Our pillows, in this case. Haven was sent home from school with a fever one day this week, and that means the next day we were staying at home to spend some quality time together. In addition to learning how to play the Sorry! game that we hadn’t figured out yet (it’s a crazy LEGO version) we whipped up some new covers for the pillows in our living room! Well, I whipped them up. Kindergarten is still a little young to operate the sewing machine, so she practiced vocab words and soaked up some Nick Jr.
Last weekend, my good friend Emi and I stopped by Jo-Ann Fabric, and picked up a few things. I was on the lookout for home decor fabric that had nice, bold patterns and would look good with things already in the room. Emi helped me stay level-headed; all those patterns can go right to my head. Jo-Ann is really our best fabric option in town, since it offers more variety than Hobby Lobby. I wish we had an amazing fabric outlet, but we’re lucky we have something.
To my relief, home decor fabrics were on a good sale and I immediately liked this boldly patterned lavender fabric, which is very sturdy feeling but still soft. Emi helped me hunt around to find something that would compliment it, and tie in the gold pillows and brown sofa/chair in the room. This floral fabric also had an off-white background color, so it was the winner!
- Waverly’s “Luminary” in Lilac, 2.5 yards @ $7.99 a yard (regularly priced $19.99 a yard)
- Richbloom’s “Mary Jane” in Sorbet, 1 yard @ $6.59 a yard (regularly priced $10.99 a yard)
- Double Duty thread in natural, 1 spool (I used about 1/3 of it) @ $1.49 (regularly priced $2.99)
I’ve sewn pillow covers in the past, but never used a high-enough quality fabric. With kids around, pillows will be utilized for pillow fights, as the basis of a fort, and as a shield against a little brother who is trying to steal your My Little Pony. This time, I resolved to buy actual home decor fabric, not the flimsier calico fabrics I used in the past.
For us, envelope-style pillows are a must; we have to be able to remove the covers and wash them. I combined two different tutorials in order to get just the right pillow covers for me. I’ve always preferred the pillow covers where you can use one long piece of fabric to wrap around the length of it, to create an envelope. Less sewing pieces of fabric together = more time to watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns. This time, I wanted to have those nice, wide fabric edges that shams often have.
Prudent Baby’s DIY Sham-Style Pillowcase was paired with Six Sisters’ Stuff’s Easy Envelope Pillow Cover Tutorial and a star was born.
What I like about the method of using one really long piece to make an envelope pillow is that you can make two pillows out of that one big piece of fabric, and usually still have some leftover. Of course, if you’re only making one pillow this would not be ideal. I challenge you on why you want to make just one pillow cover, though.
Above you can see how I rolled out my 2.5 yards of fabric, and gauged how it would fit two pillows. Maybe the leftover fabric can find a new life as a doll bedding set?
Measure your pillow in it’s length and width, as seen above. Refer to the tutorial’s I linked to for more information. Be sure to factor in the depth of the sides of the pillow. My best tip is, if you’re using somewhat squishy pillows like I was, factor that in and make the covers a little bit smaller to make the pillows more firm.
I’m a visual-thinker, so I grab a notebook and jot down my thoughts, including how much I want for the hems, how much for the decorative edges (what is the actual name for those things?), and how much for the overlap of the opening in the back.
As you can see from what my notes above, the length should be significantly longer than the width, because you’re doubling the measurements to wrap it all the way around the pillow. The height should be about the height of the pillow, with hems and decorative edges factored in.
Get out your materials, and be sure to “square up” the fabric – usually, it is not cut quite perfectly at the shop. Trim it off to make the edges really straight, and cut off the selvage (those stiff edges with the information printed on it). if you’re using something with a pattern like I did, I highly recommend using the pattern itself as your gauge for cutting it straight. My priority is always that the pattern doesn’t look crazy crooked on the pillows.
Cut out your rectangles of fabric to the correct length and width. I cut all of them at once, assembly-line style.
After you have your fabric cut out, lay it out and eye it to be sure it looks about right. I’m not real scientific about it. Also, we have way too much beige carpet. To be fair, we rent; we are not actually obsessed with beige carpeting.
On the short-sides of each piece of fabric, pin your hem (this will be the edges of the envelope-opening in the back eventually). I did 1″ hems; I think it looks nice. Be sure to iron the hems before sewing them! Seriously, I am all about cutting myself some slack and skipping a step now and then; but this is not the one.
After you have sewn those hems, lay the fabric out so it is right-side up, then fold the edges over so you are looking at the wrong-side of the fabric, and so the edges are overlapping however much you want them to. I overlapped mine by 3″. Then, pin the top and bottoms together, as shown in the picture above.
Sew those edges together with whatever hem lengths you factored into the height of the pillow cover. It would be a great idea to either use pinking shears or to sew over the raw edges… that is the step I choose to skip.
Turn them right-side out, pushing the corners out all the way – you can use a piece of cardboard or a spoon or something to ensure they are fully out. It is a good idea to iron the edges at this point, too.
Plop your pillows down on top of each one and see how it looks. Oops – mine was too long on one side. I clearly messed up my measurements somewhere, which is not uncommon for me. I am shockingly, notoriously bad at math. Oh well, too big is better than too small.
To fix my mistake I just re-measured and sewed one side of my pillow cover where I wanted it to be, and trimmed off the excess. Then, I re-cut the corners of that side of the pillow cover and trimmed off the loose threads again.
TIP: Yes, that is blue painters tape you see there. Whenever I’m sewing something at a length that the sewing machine doesn’t have a line for, I measure on my machine where it would be (in this case 3″) and put blue tape there so I can guide my fabric long it. I didn’t invent this brilliant idea, obviously. Kudos to whoever did!
To make those wide, decorative edges I admitted I don’t know the name for, take your pillow cover that is turned right-side out, and sew all around the pillow cover, 3″ (or whatever width you want) in from the edges. Follow the advice on the Prudent Baby tutorial for how to do this without removing your fabric from the needle.
Viola! Presto, new pillow covers. Okay, not presto – it took a couple hours of work and my back was hurting from slouching down over the sewing machine. Still, I think they turned out nice and it was worth the effort!
For that amount of money, could you just buy finished pillow covers? Yes, of course. That is true of almost all sewing projects. I could have bought some, but for me the benefit of sewing them is that I could make them the exact size I wanted (to squish those pillows up tighter), and could use a higher-quality fabric. Had I bought three pillow covers for that price, it would have been hard to find ones not made out of cheaper fabric. I could add the decorative edges I wanted, and most importantly could make them envelope-style so they are easily removable and washable.
Here they are in situ. Sigh – that sofa. It seemed all squishy and comfortable when we bought it, and I will say after 4 years it is in near-perfect condition and easily cleanable. I think we are over the “big squishy sofa” thing, though. Someday maybe it will be upgraded to something more modern and with a smaller footprint.
Anyone else tempted to cover their living room with their favorite colors? This purple is definitely mine, so I’m forcing myself to balance it out a little. An all-purple living room would be a good conversation starter. I have a feeling my husband might object…
PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.