Part of my goal this year is to use up my fabric stash and scraps. Today, my goal was to make some Nautical throw (toss) pillows for our Nautical Themed bedroom. Did we need more pillows?? Of course not!! But hey, I love the colors, the theme, and have fabric to work with. Good reason to move forward with this project. Plus, who knows if we decide to move in the near future, that we don’t have a larger bedroom, where we can add some chairs to the decor.
A few months back I was browsing the Jo~Ann Fabric and Craft Store where I live, while I was picking up a quilt notions, I walked past some upholstery fabric samples on sale. Two pieces caught my eye as they fit well with the nautical theme we have worked on for our bedroom. I purchased them and brought them home. Then, this weekend, while having a need to get out, I went back to Joann’s to pick up some pillow forms (okay, I admit, I also picked up a few fabric pieces for a blouse, a dress and a shirt for my husband).
Supplies to make two toss pillows:
- 2 – 12″ x 16″ pillow forms – I used “Decorator Choice” poly-fil® manufactured by Fairfield and sold by Jo~Ann fabric and craft stores.
- 2 – 18″ x 18″ scrap fabric or upholstery pieces (for the front/main side of pillow)
- 1 or 2 scrap fabric for the backing. Each piece should at least be 18″ x 18″. I had a piece of scrap of a window treatment I previously made for my mother and father’n law, that was 20″ x 40″, which was perfect for this project.
- thread (I use quilting thread for my pillows as it provides a stronger seam with upholstery fabric
- medium weight machine needles
- hand sewing needle
- scissors and or rotary cutter
- pinking shears
Prepare your upholstery fabric by pre-washing (if you choose) pressing (ironing) flat. Also, cut off the paper manufacturer tag from the pillow as it just gets in the way, and not necessary. Plus, they now say “this tag not to be removed except by customer” so really, it is okay and legal 🙂
Since I chose to make pillows using the 12″ x 16″ pillow forms, I square up the fabric and cut the pieces at 13″ x 17″.
First, I cut the backing fabric that has no obvious pattern (the nautical print). Then, I center the upholstery pieces so that they are cut centered on the striped pattern, so that it looks balanced when finished. NOTE: to do this, find the center of the pattern, then measure out from the center on each side.
Second, I pin the pieces together, fabric right side together, in preparation to sew together.
Since we cut the fabric a 1/2″ wider along each side, you will have a 1/2″ seam allowance. Before sewing:
- mark each corner with a 1/2″ mark (this will create a small 1/2″ square on each corner)
- mark the center of each side – this can be done by folding the fabric in half for each side and mark this point.
- From the 1/2″ mark from the corners, connect this point to the center point. I used a fabric pen for me to follow. NOTE: this will create an oval look vs. oblong (circle vs. square) look.
Time to use your sewing machine. Bring your pinned and marked pillow covers to your machine and prepare to sew. It is a personal preference, but I use quilting thread anytime I work with upholstery fabric as it provides a stronger seam hold. You could also use a double stitch with your machine if you do not have this type of thread.
Stitch 1/2″ inside from the marking you created, leaving a 8″ opening on one of the sides allowing you to insert your pillow form.
Step 5: Once the machine stitching is completed, use your pinking shears and cut around the edges, but do not cut at the opening area. Some might choose to use their serger, which also works, but I prefer the pinking shears as they do not produce an added thickness at the seams, yet some appreciate the added seam strength.
Step 6: Turn your pillow cover out so that the right side of the fabric is now on the outside.
Step 7: Insert your pillow form. For those who are new to this process, it is a tight squeeze. To have this work most effectively, fold your form in half and gently force the form into your pillow cover. Be gentle, or you will rip open your seams, regardless of how secure your seams are.
Step 8: Once your pillow form is inside your pillow case make sure your pillow form is inserted correctly. This means, making sure the corner of the pillow form matches each corner of your pillow cover. Make sure your pillow side seams match the pillow cover side seams. Taking the small step, will ensure a nice, uniformed looking pillow.
Step 9: Pin the opening together in preparation to hand-stitch closed. I suggest pinning, as fabric can stretch, and this process allows you to evenly match the fabric without excess on one end of the opening.
Step 10: Select thread that matches the outside pieces best. For these two pillows, one I used beige, the other a light medium blue, as these colors worked best on each of the pillows. When done, you will see how the colors blend much nicer into the closure. Use small, even stitches, which results in a hidden hand-stitched seam. For those new at sewing, this is something that can take practice, so do not be discouraged.
Once these 10 steps are completed, you will have a nicely formed decorative pillow.
Recommendation: Always look for firm pillow forms. They fill out your covers nicer and make for a quality pillow that can be used for decoration, as well as for neck or back support.
Definition: Pillow dog ears result when the pillow cover is cut square. The cause is a result of fabric stretching and that pillow forms are not “full” on the corners. What happens, is that there is excess “emptyness” on the corners that cannot be filled. Hence the need to stitch your covers starting with a 1/2″ difference on the corners as to the center of the sides.
Enjoy your beautiful, new pillows!!