Thursday, 7 January 2016

12 Easy Peasy Steps to Sewing a Throw Pillow Cover When You are Not a Sewer!

Over Christmas break we were trying to add a bit more green into our living room, plus our loveseat needed a couple of throw pillows.  We were hoping to re-purpose throw pillows from our bedroom with new covers because the size of them is really great for lounging on the loveseat.  We have moved the last set of pillows that we made for the love seat to the chairs in this same room, they are a lighter fabric and don't seem to get as lost on the chairs as they did on the loveseat. (It's a process, you know.)  You can see in a later photo that the current colour of the pillows just does not work in this room.  Truthfully they didn't work in the bedroom either, they were from the living room in our previous house and were looking to be re-purposed.

So we headed off to the fabric store to see if we could find anything that worked well for this room.  This time Ian came in with me and it went much faster!  I am super indecisive at times.

We found this fabric fairly quickly but it took a little while to grow on us.  We haven't loved Ikat  style fabrics in past but we did love that this pattern had multiple shades of green in it, from the mossy green we have used repeatedly in this space to the mint-ish green and almost a teal (it is not quite as pronounced as this looks in person).  Plus it was on sale for half price, and you just can't beat that!  We purchase one yard for about $15.00.  We also found a pretty fabric that is inspiring a palette for the family room, but that is another story for another day.

When it came time to make the pillow covers we thought we should share a bit of a step by step tutorial in case anyone else that doesn't really sew wants to give it a try.  We warn you though, covering two throw pillows in great quality fabric pretty quickly and on the cheap is addictive!

I think I have mentioned before that neither of us really sews, I can do a fairly straight line with the help of the guides on the machine but other than that I am at a loss.  I cannot do zippers or button holes as much as I would like to and I cannot follow a pattern.

So if you can sew a straight - ish line, you are ready to go!

I always like to make my covers removable for washing, not doing zippers or button holes makes that challenging.  So I usually opt for a simple envelope style cover.  This is a slight adaption on that which I decided on and created on the fly.
  •   step one - trim your fabric to about an inch to an inch and a half wider than you need on either side

  • step two - wrap the fabric around the pillow allowing yourself plenty of fabric to overlap (I allotted about 1.5 inches for a hem on one end and 4 inches on the other, plus a couple of inches to overlap the two)

  •  step three - trim off the excess (super easy so far right?)

  •  step four - prepare the first hem (along the width) for sewing. Make sure you are working with your fabric wrong side up at this point.

Professionals usually recommend a 1/2 inch seam, I can never quite manage anything less than three quarters of an inch on a thicker fabric.  It doesn't really matter though, thankfully.

I opted for a double fold hem, because I didn't want my pillow to have loose fibers near the opening flap.  So I folded over 3/4 of an inch along the width of my fabric and pressed it.  (Ironing really helps to keep your project neat looking and also makes it easier to sew.  Be sure to use the recommended  heat setting for your fabric.) Then I rolled this 3/4 inch fold over again and pressed this as well.  This tucks the cut end of the fabric inside what will be the hem.

I pinned my hem to secure it as I ironed along.

Your fabric should look something like this now.

  • step five - sew along your pinned fabric as close to the fold as you feel comfortable getting, removing the pins as you sew along. (I hope you can see my stitches, they are not quite straight but not too bad.)

  • step 6 - repeat for the other end
I made a slight modification on my pillow, I wanted to add buttons to my flap, purely for looks, so I made my hem larger so that the buttons would fit inside the stitched hem.

This meant a hem of about 1 3/4 inches, although I only rolled about a 1/2 inch under just like I did for the first hem.

As before, I pressed and pinned as I went along.

Then I stitched the hem down. My stitching was much more straight this time, which is good because this hem will be showing!

  •  step seven - sizing the height of your cover, working with the right side up to start with..
Because I am adding buttons to the front flap of my pillow, I needed to be mindful of where they would sit on the fabric.  For example, if they sit too low on the pillow you may not be able to see them or the proportions could look off.

Have a look at these two examples.

This second example is a much better look.

My pillows are about 13 inches tall, so I made my flap 5.75 inches long.  I arrived here by dividing the height of my pillow by three and add in a couple of inches for the overlap.  The eye loves things in 3's!  With your fabric right side up, fold the top hem down 5.75 inches (or whatever works best for your pillow cover).

Next I brought the bottom of the fabric up and placed it carefully over the top flap, ensuring the the height of my cover is 13 inches, the height of the pillow. The flap you want on the outside of the pillow should be on the inside of the cover at this point.  At this point your pillow cover will look inside out.

I added pins to hold the cover in place, while I stitched.  You can go ahead and close up one end now, with a half inch seam allowance.

  •  step eight - the last side!
This is a good time to double check your width and then hem the last side accordingly.  I was a little generous with the amount of fabric that I thought I would need (see step one), it is definitely better to have too much than too little.

Simply measure your fabric from your previously stitched edge, allot for the width of your pillow and pin along where you should stitch.  Then go ahead and stitch.  If this hem is any larger than an half inch or so you will probably want to trim off the excess fabric to keep it from looking bunched up inside your pillow.

  • step nine- turn right side out and press

  • step ten - add buttons.  
 I measured the width of my cover, and divided by three to figure out where to sew on my two buttons.

Again the rule of 3's!

Stitching on buttons only takes a few minutes.

  • step 11 - I hand stitched a small bit of Velcro to the inside of my flap to keep the cover closed and sitting flat on my pillow.  This step is optional but I know our pillows will get a lot of use and I do not want to be continuously making sure the covers are closed and laying flat. When I stitched the Velcro strip to the top flap, I kept it inside the hem seam from step 6 and only stitched through the inner most layer of fabric so that my stitches would not show on the outside of the cover.  

  • step 12 - put the cover on your pillow and enjoy!
Here is a look at one of my finished covers.

And look how pretty the pair look on our loveseat.

They fit well along the back or along the arms of the love seat.  This is how they usually are when we are lounging around.

We wanted to show you how well the fabric matches a pillow that we picked up last summer, prior to moving, talk about good luck!  This pillow was the jumping off point for the colours in this room along with the china cabinet colour in the dining room next to the living room.

It took me about 1.5 - 2 hours to create my first pillow cover, mostly because I was making it up as I went along and stopping to snap photos for you!  Then second pillow probably would have only taken about 45 minutes except I kept getting sidetracked, kids coming in and out coffee with Ian - you know the drill!  Anyway, as you can see this is a simple and inexpensive way to re-use pillows that you already own.  You can add new pillows to your room or change up the colours on pillows that are already in the room.  Or maybe you want to go with seasonal pillows, well storing spare covers takes up much less space that storing spare pillows!  And you can say that you made them yourself!

Have a great day!
Ian and Laura

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