pillow together! Start at one corner, about 1/2 inch in from both edges – the side edge and the edge behind the presser foot.
You can use a 1/2 to 5/8 seam allowance, whichever you are most used to using. I typically use 5/8 seams but for pillows a lot of times I use 1/2 inch.
Most machines have the seam allowances marked somehow with lines for you to follow.
Stitch along the edge and stop a seam allowance away from the edge. Place the needle DOWN into the fabric.
Lift the presser foot and pivot the pillow so you are ready to sew the next edge. The needle down into the fabric will allow you to pivot around the needle without moving the fabric out of position for sewing.
Continue this process till all four sides are stitched.
Backstitch at the beginning and end to secure your stitches.
Step 10. Serge all 4 edges to finish the seams and prevent raveling. I serge to the end of a side, lift serger presser foot, pivot and keep going all the way around. This eliminates the loose threads at each corner of the pillow.
If you don’t have a serger you can finish the edges with a zig-zag stitch or trim with pinking shears.
Step 11. Turn the pillow right side out.
Place your thumb into the corner as far as you can and as snugly as possible.
With your thumb inside, use your finger to keep the seam to one side and the fabric firm.
Flip the corner right side out, pushing the seam firmly into the corner to create a crisp square.
You can use a point turner, found at Joanns or other fabric store, if needed, to create the crisp neat corners that will make your project look professional.
Turn all four corners and you are ready to stuff your pillow with a pillow form and add it to your decor!
For just a bit of extra detail on this pillow I added top stitching. When cutting out I actually cut this one about 1/2 inch bigger than I normally would for this size pillow form. This gave me the extra room to add top stitching all the way around the pillow and create a sort of ‘flat piping’ effect.
I rolled the seams with my fingers to make them as flat and close the the edge as possible and pressed the pillow cover.
Pressing with a hot steam iron created the flat, crisp edge I was looking for.
And then I top stitched 1/4 inch from the edge, all the way around the pillow.Just adds a bit of detail to set it apart from all the others 😀
Now you are all ready to make your own pillow! You can detail it however it suits you and your decor – the possibilities are endless.
It’s almost springtime – time for some spring cleaning and fluffing and new pillows are just the thing to add some spring fun to your decor.
And don’t forget to check out my friend Jillian’s post – she shares her first sewing experience using my tutorial!
Susan Smith says
I never knew it was so simple! Thank you!! Love the texture of that fabric.
Jill Flory says
I love the fabric too – it’s a great linen. And yes, it is that simple – 🙂
Thanks for the tutorial. I will try to make a pillow as soon as I find some time. You make it look so easy. So far, I have been buying them to stage the house which, hopefully, we will put up for sale sometime this month.
Jill Flory says
Tricia they seriously are one of the easiest things to make. Once you do one you can whip out new ones every time you want to change your decor up a bit!
Yeahoo, fantastic tutorial. Really love how you gave it little border around outside of cover. I make pillow covers pretty much same way but I use one long piece of fabric. Turn fabric with right side up, put pillow form on fabric about in middle then adjust for me closure so back overlaps. I pin it on one side, slide pillow form out then pin other side and go sew. I’ll have already sewn the back closure as you have done being sure I have correct back part to show when cover turned right side out. Sew up both sides and have myself a pillow cover. For sewing must have iron ready, makes such a difference in how a project turns out.
Started making pillow covers few years ago when I wanted to make shams like a comforter I had purchased. Just looked at some other shams and figured out how to put it together. Have figured out how to make few things by looking at how other things have been made. At least when we lived in San Diego area there was a nice little store where I bought fabric, etc. just little over mile from our house.
The first time I made pants/shorts I got a pair of my own to turn wrong side out, put pants legs together to show me how to do what pattern was telling me to do. I was quite determined to do it myself. Used to make a lot of my kids clothes as well as my own. Liked being able to choose colors, patterns which didn’t have choices of with retail clothing. In those days fabric and patterns weren’t so blasted expensive.
For youngest first b/d which was also Easter I made dresses for youngest/oldest daughter’s out of light lavender fabric. Used to sew clothes, etc. for home all the time. I started sewing when I was about 10 maybe. I wanted clothes and my Mom was working, so I would do as much as I could then wait for her to get home to show me what I needed help with, all those years she worked 6 days a week. After that I made most of my own clothes, right up thru high school and on.
It’s wonderful your youngest will learn how to use machine. Once she learns she’ll be sewing like crazy. you can have her help you when you have projects for your store and shows to get done. Do your other girls sew also? Sewing machines aren’t as expensive, can get nice Brother for $79 at JoAnn’s or Walmart.
Our youngest daughter bought her Brother machine years ago and is still using it, her youngest is sewing with it often now. She makes a lot of her own curtains and table runners.
I got a really nice piece of fabric at one of Salvation Army thrift stores, it’s a light coral, white plaid. I made table runner for tv stand and have enough to make another table runner for bedroom dresser and couple pillow covers.
Hopefully this summer we’ll get our room painted. Will be coral on walls and apple green for furniture and picture frames, etc. Have little bit of coral in living room also is why I made the table runner. People that don’t sew have no idea of the possibilities they can make. My machine is always ready to go sew something in a minute. Want to make new pillow covers for Spring/summer. Printing out some new things for gallery wall and painting frames. To me lot more fun to sew and make own things than go to store to buy. I see something on a blog and get right to it before I forget, duh.
Have great rest of week. Hope all is well with you and your family.
Jill Flory says
Hi JaneEllen! Great to hear from you again! Your way of making pillows is great! Might have to try that! Would cut down on seams. Hope you get your painting done – I have painting to do that I’ve been putting off for ages.
angela rogers says
love it! such a great tutorial.. thanks!
Jill, thank you so much for this tutorial and for all your help learning to make this pillowcase even though I had never used my sewing machine before! I am a pillow making fool now!!!! I feel like Oprah. “You get a pillow, you get a pillow, you get a pillow!”
Jill Flory says
Glad my tutorial helped you! Yours looked great!
Super cute tut! Easy to follow for someone who’s new to sewing…..Oh and that pillow was so charming, I,like it a lot!
Jill Flory says