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.
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.
Instead, they looked like this. The back flaps just slightly overlapped. Cool! I can do this!
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.
Since the back overlapped like this on my “example” pillows,
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.)
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…
I hemmed the inside edge of the back pieces where they would eventually overlap each other.
I just turned over a tiny edge and then turned it over again, pinned it and….
…stitched it down.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a great suggestion by a reader (Anonymous). It was left in a comment and it’s make perfect sense. Awesome suggestion…thanks!
Here’s how the pillows looked on the porch swing…
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!
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.