12 Days of Handmade Christmas Tutorials Day 9 {Pillows}

by Edie Wadsworth on November 9, 2009

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If you’re late to this party, don’t fret, just grab a cup-a-joe ,start humming the 12 Days of Christmas and then visit Day 1–dishmat, Day 2–garland, Day 3–coasters, Day 4–birds, Day 5–buntings, Day 6—tassels, Day 7—apron, Day 8–candles, and the sweater stocking tutorial here.
And now without further delay, welcome Autum from Creative Little Daisy to the party. Autum and I just ‘met’ a few weeks ago because of this party and I’m so thankful she joined us and did this awesome pillow tutorial. You’ll enjoy snooping around her blog where you’ll find this wonderful kitchen redo and all these lovely purses she’s made. She’s also a board member of Sew Mama Sew! So welcome Autum and thank you for showing us your tricks on these adorable pillows.

Perhaps the easiest way to get your feet wet in the sewing waters is by making simple pillow or cushion covers. Once you know the basic construction, you can get as fancy as you wish with embellishments and trim. You can update the look of a room quickly and inexpensively by simply adding some pretty throw pillows or recovering existing ones.

For this tutorial, I’m going

to show you how I I saved at least $75.00 by making my own pillow covers instead of buying them from Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs.

I had everything I needed so I didn’t spend a dime. If you don’t have an embarrassing stash a few things lying around, like I do, I think you can buy what you need for less than $15.00.

First gather your supplies,

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You will need pillow forms to cover. You can buy inserts fairly inexpensively at the fabric store, especially when you catch them on sale, or like I said above, you can just recover pillows you already have. One of the pillows I’m covering today came from Walmart. I was there to buy a pillow form, but noticed that I could buy an 18 inch pillow cheaper than a 16 inch pillow insert, so I went with that.

I am using a rotary cutter, but you can make your cuts with scissors. If you plan to do much sewing, I recommend getting one and a self healing cutting mat. You will also need something to measure your fabric for cutting. I have a clear ruler and my cutting mat has markings, but a tape measure or yard stick would be sufficient.

You will also need a few pins, something to mark with is helpful ( I use a water soluble fabric marking pen), an iron and of course a sewing machine.

For the first pillow, I used a fabric called osnaburg, it looks very much like linen but is much cheaper. You can find it at JoAnn or Walmart for around $3/yd. I pre-wash my fabric before sewing to get any shrinking out of the way.

Measure the pillow or form you want to cover. Cut one piece for the front of the cover the exact dimensions. My pillow is 16″ square so I cut one piece of fabric that size. Normally when you sew, you cut the item larger, taking your seam size into consideration. For pillows I cut the fabric the same size so that the insert will fit snugly into the cover. Otherwise you end up with a saggy baggy pillow.

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For the covers I’m making today, I will be adding a little something to the fronts. I could have chosen a pretty fabric and skipped the embellishing part and gone on to the next step. Since I am embellishing, I will do that first.

I want to recreate this Pottery Barn pillow, cause I think it’s really cute, but I don’t have $29 (plus shipping) to spend on a pillow- especially since I really like the set ($29 plus shipping times three- YIKES!)

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To make the LOVE pillow, I took my 16″ front piece and found the center by folding it in half then in half again. I made the little pocket by cutting a pieces of the same fabric 6″ x 8″. I machine embroidered the word LOVE in the center, but you could just as easily paint the words on using regular craft paint- if you have a nice steady hand- which I do not. You could stencil it on using regular stencils or the freezeer paper stencil method or use iron on transfer paper and iron it onto your pocket. Once you have your word on your pocket, turn under all four sides 1/2″ and press.

I bet I just lost half of you

didn’t I? When I said press? Pressing gets such a bad wrap, no one

wants to fool with ironing. It takes too much time. I don’t like to
iron any more than the next guy. In fact, I think that may be what
turned me off to sewing when I was young. My granny tried to teach me
to sew and once she got all preachy about pressing after every step and
showing me the propper way to press an item, I started hearing Charlie
Brown’s teacher “wa wa waaa waaaa….” If I have to do all that, I’m
not messing with it! Well, fast forward to today, and I’m probably a
bigger preacher on the merits of pressing as you sew than my granny
every thought of being. It really doesn’t take much time, and it not
only makes the sewing easier, it makes what you sew look so, so, much
better. Have you ever seen a handmade item and just it just screamed
“homemade!” I bet it was because it wasn’t pressed. So please, please,
if you are going to take the time to make something, take just a tiny
bit more time to press. OK, off my soapbox and back to the tut.

Find the center of the pocket and place it on the center of the pillow front. To keep this extra secure for stitching I used a little bit of stitch witchery (fusible web) under the sides and bottom. Once it’s nice and secure, I used a quilting stitch on my machine and red thread to give it a hand stitched look ( not necessary, you could use a regular straight stitch, just increase the stitch length). You could also hand stitch it if you like.

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This pillow cover will have an envelop closure so I cut two pieces for the back. I don’t have an exact formula for cutting the back pieces, I just want them to be large enough to allow for about a four inch overlap. I also allow extra to hem the outer edges (the pieces that overlap) That sounds confusing, but it will make sense. For this pillow I cut one piece 16″ x 12 and one 16″ X 14″.

On one short side of each back piece, turn under about a 3/4″ hem, press, and turn it under again. Yes, again with the pressing. Sorry.

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Sew a straight stitch close to the edge of the fold on each back piece.

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Now lay your front piece right side facing up on your work surface. Lay each back piece on top with right sides facing down, lining up the outer edges of the back pieces with the outer egdes of the front pieces. You will be overlapping the back pieces. This creates your envelop back.

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Pin in several places to hold everything in place for sewing. Be sure to pin the edges of the back pieces so they stay put while you sew everything together.

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Now sew around all four sides, I used a 3/8″ inch allowance because it looked like enough for the fabric I was using.

Clip your threads, turn your cover right side out, stuff your pillow in and admire your work. Take a picture of your lovely new pillow so you can share it with all your friends!

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I also made the JOY pillow (didn’t get to PEACE yet, maybe today) and this gift box pillow like one Ballard has for- are you ready for this? $75.00!!!. I used the same construction method, you just embelish the front piece any way you like first.

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Want to know how I made the Ballard’s pillow? OK I’ll tell you. It was really easy and didn’t take very long at all.

You will need a printed fabric, burlap, ribbon or double fold bias tape, freezer paper and steam-a-seam lite.

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Cut your first piece to fit your pillow. Mine was 18″ this time. I happened to have a piece of green fabric almost exactly like the print on the Ballard’s pillow.

Next, cut a piece of steam-a-seam 9″ x 9″ and fuse it to the back of a piece of burlap. Do (this before cutting the burlap to size, that way you have less fraying) Cut the burlap 9″ x 9″, remove the paper backing and fuse to the center of the printed fabric.

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Go around all four sides of the burlap with a zig-zag stitch in dark brown or black thread.

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With the stitch witchery, (or any fusible tape- or you could use a glue stick) secure a piece of red ribbon or bias tape down the center of the burlap box, turning under the raw edges.

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To make the gift tag, cut a piece of freezer paper 8.5″ x 11″ (the size of printer paper) and iron the shiny side to a piece of light weight cotton fabric. Cut the fabric 8.5 x 11 after adhering the freezer paper. Now you should have a piece of fabric that will run through your printer. I had to fiddle with mine a bit, but it worked nicely. I am not guaranteeing this will work in your printer. I simply googled free printable sheet music, found and image I liked and printed it on the freezer paper backed fabric. After printing the image onto the fabric, remove the freezer paper. Next fuse a piece of steam-a-seam to the back and cut it out in the shape of a gift tag. Remove the paper backing and iron it in place on the burlap box. Stitch around the edges with a zig-zag stitch. (sorry for the blurry photos)

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Construct the pillow following the instructions above, then tie a bow from your ribbon and attach it to the front. I used fabric glue, but you could hand stitch it in place.

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Stand back and admire your pillow and brag to your husband that you saved $75.00!

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A little bonus tip~If you are limited on space where ever your sewing area is, you can make a little portable pressing board instead of putting up a big ironing board. I made one yesterday with a scrap of wood, it wasn’t plywood, just some sort of paneling stuff Mitch had that measured 16″ x 24″. I covered it with 2 layers of cotton quilt batting and a layer of fleece interfacing then a layer of cotton fabric. I stapled it all to the back and now I have a surface for pressing I can keep right next to my cutting area, saving me steps to the ironing board and clearing up some floor space in my sewing room.

For more crafty goodness, visit Kris’ blog for ‘I can make that’ day!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 cheri November 9, 2009 at 12:16 pm

'Nother great idea(s)! Thank you so much. Just as soon as I get back from MN, I'm doing this.

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2 karam210 November 9, 2009 at 12:36 pm

LOVE these pillows! Thanks so much for sharing!

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3 Kendra @ Domestic Princess in Training November 9, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I love this! I wish I had more sewing skills. Hummm maybe that will be my New Years resolution….learn to sew!
http://domesticprincessintraining.blogspot.com

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4 marty (A Stroll Thru Life) November 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm

What gorgeous pillows. I love them all, and so perfect for the holidays. Hugs, Marty

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5 The Covered Porch November 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Thank you so much for all the inspiration! I've added you to my list for the Kreativ Blogger award, so you're next!
Here's the link.
http://thecoveredporch.blogspot.com/2009/11/dish-towels-blogs-and-awards-oh-my.html
Thanks!
Jenn

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6 Sandy November 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Love those pillows. I too hated the ironing thing but always was happier with the finished product if I iron. My solution was to set up a small press area with the iron and a small pad of fabric then no dragging out the board.

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7 Ells November 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Gorgeous pillows!!

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8 Homemaker, MD November 9, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I too have a resistance to pressing. But oh, the difference it makes in a beautiful end project. I was just thinking about how I need a few more pillows around here…

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9 Molly @ A Bit O' Shine November 9, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Those turned out so cute!

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10 Mandi Shandi November 9, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Thanks for the tutorial, but more than that thanks for the soapbox speech about pressing. It really does make all the difference and while I HATE to iron, I love the results!

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11 Amanda @ Serenity Now November 9, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Great tutorial!! I am new to sewing, but everyone who has given me lessons has talked about the importance of pressing, and I really do see a difference! The back of the pillows looks a little hard, but I might be able to figure it out. :)

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12 Kimm at Reinvented November 9, 2009 at 8:31 pm

I just love those PB pillows and now I'm in love with the Ballard one too! I made a PB copy that's a no sew version, and am coincidentally sharing it today.
thanks Edie, this has been a fabulous series!

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13 Lanie's Life November 9, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Pressing is a must!!! It really does give the project a professional look. I love these pillows!!!! I think I may make mine with monograms for an all year round look!
Thanks for this tutorial!!!!:)

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14 podso November 9, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Thanks for having this great 12 days of Christmas idea. It's such fun to tune into your blog and see the next craft each day. Some wonderful ideas.

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15 Kasey Hunt November 10, 2009 at 12:03 am

Beautiful. These are all really great ideas. Thank you for this.

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16 Paula November 10, 2009 at 5:50 am

Adorable pillows. I just found you and immediately followed. Thank you for the awesome ideas :)

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17 Richella November 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Goody, goody gumdrops! What wonderful pillows, and what great instructions! I am loving this series so much. Thank you, Edie, for pulling all these wonderful ideas together for us. :)

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18 ByTheSea November 11, 2009 at 1:31 am

I love this… thank you for sharing… could you please tell me what kind of sewing machine you have. I am trying to get a new one and I have no idea where to start.. I am learning to quilt.. but i also like that you can embroider on yours.
Thank you so much

joygross@mail.com
if anyone else wants to give advise I would love to hear it.

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19 Anngala November 11, 2009 at 2:33 am

I love your 12 days of Christmas. I was inspired today to dig through my stash of remnant fabrics and created 2 pillows without spending a dime.

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20 taradangermiller November 11, 2009 at 3:43 am

Love it. this is perfect for my sister in law who loves embroidery. These are christmasy without the whole reindeer jumper look.

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21 Carla December 7, 2009 at 12:48 am

OMG! Wow! I found your blog from a reader of mine. I had just posted today how I so want those PB pillows, but no way was I paying that price. I was inquiring to my readers about using stencils since my machine doesn't embroider, and was trying to recreate them the cheapest, best way possible.

Your pillows turned out fantastic. Can I send fabric to you and pay you to embroider them for me??? LOL

I can't wait to check out the rest of your blog. I better grab myself a big cup of coffee and get comfortable . . .

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22 Jamie December 20, 2009 at 1:35 am

I love the pillows!!! I have wanted to make them ever since I saw them in the Pottery Barn catalog. Thanks for the tutorial! Is it okay if I share your pictures of it on my blog & link back to you? By the way, I love your blog. You are so fun!

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23 MelvinEl May 28, 2014 at 8:39 pm

polyester sewing thread has improved strength than cotton thread, ideal warmth tolerance, abrasion resistance, great flexibility, and small shrinkage and superior corrosion resistance. This type of thread is usually placed on stitching, weaving plus some other industries.

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