Friday, January 27, 2012

Adventures in Sewing a Zipperless Pillow

Like many women, I love me a beautiful throw pillow. Textiles are just so purty and pillows are one of the easiest ways to soften up a room. They’re also a great way to add personality to a basic couch or duvet. In the case of our house, they’re a way to dress up our hand-me-down couch.

Before I dive into this little pillow-making tutorial, first let me introduce you to my new(ish) friend, Suzy the sewing machine:

She’s a pre-WWII Singer Featherweight sewing machine. So she’s kind of a new-to-me situation. My grandma has a similar one that she and my mom have used to sew many beautiful things, including both of these lovely Halloween costumes:

That pumpkin isn't on my dress -- it was on the scanned picture. Side note: Don't ever dress your 5 year old up like a bride for Halloween. She will not know how to answer the question, "Where's your groom?" every time she rings a doorbell, and so she will get snotty. And if you are 5 and you're reading this, 1) how impressive and 2) definitely pick what you want to be for Halloween before your mom gets any ideas.

But I digress.

My mom always wanted my sister and I to have our own featherweights, and she saw this one at the shop where she took hers to get serviced. It was a very pleasant non-birthday, non-Christmas surprise. Suzy doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, so she’s very easy to use. I decided to break her out and make a pillow for my first project.

I bought this pink patterned fabric on, but before you go chasing it down, you should know that I bought it over a year ago. That seems to be a theme this week.

I decided to do a zipperless pillow because, well, zippers intimidated me. My mom always made them sound hellish, but she was always sewing clothes costumes. I found out last month that when it comes to pillow sewing, zippers are pretty easy. But I consider this pillow more of a step one, so we’re starting here.

I picked up a 14” pillow on sale at Joann’s Fabrics. In hindsight, I wish I had splurged a little bit more because this pillow is very flat. Next time I will buy something a little more plush.

First, I measured and cut a piece of fabric about 16” square. That sounds like a lot, but, it’s better to cut too big than too small. And this was my first try, so I was leaving room for error. I cut the back pieces after looking at a flap-close pillow I had at home, and I determined that the overlap should be an inch or two. With about a ½” hem, that meant that I needed between two and three inches more than my initial 16” square, so I cut a piece of fabric to be 16” x 19”. Then I cut the 19” piece in half.  

Next came the sewing process. I needed to hem the overlap sides first so that it could be sewed into the square, so I folded one side of each of the smaller pieces over and sewed a hem. Once those two pieces were hemmed on the open side, I placed the 16” square face up, and placed the two back pieces face down so that all the sides lined up. Then I pinned around the sides, pointing the pins towards the center of the pillow.

Once all the pins were in, I was ready to start sewing. I started in one corner, reinforcing the initial stich by sewing forward, backward, and then forward again. After going around all four sides, I reinforced the last stitches and cut the thread. Then I picked another corner, reinforced the first stitch, and sewed around the square again.

After I finished sewing, I turned the pillow inside out so that it was, well, no longer inside out.  Then I placed my pillow form inside the pillowcase.

And that’s when I determined it looked really, really limp. No worries! I took the pillow form out and flipped the pillow cover inside out again. I did another two stiches about ½” inside the original stitches to shrink the size of the pillow. Then I tested the pillow again, and it looked much better. Once I determined that the pillow cover was the right size, I took it off the pillow, cut the edges to shrink the excess a bit, and cut the corners diagonally so that there wasn’t a bunch of extra fabric stuffed in the corner.

Now the pink pillow resides on our couch, but I’m thinking about snatching it for my bed soon. Of course, that will be after I sew some new ones for the couch. Oh, and don't be fooled into thinking that I still have my Christmas decorations up. This was just the best picture I have of our couch pillows right now. Which reveals that yes, I completed this project a little while ago. You caught me. 

Has anyone else taken up a new sewing project lately? 


  1. Thank you so much. I, too, am intimidated by zippers.

    My daughter showed me how to make this pillow on a recent visit, entirely too far away from my own home. We planned to get the pattern, but forgot, so I searched and found it. So proud of myself. I'm procrastinating opening the box to my new sewing machine, but will do so and produce a fabulous pillow next week. Honest, on my daughter's head.


Thanks so much for your comment! I try and answer any questions directly in the comment section, so check back for my answer later.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...