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How to Sew a Pillow with Piping: Easy Tutorial

There are so many ways to make a pillow…just about as many ways as you can possibly dream up.  You can make them from napkins, decorate them with cute buttons, applique them…the possibilities are endless.

When I decided to make two pillows for the swing, as part of my 4th of July makeover of the porch, I wanted to use the same pillow inserts that were already in the existing pillows.  That way, I wouldn’t have to buy new inserts and store extra pillows.  At the time, I was thinking the existing covers zipped up.  I really didn’t want to deal with zippers when I made the new covers so I had visions of Velcro dancing in my head.

How to make a pillow with piping

 

I was in for a big surprise when I took a closer look at the existing pillows on the swing.  I was wrong…they did not zip up.

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Instead, they looked like this.  The back flaps just slightly overlapped.  Cool!  I can do this! :)

How to make a pillow with piping

 

I used the existing well-loved and slightly faded covers as a general pattern for the new pillow covers.  Since this would be a patriotic makeover, I chose a solid red fabric for the pillows.  I had never made a pillow before, so I didn’t attempt the fancy, scalloped edge seen here on the old pillow case.  Instead, I decided to make navy and white striped cording for the trim/edging.  If you are unfamiliar with making piping, you’ll find a tutorial,  HERE.  It’s much easier than you might think.

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Since the back overlapped like this on my “example” pillows,

How to make a pillow with piping

 

I cut the fabric for the back of the pillow 1 1/2-2 inches wider to allow for a little overlap in back.  (The lens cap is there because my camera was having trouble focusing on a blank surface.)

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Next, I cut the fabric for the back of the pillow in half.

Note:  If you don’t care to swap out your pillow covers, you could just cut you pillow front and back the same and sew it all together, leaving a hole just big enough to get the insert in.  Then stitch your pillow shut by hand.   I wanted the ability to swap covers occasionally, avoiding the cost of buying new inserts and having to store additional pillows.  It’s so much easier to just store away pillow covers/cases than whole pillows, especially when you’ll only be using them for special occasions…like patriotic holidays, etc…

How to make a pillow with piping

 

I hemmed the inside edge of the back pieces where they would eventually overlap each other.

How to make a pillow with piping

 

I just turned over a tiny edge and then turned it over again, pinned it and….

How to make a pillow with piping

 

…stitched it down.

How to make a pillow with piping
How to make a pillow with piping

 

Next, I pinned the cording I made in THIS post around the outer edge of the fabric piece that was going to be the FRONT of the pillow.  (That’s the fabric piece that wasn’t cut in half.)

NOTE: My fabric didn’t really have a “right” side…both sides looked exactly the same.  If your fabric is printed on one side, you will be pinning your piping down on the “right” side or the side that will show once the pillow is finished.

So, just to be clear, you will lay the cording on the “right” side (or printed side) of the fabric with the seam allowance along the outer edge of the fabric and the cording toward the inside of the fabric as shown below.  Don’t look at the bottom of this picture because the cording sort of flipped over there and that may be confusing.  Just look at the top and sides for reference.  If my fabric had a printed side, that’s what you’d be seeing up, in this pic below.

How to make a pillow with piping

 

I notched the corners of the fabric just like I was taught in 8th grade Home Economics. This helps to eliminate some of the “bulk” of the fabric on those corners. Note: When notching fabric on curves and corners, be careful that you don’t cut too far in and clip your stitching.
I eventually clipped off that excess red corner fabric, too…just hadn’t done it when this pic was taken.

Now, this is where having cut the piping fabric on the bias came in handy.  If I had not cut my piping fabric on the bias, the piping would not have curved so easily around this corner.  So, even though it’s a bit of a pain to cut the piping fabric on the bias when you are making your piping, it pays off later when you’re maneuvering it around the corners.

You may see a little puckering of the piping fabric.  I think that’s where I pulled a little hard on this stretchy fabric when I was initially making the piping and sort of stretched the fabric a bit.   The striped fabric reminded me of those jeans that are “forgiving” when we have gained a few lbs. ;)

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Now that you have your piping pinned down to the “right or printed” side of your fabric, it’s time to sew it on.  As with the making of the piping, I needed to use the zipper presser foot (see pic below) to sew the piping to the red pillow fabric.

How to make a pillow with piping

 

To attach the piping, just sew along the edge of the piping (see red line below).  You snuggle up the piping with your zipper foot as closely as you can and the needle should fall right along the edge of the piping where you see the red line.  (Excuse my messy red line…best I could do with the “Paint” program.) ;)

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Once the piping was sewn down to the front side of the pillow, (sorry I forgot to take a pic of that but it looked just like the pic above where it’s pinned on, but minus all the pins)  I attached the two back pieces of fabric with pins, overlapping the two sections where you see the lens cover.  Since I had initially cut the back piece of fabric about 1 1/2-2 inches bigger than the front, the two back pieces overlapped about and inch.  I propped it open with the lens cap for this pic.

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Sewing the back pieces on is a bit tricky because you are kind of sewing blind.  You can feel the bump of the piping, (see pic below) and you can sort of see it there under the fabric.  Just snuggle up to the edge of the piping with your zipper foot, don’t rush, take your time and all will come out well.

(You may have to switch which side of the zipper foot you are connecting to the sewing machine.  My machine will let you connect the zipper foot to the machine on the right side of the zipper foot or on the left side of the zipper foot.  That way you can make the needle fall on whichever side of the zipper foot, you need it to fall.  That came in handy for this project.)

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Once you have sewn on the back pieces, turn your pillow cover right side out and put your pillow insert inside.  Here’s how mine looked in back, when finished.  I used the same insert that was inside the old pillows on the swing.

How to make a pillow with piping

 

I really liked sewing pillows this way. No need to mess with a zipper or Velcro and the covers are easy to swap out for other covers.  You can really transform a room in your home by changing out the pillows for each season.

If your existing pillows don’t have an opening so you can pull out the insert or, if they are stuffed with poly fiber or some type of filler, then just make a new cover for the “whole” pillow and place the whole pillow inside your new cover.  It can be a pain trying to store lots of pillows for different seasons.  This eliminates that issue and all you have to store are the covers.

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Here’s how the bottom looks where the two pieces of piping came together.  I had to sew those overlapping each other, by hand.  No way my machine was going to go over the top over those thick pieces of trim.

I got turned around on my second pillow and sewed the raw edges of the piping sticking out the wrong way.  When I turned the pillow right side out to put in the insert, there were two raw edges of trim sticking right out in my face. Yikes!   I only did that once and funny enough, it was on the second pillow.  I sewed them facing the right way on the first pillow.  I think I was just tired by that point.

So, basically, while the pillow is still turned wrong side out, overlap the two piping ends where they come together, pointing the raw edges facing outward in the same direction as the raw seams of the pillow edges.  You may need to sew that part by hand…not fun.  Then when you turn your pillow right side out, the raw edges of the ends of the piping will be inside the cover where they belong.  If you make a mistake along the way, don’t panic.  Using a seam ripper, just carefully cut out the stitching and correct it.  No one will be the wiser, unless you confess in a blog post for the world to read. ;)

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Here’s a great suggestion by a reader (Anonymous).  It was left in a comment and it’s make perfect sense.  Awesome suggestion…thanks!

“Enjoy your blog and love your beautiful porch. I learned a little technique for joining the ends of piping when I sewed for my girls years ago. I have used it on pillow covers, too. When you start sewing on the piping, leave about a 1 inch “tail” of it that you do not sew down. Then when you sew all the way around and are back to the beginning point, use your seamripper to remove about an inch and a half of stitching to get to the cord and cut off about an inch of the cord that you have exposed, but leave the fabric. Then, turn under the raw end of the fabric, and use the fabric that now has no cord in it to enclose the 1 inch tail that you did not sew down in the beginning. Pin it and sew it down. It makes a perfectly neat and nonbulky joint with the cording meeting inside the fabric. It sounds kind of confusing, but is easy if you can make sense of my directions! Thanks for all of the inspiration!”

Here’s how the pillows looked on the porch swing…

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Hope you found this pillow making tutorial helpful.  If I can make this pillow with my limited sewing experience, I know you can, too!  Happy Sewing!

How to make a pillow with piping

 

Other helpful links:
Tutorial for making the striped piping show in this post can be found: How to Sew Piping for a Pillow.
4th of July Porch Makeover can be seen Porch Makeover for the 4th of July.

 




Comments

  1. I love your porch. It's so soft and comfy looking. I could swing all day.

  2. Terry @ La Bella Vie says:

    Susan, this is one of the best tutorials I have seen! I have been sewing for years and have made many things including piped pillows and seat cushions and truly this is better than any book on the subject! I'd say you did as nice a job on this post as you did on those darling pillows! Thank you so much for sharing and thank you for all the work you put into your posts', you're a doll!
    Terry

  3. Shannon@Cozy Home Scenes says:

    I love your cozy porch swing with the pretty pillows. You have a lovely place to take a few minutes to relax with a cool drink and a book, perhaps. Have a great weekend!
    Shannon

  4. Tammy at Tammy Loves Dishes says:

    i really think it's time I cleared a path to my sewing machine. Your pillow tutorial is super as was the piping tutorial. I have loads of fabric, now I just need that path cleared….

  5. Hi Susan!!!

    I love these Euro Style pillow covers, but I can never get the piping to fit right. I don't have the foot for the sewing machine, so it's always loose or crooked. Wanna sew some for me!??? LOL!

    Just kidding!!

    Listen, I have a new series on my blog called: "A Picture is Worth …" I'm trying to get back to posting pictures about my house, and I'd love it if you'd come by and see the bar in the dining room! :)

    xo,
    A

  6. palmettosandpigtails says:

    What a great tutorial! Especially for a newbie-sewer like me! We are building a new home and I wanted new decor without paying for new accent pillows and such….great idea!
    -Shara

  7. palmettosandpigtails says:

    What a great tutorial! Especially for a newbie-sewer like me! We are building a new home and I wanted new decor without paying for new accent pillows and such….great idea!
    -Shara

  8. I can see you and I took Home Economics class during the same era. They don't teach stuff like that in high school any more and it's really a shame. I always have maintained that everything I learned for life I learned in High
    School Home Ec class! I use what I learned there almost every day of my life. Can't say that for some of the other "required" classes. ha ha ha The porch looked great for Independence Day I might add.

  9. I love your porch and those pillows which you personally made.

  10. Great tutorial. These look great on your porch swing!

  11. Days at Buttermilk Cottage says:

    This is a great and simple way to make pillow covers, particularly for something seasonal.
    Best,
    Susan

  12. Oh, Susan, how beautiful! You are one talented lady.
    Warm Regards,
    Susan B., Western MA

  13. Anonymous says:

    Enjoy your blog and love your beautiful porch. I learned a little technique for joining the ends of piping when I sewed for my girls years ago. I have used it on pillow covers, too. When you start sewing on the piping, leave about a 1 inch "tail" of it that you do not sew down. Then when you sew all the way around and are back to the beginning point, use your seamripper to remove about an inch and a half of stitching to get to the cord and cut off about an inch of the cord that you have exposed, but leave the fabric. Then, turn under the raw end of the fabric, and use the fabric that now has no cord in it to enclose the 1 inch tail that you did not sew down in the beginning. Pin it and sew it down. It makes a perfectly neat and nonbulky joint with the cording meeting inside the fabric. It sounds kind of confusing, but is easy if you can make sense of my directions! Thanks for all of the inspiration!

  14. I wish I knew how to sew! Instead I pay out the big bucks for Pottery Barn pillows. Your porch is so gorgeous. I have a screened in back porch with nice patio furniture and a beautiful wood swing. I also have three cats that love to lay all over it so it just doesn't stay as nice and clean as yours.

  15. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    Anonymous…thanks for that tip. I think I know what you're describing…that's a great idea!

  16. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    Colleen, I just have one kitty now and he has some pretty long fur so I'm continually battling with that issue. He's worth it, though. :) It's pretty much a daily battle, though.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I confess I have a Crush on Max. I need to see part of him every time — as I did his b—, er tail in photo 7 of the pillow tutorial.

    Your BNOTP never fails to add a bright spot to my days.

  18. Anonymous says:

    You wouldn't have felt like you were "sewing blind" when you sewed the pillow back sections to the front if you had the back section on the bottom (still with the front sides facing each other). This way you could have sewn directly over the ssame stitching where you applied the bias cording. Try it with your next set of pillows and see if you don't like this application better.Sewing can be frustrating, but only by learning from my mistakes and from others has given me confidence to continue. Looking forward to your next project.

  19. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    Any at 9:56 AM: I will try that next time, but it seems like it would be so easy to run up onto the piping that way or get to close to the edge. That still sounds like you're kind of sewing blind but from just a different side of blind. I will try it, though…thanks for the suggestion.

  20. These came out GREAT, Susan! BRAVO to YOU for doing such a nice job.
    I was just about to suggest the method that Anonymous said about leaving an empty tail of piping…sans cording to be able to finish off the end.

    There is an easy way to cut continuous strips of bias, too. I will google it & try to find a video to explain it. Its all in the folding prior to cutting.

    Hugs,
    Rett

  21. sweet violets says:

    Good for you!!! You did such a nice job, and explained everything so well….where were you years ago when I was stumbling through this??? I use the method explained by another reader to join the ends of the piping instead of over lapping, do the same with the binding on my quilts….your porch is so wonderful, I dream of it often!!! hugs…cleo

  22. mytwocentsworth says:

    From my pillow-making experience, I have a suggestion: I believe you can easily have a wider width of the fabric for the lap-over in the back, i.e., maybe 1-1/2 to 2 inches, so that unless you have a very stiff pillow, it will still open wide enough to remove the pillow so cover can be washed. Also velcro or a button could be used as your closure. Next time I want to do a pillow with piping, I'll know whose instructions to look for as I've never mastered that technique.

  23. Hi! I just found your blog and really enjoyed the pillow with piping tutorial. I’m making pillow for my daughter’s bedroom (that is turning into a guest room since she is done with college and out of the house). I’m so glad I found this. I am a quilter (pattern designer) but have little experience with other sewing techniques. Thanks for the great instructions!

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