Why does a pillow make a good sewing project for beginners, you might ask? 1. It’s all straight stitching, with a few corners so you can practice pivoting. 2. There’s just a small amount of hand sewing on the pillow itself, which might sound daunting to a newbie, but hand sewing is a practical skill every seamstress should have. 3. Unlike clothing, you don’t have to worry too much about “fit” with a pillow. 4. Who doesn’t need a cool throw pillow or two? Functional projects are always a win for me.
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Also, you really only need two things to make a pillow: fabric and stuffing!
Speaking of fabric, let’s have a little chat about that.
I’m using some fairly plain scrap cotton I had on hand for my pillow. I will be posting a second tutorial that shows how to make a zippered throw pillow case, so part of the reason I used a kind of boring fabric in the example is that I’m planning on covering the pillow with a removable (and thus washable) case.
That being said, you can absolutely make this pillow and use it as is, without a removable case. If that’s your jam, there’s a huge range of fabrics available that make excellent throw pillows.
Chenille, velvet, brocade, etc. You can even use fleece or minky if you want something soft and cuddly. The heavier the fabric, the more durable the pillow.
If you’re shopping for fabric, look for the “home dec” section, and you should find a nice range of suitable materials.
Next, let’s talk about stuffing. I’m using Polyfil, which is the big name brand fiber fill found in most craft stores. You could do also do foam or batting or even down. I went with polyfil because it’s cheap and easy to use.
Lastly, let’s address size. Another cool thing about making a pillow from scratch is that you can do any size and any shape. Tiny pillows. Huge pillows. Round pillows. Cat-shaped pillows!
For the purpose of this tutorial, I’m going with a basic square, and a standard size for a throw pillow, which is 18″ by 18″. If you want smaller or larger pillows, 16″ x 16″ and 24″ x 24″ are common sizes as well, but again, if you’re diy-ing it, you can make any size you want.
Since I want the finished pillow to be 18″ x 18″, I’ll add a 1/2″ seam allowance to each edge, which means the raw measurements for my pillow will be 19″ x 19″.
- Cut two 19″ squares of fabric.
2. Pin the two squares, right sides together.
When stitching the pillow together in the next step, it’s important to leave a gap for turning the pillow right-side-out. I like to use colored pins or a marking tool to remind myself not to stitch the pillow closed.
3. Start sewing at one end of the gap, using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Backstitch to lock your stitches, and then sew around the edges of the pillow, pivoting at each corner.
Backstitch again when you reach the other side of the gap.
4. Here is the stitched pillow, and a close-up of the gap, with backstitching at each end.
4b. Clip the corners. This will give us nice crisp corners in the next step.
5. Reach inside the pillow, grab a handful, and pull it through the gap, turning the pillow right-side-out.
6. Once the pillow is turned right-side-out, get yourself a pointy-pokey tool like a chopstick.
7. Insert the pointy thang inside the pillow and jab it into each corner. But not TOO hard, because you don’t want to actually stab through the pillow. That would be bad.
We just want nice square corners.
8. Just look at those corners. Too square to be hip.
9. Now, we shall iron. Could I have done the ironing at the beginning? Should I have done some ironing at the beginning? Of course.
But there was this one guy that used to comment on my videos, bitching about my wrinkly fabric and how unprofesh it was, and even though I doubt he’s still watching, I like to throw in some wrinkly AF fabric now and then just because I know it would piss him off. SUCK ON THAT, GUY!
10. But actually, ironing serves a purpose at this point. I like to press the gap, keeping those 1/2″ seam allowances nice and even as I do so. The lines from the ironing will help when handstitching the gap closed at the end.
11. Tear off a big ol’ handful of fiber fill (or your stuffing of choice) and shove it inside the pillow like you’re stuffing a Christmas goose.
12. I like to start by stuffing the two farther corners first, making sure to really get the filling into the crevices.
(For some reason I decided the best way to illustrate this in photos was to point at the corner of the pillow with my chopstick like I’m casting a spell from Harry Potter. STUFFIS MALUFFICUS!)
13. Continue filling, one handful at a time until your pillow is plump, yet tender. Make sure to get the two remaining corners in tip-top shape with your pokey tool.
(Fun fact: the first thing I ever made on a sewing machine was a plush monkey in a middle school Life Skills class. It came as a little kit with the pieces already cut. And I thought that all of the fiber fill that came with the kit was suppose to go into the plushie, so I stuffed the absolute DICKENS out of that monkey. So much so that the result was less plush and more rock hard.
The good news is that if you feel you’ve overstuffed your pillow, it’s easy to fix. Just take a handful or two out and fluff it up a little bit to redistribute the filling.)
14. Now it’s time to address that nasty gaping hole we left in our pillow.
If you’re leaving the pillow as is (not adding a removable cover, for example), hand sewing will give you the best possible finish. In that case, please check out my in-depth tutorial on the ladder stitch here: https://whatthecraft.com/how-to-sew-the-ladder-stitch-hand-sewing-tutorial/
However, if you’re going to be covering your pillow with a case, you can machine stitch the gap closed.
15. Start by mashing the filling farther into the pillow so you can create some space around the gap.
16. Match up the pressed edges of the gap and pin shut.
17. Finagle the seam under your machine.
18. Topstitch the edges of the gap together with an approximately 1/8″ seam allowance (the smaller the better), backstitching at the beginning and end.
19. Here’s a close-up comparing stitching by hand vs. stitching by machine. Machine stitching will have a slight “lip” compared to the “invisible” ladder stitch.
After machine stitching, be sure to “re-fluff” the pillow to redistribute the stuffing we mashed before sewing.
23. Hot diggity dog! We did it! We made a dang pillow!