How to Make Pillows: A DIY Pep Talk for the Pillow Lover

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Learn how to make pillows to bring color and comfort into your home.

Most of us can’t afford to fully re-feather our nests with each passing year, but there are little things we can do to keep ourselves energized. There’s no better way to shake off the cold weather doldrums than by adding some color and texture into our homes and there’s no simpler way to do that than with some new throw pillows. I mean, they even SOUND simple: Throw pillows. As in tossing them flippantly onto your sofa like you haven’t a care in the world! Wheeeeeee! Right?!

Instead of learning how to make pillows, you could take the easy way out and head down to an awesome home decor shop or even check out one of the many textile makers on Etsy, but you’re limiting yourself to whatever fabrics, sizes and shapes are available at the moment. But by making your own, you get EXACTLY what you want. You can do this. Yes, you! Oh, you’ve never sewn before? No biggie, sistah. You’ve got this.

sewing machine

How to Make Pillows

You will need:

  • 1 yard (or more) of home decor weight fabric and thread in a corresponding color
  • a sewing machine (Don’t have one? Borrow one from a friend or check out Craigslist–someone is always getting rid of one for $20.)
  • quilting pins (these are easier to work with than standard pins)
  • scissors
  • a tape measure
  • a pen
  • a sewing needle
  • eco-friendly pillow stuffing, a pillow form, or an old pillow that you’d like to re-cover and recycle

1. First the fun part–choosing fabric! There are so many incredible resources for drop-dead amazing textiles out there.  Aside from what you may find locally, there are pages and pages of fabric stores on the web with fabrics in every price range and composition imaginable. Naturally, Etsy is a treasure trove when it comes to fabrics–organic cottons, hand dyed silk hemp, new old stock vintage remnants, and entire shops dedicated exclusively to gorgeous textiles.  (Hint: My favorite is GreenAppleFabrics.)

diy pilow

2. Decide what shape and size you’d like. (For this tutorial, we’ll stick with right angles. Squares and rectangles, it is.) Lay your fabric out and fold it over on itself inside out. Carefully measure fabric, marking with a pen as you go, and pin in several places (about 1/2″ from the edge all around the border) to prevent fabric from moving while you are cutting. Always take your time measuring and cutting–you can always rip out stitches, but you can’t un-cut fabric.

diy pillow

3. Fire up the sewing machine! If you don’t know how to use one, just read the manual or ask a crafty friend for help (there are also sewing classes available in most cities, just have a look online) this is simple sewing in a straight line. Seriously, anyone can do this! You’ll feel like a pro in no time. Your stitches will be about 1/2″ inch from the edge of the pillow–just sew right over those quilting pins that are holding the two sides of your pillow together. Begin about 1/3 of the way down one side of your pillow, continuing around three sides. When you return to the side where you began your stitching, be sure to stop the machine about 1/3 of the way down, leaving a gap large enough to insert your hand. Cut and tie off the end of the thread. The hard part is done!

4. Remove quilting pins and flip your pillow right side out. Stuff pillow with the stuffing of your choice. If you are using some sort of loose filler, you can decide how full you’d like the pillow to be at this point.

making pillows

5. Grab a needle and thread to hand finish your pillow. If you get more advanced, you can insert a zipper instead of sewing the pillow shut, but let’s get this pillow thing down first, shall we? You’ve never so much as sewn on a button? Never fear! Here’s a great tutorial on how to finish a pillow with something called a “blind ladder stitch.” (I never knew this had a name! See, even I’m learning something here!)

6. You did it! You conquered that sewing machine! You rocked that “blind ladder stitch!” Now, go toss those throw pillows around your living room with wild abandon!


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Photo credits: (top to bottom) Cococozy, Kelly Aaron