DIY Easy-to-Sew Pillow Tutorial

by Emma Jeffery

Throw pillows can be used throughout your home – they're even fun outside on your patio. But you can skip spending hours at the store trying to find the perfect pillows; making them yourself means you can match your décor effortlessly and you'll have a unique, one-of-a-kind pillow that's a real conversation starter. And you won't be alone...after realizing the cost of decorative pillows, many home-decorators quickly start a search for how to make a pillow cover at home. The best part is crafting your own DIY pillows means you can customize them to perfectly match your room or décor. I like to create pillows to reflect the changing seasons and design trends for a quick and inexpensive way to add something new and charming to my home year-round.

DIY Easy-to-Sew Pillow Tutorial

Steps to Making a Pillow

You can make this quick, easy-to-sew pillow in just an hour. Although I begin with a premade pillow insert, you can make your own pillow any size or shape you want by using your own filling. This project is so simple, you don't even need a pillow pattern.

Gather Your Tools and Supplies

DIY sewing a pillow projects go much smoother when you make sure you have all the necessary tools and supplies before you begin sewing.

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Tools Used

Supply List

  • Fabric
  • Premade Pillow Insert (or stuffing)
  • Matching Thread
  • *Felt
  • *Fabric Adhesive

*if you're adding a design element to the outside of your pillow

Measure Your Pillow

I start by measuring my pillow insert. Although they're sold as standard sizes (which are indicated on the packaging), I always like to double check. Use a flexible sewing tape measure to accurately measure your pillow.

Add a Seam Allowance

Don't cut your pillow fabric to the exact size of your pillow insert. Add a ½" seam allowance to each edge. For example, if my pillow is 9" by 9", I will add a ½" to all four sides for a total of 10" x 10".

Position the Fabric for Cutting

Although you don't necessarily need to prewash your fabric for pillows, I do like to make sure my fabric is nice and smooth. Lay it out over your cutting mat and smooth out any wrinkles. Deep creases may need the attention of an iron or steamer. My tool of choice for cutting straight edges is the Fiskars® Rotary Cutter 45mm. You can double your fabric and cut both sides of your pillow at once.

Position the Ruler

A clear gridded acrylic ruler will guide you and help create straight lines. It really is an essential tool when making pillows. Place it on top of your fabric.

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Cut Your Fabric

You'll need two pieces of fabric to create the front and back of your pillow. Don't forget to cut the fabric to the size that includes your seam allowances.

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If you want to create an envelope back to your pillow so you can easily slip the pillow in once finished, cut two pieces of backing fabric that are the same length as the fabric you cut for your front piece, but two thirds the width.

Place the rotary cutter against the edge of your ruler. Add slight pressure and roll the cutter along the edge of the ruler. I love the shape of this cutting tool. It gives you force while cutting without causing any strain to your wrist.

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Hem and Pin Your Pieces

Place your two (or three if creating an envelope back) pillow fabric pieces with the right sides together. Add straight pins to hold everything straight while you sew. I also recommend hemming one long edge of both pieces of the backing fabric by turning the cut edge 1/4" to the wrong side. Fold over again by 1/2" and sew to conceal the raw edge of fabric. Use the sewing gauge for accurate measurements and iron to stay in place before sewing.

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Sew It All Together

Although you can certainly hand sew pillows with a tight running stitch, I like to speed things up by sewing pillows with my sewing machine. The default straight stitch will work for most fabrics. Line up a ½" seam allowance andsewdown thepinnedsides. If you're feeling ambitious, you can add some piping to the edges. Place the cushion front face up on your work surface. Pin the piping around the perimeter of the fabric. The raw edge of the piping should align with the raw edge of the fabric. Sew the piping to the cushion front, easing the stitches around the corners.

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Place the cushion front fabric face up on the work surface. Place one piece of backing fabric on top, so that the right sides of the fabric are facing, and the outside edges align. Then place the second piece of backing fabric on top and again, check that the outside edges align. The hemmed edges of the backing fabric should be in towards the center of the cushion. Insert your pins and sew. Before you turn the pillow cover out so that the right sides face out, clip the corners of the fabric. Reach inside and adjust each corner so that it has a nice, sharp point.

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Create an Applique Pattern

If you want to really create a unique pillow, adding a word, phrase or other design element is a fun way to do so. First, determine what you want on your pillow. You don't necessarily have to do lettering – a simple silhouette of a heart, bird or other decorative item is just as fun. You can draw your design out, but for those less artistic, printing from an online resource is even easier.

Cut it Out

Pin the printed letter or image to your felt. Use the RazorEdge™ Easy Action™ Fabric Shears for Tabletop Cutting to cut out your design. You will have clean lines in your fabric when cutting with these comfortable shears. I like the ultra-sharp, stainless steel blades and offset handle design, perfect for cutting fabric when flat on a hard surface.

For the small details, the Micro-Tip® Scissors are perfectly sized for precise cutting. The smaller blades and pointed tip help you get into small spaces and cut even awkward, tight angles.

Add Your Details

Use a strong fabric adhesive to attach the felt to the front of your pillow. There are many options available in the sewing section of your local craft store, including traditional craft glues, fusible options and double stick tape.

Fill It Out and Finish Stitching

Slide your premade pillow form into your pillowcase. If you did not create an envelope back, use a needle and thread to hand-sew the opening closed. You can now enjoy your own DIY handmade pillow!

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Best Fabrics to Use When Making a Pillow

The fabric options for these pillow covers are as endless as your imagination. And once you have a basic pillow pattern like this down, you can easily tackle more difficult pillow sewing patterns. I like to match my fabrics to the season in both color and drape. For example, light-colored linen pillows just ooze spring, and harvest-toned velvets are perfect to welcome fall.

Some of my favorite fabrics for homemade pillows include:

  • Quilting fabric comes in a wide variety of colors and pattern choices. Most designers feature collections that match well together, helping you to mix and match this cotton fabric with ease.
  • Home décor fabric is specifically intended for pillows, curtains and other design elements. It's a bit heavier than quilting fabric and more expensive.
  • Upholstery fabric is a thick, durable fabric, perfect for large floor pillows. It's also your most expensive option.

• Non-traditional pillow fabrics expand your possibilities. Burlap, waterproof fabric, old t-shirts and sweatshirts, felted sweaters and denim are all creative options that work well for decorative pillows.

What Do You Use to Stuff a Pillow?

The hands-down quickest solution is to use a premade pillow form to stuff your DIY pillow. But you can also repurpose old throw pillows or cheap dollar store pillows. Other options include:

  • Styrofoam beads – the perfect option for outdoor pillows and large slouchy pillows. However, you may want to double up your casing to prevent any messy spills.
  • Foam – a good option for cushions, floor pillows and other sturdy pillows. You can choose an inexpensive, basic foam, or opt for a more expensive memory foam.
  • Artificial fibers (like Poly-Fil) – provides an inexpensive filling that keeps its shape. This is a durable option to make pillows you can easily wash.

Now that you know how to make pillows, you'll never be without a stylish throw pillow again!