Monday, February 14, 2011

Sewing Simply: Let’s Make a Pillow!

{Just joining us? Go HERE, HERE, and HERE for some background}


One of the first things I ever sewed was a pillow. It’s a great way to learn some basic skills while also having a great product when you’re done!

Supplies you’ll need:

A pillow form and two fat quarters (or two pieces of fabric at least 18 x 18 inches)
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Or, you can take the route I did and use an old pillow that doesn’t match your décor anymore.

supplies breakdown

Breakdown of everything I had on hand:
A. Cutting guide (optional)
B. Olfa cutting mat (optional)
C. Pillow
D. Fabric
E. Pins (I’ve had that magnetic pin cushion since middle school!)
F. Tape measure
G. Thread and bobbin
H. Rotary cutter (optional)
I. Scissors
J. Seam ripper (you never know when you’ll need it)

Step 1:
Figure out the size of your pillow. If you bought a pillow form, it’s on the bag for you. If you’re using an old pillow, this is where your tape measure comes in.

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Add 1.25” to the height and width of the pillow for how much you’ll cut (you’ll need that extra space for your seam allowance… which we’ll get into in just a bit). For a 14x14” pillow, that means you’ll be needing 15.25x15.25”. My pillow was 17x17”, so I needed to cut 18.25x18.25”.

Step 2:
Cut your fabric to the size you figured out in Step 1. If your fabric is wrinkled, give it a quick ironing first. I use my cutting guide to make sure I cut straight lines, and the rotary cutter makes it so quick and easy. The Olfa mat allows me to cut freely without damaging the surface below the fabric.

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Step 3:
Turn your fabric so the right sides (the printed side that you’ll want visible when your pillow is all finished) together.

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Step 4:
Pin around your pillow, with the head of the pins on the outside and the sharp point inside. Space them every few inches. Leave a wide gap on one side (as shown below with the arrow). You will not sew between these pins in order to leave a gap for you to stuff the pillow.


Step 5:
With your presser foot raised, slide your fabric under with the edge of the fabric sitting to the right of your presser foot. See all the dash marks at the top of the plate? Those are guides for your fabric as you sew. Your seam allowance is the space between the edge of the fabric and the line of stitching, or your seam. You need a seam allowance because if your stitching is too close to the edge, the stitches will come out with normal wear and tear on your project. 5/8” seam allowance is very common, and you’ll see the guide that’s marked as such. Line your fabric up with that line.

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Once your fabric is in place, lower your needle. You can turn the hand wheel to lower the needle, or if you have a machine like mine, you just push a button to lower the needle.

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As you can see here, most of your pillow will be hanging out behind your machine.

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Lower your presser foot.

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Step 6:
Slowly sew two or three stitches (two or three rotations of your needle going through the fabric and back up) by gently easing your peddle or by turning the hand wheel. Then hold your reverse button or switch and sew two or three stitches back. You will turn your hand wheel the same way as if you were going forward, the button/lever/switch will be what causes your machine to go back.

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Then just sew forward and straight, using the guides on the plate to help you sew straight, until you get to where the edge of your fabric lines up with the front of the presser foot.

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Make sure your needle is in the down position (through your fabric) and the lift the presser foot lever. Turn your fabric to make a 90 degree turn so the next side of your fabric lines up with the 5/8” guide. If the fabric is too close to the presser foot instead of at the guideline you need, turn the fabric back to where it was before and reverse stitch once. If it is over the line, turn your fabric back and go one more stitch and then turn.

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Lower your presser foot (the needle should still be in the down position) and keep sewing. Repeat this at each corner.

Step 7:
When you reach your last pin before the gap (after you’ve rounded 4 corners), back stitch 2 or 3 stitches, then forward stitch 2 or 3 stiches over that. This is the equivalent of tying a knot.

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Step 8:
Raise your needle by either using the hand wheel or pushing a button.

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Pull your fabric away from the machine.

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Snip off the thread close to the fabric.

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Step 9:
Cut off the corners. Make sure you don’t get too close to the seam. This will allow you to have sharp corners when you turn the pillow case right side out.

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Step 10:
Turn your pillow cover right side out. You’ll see that your corners still aren’t sharp.

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Take a straight pin and use it to pull at the corner until it is pulled our nice and square.

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Step 11:
Take a moment to enjoy what you’ve just sewn!

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Step 12:
Stuff your pillow! You’ll find the technique that works best for you. I tend to like to fold/smoosh the pillow in half and the push away!

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Once you get it stuffed, it might look lopsided.

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Just stick your hand in there and push the pillow and pull the case until it sits pretty.

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You’re almost done!

Step 13:
Grab your spool of thread and a needle. Thread the needle. I like to run the thread all the way through and knot the two ends so it’s double in sturdiness (plus, then I don’t have to worry about the thread coming out of the needle).

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Bring your needle up from the underside of one side in the crease (naturally made from sewing the rest of the pillow… or, if you’re less lazy than me, also made from when you iron the entire thing before stuffing the case). Run your needle through the opposite side for a small stitch, then back through the original side, so it starts to pull the two sides together. Use the hand you’re now sewing with to pinch the two sides together as you sew.


Once you get to the end and have it all closed up, run your needle through the fabric one more time. This time, don’t pull it all the way, that way you’ll leave a loop. Put your needle through the loop. Pull it a bit so the loops you’re left with aren’t huge. Put your needle through the new loop made by putting it through the original loop. Pull it all tight so it knots against your pillow.


Trim off the thread and you’re done!

Step 14:
Put your pillow where it’ll be staying, smile at what you just made, and even take a picture or two (even if it’s late at night and poor lighting).

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You just made a pillow by using your sewing machine! Yay!!!!

Come back by tomorrow and we’ll get started on reading a pattern so we can make a super cute bag! Check out this post for the supplies you’ll need.

Grab my button to help spread the word!


And, I just might be linking up with some of these FANTASTIC parties!!!


  1. I was so thrilled to happen across your tutorials! I have been wanting to learn to sew forever, but finally decided to take the first steps online instead of a traditional class. So, perfect timing. I made a pillow today. I'd love to share if you have an email address - I didn't see one. Thank you!! And, good work.

  2. I'm so glad you made a pillow and that I could help!!! I would LOVE to see what you made. Send me an email at nolanandjill {at} gmail {dot} com.

  3. Sent them! Hope to get my new sewing room organized, and get started on the bag later today, after I make more pillows! :) I couldn't find that exact bag pattern, so I got one that is close to it. Hope that works.


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