Monday, January 25, 2010

If The Drapery Panel Tutorial Scared You, Try Pillows

Recently a client wanted just the right pillow for a new chair and commented, "You must have something that would work, in that growing pile of pillows at your house."

Yes, I have made quite a few lately. This time around I made sure to take a lot of photos and here is a brief tutorial, in comparison to the drapery panel instructions! If you think drapes are beyond your ability, try making a pillow. It's a much easier and quicker project. It is also a great way to use up a small remnant or left over bit of fabric from another project. And really, can you ever have too many pillows?

These pillows are made from the Carlisle brocade and a cotton velvet, Como in Rust, both from Calico Corners. For the inserts I picked up two 18 inch Soft n' Crafty Pillows from JoAnn Fabrics. FYI: Currently on sale for 50% off!

To make the 18 inch pillows, I cut 19 inch squares of fabric to allow for the 1/2 inch seam allowances. To make the cutting easy, I used a 19 inch square paper pattern.

The hardest part of the project was to decide the placement of the pattern on the pillows. I ordered such a small amount of the Carlisle print I was barely able to place the pillow center where I wanted. The bottom of the pattern lined up with the bottom of the fabric, and then I had to ensure that I could cut another identical square out of the fabric to the right. It was just possible...I did get lucky with this one. If you are using a solid fabric, obviously this attention to placement is not necessary.

To line up the pattern I found the center point of the 19 inch square. The pencil tip indicates the center point. The paper is folded to find the center point of the pattern. A pin is pushed through the pattern center...

and pinned to the fabric center point. The pattern is then lined up with the grain of the fabric.

The corners are pinned as well to hold the pattern in place while cutting.

The first pillow front is cut. The process is repeated to cut the second identical pillow front.

The fabric showed signs of fraying, so a stay stitch is sewn around the edges of both pillow fronts.

Then the Carlisle pillow fronts are pinned to the Como pillow backs. I used the endless amount of pins because sewing velvet is a complete pain. It always shifts while sewing, whether sewing two layers of velvet together or sewing a layer of velvet to another fabric type. (The layers could also be basted together prior to sewing on the machine.)

The two layers are sewn together, making sure to get the fabrics sewn together as they were pinned. It felt like I was fighting with the fabric! It is the nap of the velvet, it just pushes the fabric forward or backwards, depending on which direction the nap is running compared to the direction it is being sewn.

I run a stitch around the edges of the two fabrics twice...just to make sure the seams hold up to use and also to straighten up the stitch lines. During the fight to sew the fabrics together the stitch is not always that straight.

I also sew the pillow corners with a curved line. It helps create nice clean corners when the pillow is turned.

The bottoms of the pillows are left open to allow for the pillow to be filled with the insert.

Sometimes I use fill for smaller pillows, but inserts are best for a nicer result. Using fill can make for a lumpy pillow, not the best look. Obviously I removed the plastic from the insert...just left it on here for the photo!

The first is filled...

followed by the second.

With the pillows filled, the final step is to stitch closed the opening at the bottom of the pillows. I use a simple slip stitch. Of course a zipper would be great here, but I'm too lazy to sew one in. If I ever need to clean the pillow or insert I can just cut the stitches, restitching the opening closed afterwards. It's easy to do, I stitched these up while checking my email.

Tomorrow, photos of the finished pillows in the Living Room Redesign. Do you have any fabric laying around that would make a great pillow or two?


  1. Excellent tut! I'm going to try this next weekend. Just got a steal on some great fabric!

  2. Now this, I can do! I think!

    loving your fabric choices

  3. I love that fabric. So beautiful.

    Fighting the nap of the fabric is such a might take a look for a walking foot at joann's or online. It's so helpful because it 'walks' across the top of the fabric and eliminates the problem of the pulling/shifting that you had. One size foot fits all, regardless of your brand machine, and they're usually around $30. The headaches it saves are priceless. Can't wait to see these in place!

  4. Thanks for the tip Monarch! If I ever knew about this I have long forgotten!

  5. Loving the fabric! They will POP on your couches!

  6. These are so pretty- I love the fabric you picked out and the part of the pattern that you picked for the pillows...they are beautiful.

    I cant wait to see them in the room!

  7. That's about how I do it, too. And, no, I don't think you can have too many pillows! Although, my hubby might disagree! :)

  8. You, my dear, have some serious sewing skills. I'm much more of a hack ! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge - I always learn something from you !


  9. Excellent tutorial. I had not heard the tip for the centerpoint before. I'll be using that one next time! The pillows are so pretty. I'm excited to see them in the room.

  10. Oops! Forgot this in the last comment. In your free time if you're ever interested in posting about how you slip stitch them closed without it LOOKING like you slip stitch them closed I would be interested. Something I haven't totally mastered yet.

  11. LOVE the fabric!!! This looks almost easy enough for me to do, or maybe I'll just wait for the mother in law to pay me a visit :)

  12. Thanks for this tutorial! Now if only I had a sewing machine and knew how to sew! LOL What do you think of envelope covers for pillows? Have you made one before?

  13. yay! they're gorgeous! I've always wanted to make my own pillows...someday, I swear, I will do it:) and to answer your question, no, you can never have to many pillows!!! thanks, janell!

  14. This was just the push I needed to finish the remaining 2 pillows for our family room redesign. Now that the pillows are done I need to find more energy to finish the rest of the room...and all the other rooms in the new house! Can't wait to see yours in place!


  15. Yes, a pillow is a project I am willing and able to tackle! Didn't know about doing curved corners, though.
    I usually make the overlapping=back style for closure (sort of like the pillows on your bed). Is that called envelope style? I'm not sure.

  16. Hi, Janell--
    I love your tutorial posts with all the great photos! Your instructions are very clear and well written. And the fabrics you chose from Calico Corners really look great.

    Just a quick tip on pillow making: before you turn the pillow right side out, iron open the seams as much as possible. If using a velvet, be careful not to press too hard.

    After turning--and before stuffing--fold under the seam allowance on one side of the opening and iron. Then stuff the pillow and pin this folded edge to the other fabric. It will be easier to slipstitch with a perfectly straight line and achieve a smooth closure.

    And if anyone is daunted by pillow making--or wants more complex pillows with trims, flanges, boxing, welts, tassels or beads--the Calico Corners stores would be happy to make them for you.

    Jan Jessup, Calico Corners

  17. I have an old worn out quilt that is full of holes, but I hate to throw it out. I'll think I'll cut out what good sections I can find and make a pillow.

  18. Jan, I always appreciate your additional information, a professional's point of view! You are so right about the pressing part, I have a needle board and still skipped this step! The seams looked fine, but they would probably look even better had they been pressed.

    And for those who inquired about the envelope technique, that is a great style to use and offers the opportunity to use a decorative button. Fun! Because the back of these pillows are velvet an "envelope" would have been too heavy and bulky.


  19. Brilliant. I'm going to come back to this post when I don't want to pay someone to make a pillow for me!

  20. Thanks for the tutorial. I need to make some pillows but have been shying away from the project.
    Now I know it can be done. Yeah.
    By the way, they look great. well done!

  21. Love the tutorial...

    I just bought a sewing machine myself and have made 4 pillows... it is so fun!!

    A Design Story

  22. Very nicely written post it contains useful information for me.Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the post.


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