Throw pillows are one of the most common forms of home decor. They are typically available in a wide variety of styles and colors and can be purchased from most home furnishings stores. But if you want more than one or two accent pillows for your sofa, the cost can really start to add up.
An alternative to store-bought decorative pillows is making your own. Though it may seem like a complicated project, it’s really quite simple and can be accomplished with just a few basic sewing skills. One of the biggest benefits to making your own pillows is that you can choose the exact fabric and size that you want. And surprisingly, your handmade throw pillows will cost you less than the ones you might find in a store. Follow the steps below and you’ll have your own custom accent pillow in no time!
Choose Color and Feel
The first thing you’ll want to do is think about what color and type of fabric you want to use. Look at your other room decor and take into consideration the overall color scheme. Do you want your pillows to complement what you already have or stand out as a bold accent?
Once you’ve decided on color(s), think about what type of feel you want the pillows to have. Would you prefer a soft, cushiony pillow or one that has some stiffness so that you can lean up against it? Also take into account the ease of sewing. If you’re a beginning sewer, you might want to choose a weightier, more closely knit fabric like cotton that’s suitable for drapery. Silk and some polyesters that have a “sheen” to them will be more difficult to sew.
Decide on a Size
Before you can buy your fabric and start sewing, you need to determine what size your pillows will be. If you already have some throw pillows in your home, measure them to see how large they are and then decide if you want your homemade ones to be bigger or smaller. If you will be placing your pillows on a couch or chair, take into consideration the height of the back and how much space you want the pillows to take up.
Buy Your Fabric and Sewing Supplies
Visit a local fabric store to purchase the supplies you’ll need to make your decorative pillows. If there isn’t one nearby, you can also find lots of fabric and supplies online. Or, you may have an existing item of clothing or other fabric in your home that you want to recycle for this project.
Before you buy your fabric, you’ll need to determine how much you need. Add 1 – 1/2 inches to the pillow size you decided on so that you’ll have room for sewing the pieces together. For example, if you are making an 18 inch by 18 inch pillow, you should buy enough fabric to have two squares that are at least 19 inches by 19 inches. Explain your project and measurements to the salesperson at the fabric store and they will be able to cut you the amount of fabric you need.
You’ll also need to buy something to “stuff” your new pillows. You can either use batting, which is loose stuffing, or a pre-made pillow form insert. Batting is cheaper and can be divided up for multiple projects, but pillow forms hold their shape better. You might want to look at any throw pillows you currently own and see which type of stuffing they use to make your decision. If you decide to use a pillow form, make sure to buy one that is a few inches larger than the size pillow you’ll be making. This will ensure that your pillow ends up fluffy and not flat.
If this is your first time sewing, you’ll also need to buy some basic supplies. First, check around your house to see if you already have some of them. You’ll need a good pair of scissors, pins, a needle and thread that matches your fabric. (If you plan to use scissors you already own, make sure they are sharp enough to cut fabric.) You may have an old sewing kit that you got from a hotel which you can use, as long as you haven’t previously used a lot of the thread in the color you’ll need.
Prepare to Sew
Lay out your fabric on a flat surface. Using a ruler or measuring tape, draw two squares that are the size you ultimately want PLUS an extra 1 – 1/2 inches. Carefully cut them out with your scissors and lay them on top of each other with the outsides facing in. (You are going to sew your pillow inside-out and then reverse it to hide the stitching.) Pin the two pieces of fabric together by inserting a pin about every 2-3 inches.
Sew Your Pillow
Cut a long piece of thread (about 2 feet long) and insert it through the needle. Pull the thread through until you have two equally-long pieces of thread hanging from the needle. Tie the two pieces together at the bottom so that you will be sewing with “double” thread. (An easy way to tie a knot is to hold the two pieces of thread together, wrap them around your index finger, roll it off with your thumb and then pull the mess of thread towards the end into a knot).
When you begin sewing, remember to position your stitches about a half inch from the edge of the fabric. When you reach the end of a length of thread, make the smallest stitch you can and pass your needle through the loop before pulling the thread all the way through. Sew three sides of your pillow all the way, but only sew 2-3 inches on each end of the fourth side. (You will probably need to re-thread your needle multiple times). This will leave you an opening to insert the pillow form or stuffing. Remove the pins. Snip off a little of each corner of your pillowcase, being careful not to cut your stitches, so that the fabric won’t bunch up when you turn it inside out.
Put the pillowcase inside out through the opening on the fourth side. Push out the corners to get them as pointy as you can. Flatten out the pillowcase and fold in the edges of the opening on the fourth side so that they line up with the parts you’ve already sewn shut. Iron the folded-in opening flat so that it will be easier to sew closed later.
Insert your stuffing or pillow form into the pillowcase, making sure to push it all the way into the corners. Thread your needle again and made a knot. To make a hidden stitch, hold the pillow so that the opening runs lengthwise, almost like an open envelope. There will be a flap of fabric on the top and bottom of the opening created from the ironing. Make a stitch along the crease of the top flap on the far right side of the opening. Pull the thread all the way through and then make a similar-length stitch along the crease of the bottom flap on the far right side (your stitches should line up with each other across the opening). Pull your thread tight and the two sides of the opening will be pulled together. Start your next stitch on the top side just to the left of where your last stitch ended and repeat the process. Eventually, you will have closed the entire opening. Make a final knot and cut off the remaining thread.
You now have a brand new decorative pillow! And now you know how to make additional ones in the future. The only downside? Don’t be surprised if all your friends and family members ask you to make them a few throw pillows once they see yours!
Here’s how your handmade pillow compares to a typical store-bought pillow, even if you had to buy all of the supplies up front:
Fabric (per pillow) – $2.00 – $5.00
Thread – $1.50
Needles – $1.00
Pins – $2.00
Stuffing/Pillow Form – $4.00 – $14.00
Total Cost of Pillow – $10.50 – $23.50
Store-Bought Pillow – $25.00 – $50.00
(If you’re making multiple pillows, your costs will be even lower because you’ll be using the needles, pins and thread over and over.)