I have been sewing for some time now. I am really bad at measuring time, so I cannot give you a set-in-stone date for when I started sewing; I would guestimate 15 years. And in this time, I have never, ever sewn the most quintessential of beginner projects: The throw pillow. My first project was a pencil skirt, and since then, garment sewing has been almost exclusively what I do. I feel like there is some essential building block of sewing I missed by not sewing my fair share of pillows. But it is never too late to start.
I had some leftover cat print canvas from sewing covers for my machine, serger, and coverstitch. Originally, this fabric was a pair of Ikea curtains that did not work so well to block sunlight. I used it to make the covers and still had a lot of leftover fabric. I also still have a lot of fabric scraps, even after stuffing my yoga bolster with what seemed like a lot of them. What project could clear my stash of some fabric AND put scraps to good use? The quintessential beginner project, the throw pillow.
When I reorganized my bookshelf, I was able to display all of my sewing books neatly and at eye level. This has allowed me to reacquaint myself with a lot of great books that I had totally forgotten about. One of these gems is Sew Everything Workshop by Dianna Rupp. This book is amazing, and it has all sorts of great beginner-level projects—including three patterns for throw pillows.
Initially, I was only going to sew a couple of Piper’s Pillows—basic square pillows with added piping—but I caught the pillow bug. I ended up sewing a couple of envelope covers to give some smaller throw pillows new life.
The great thing about these patterns is that you can adapt them to whatever size pillow you need. The Piper’s Pillow pattern calls for two squares of fabric, 15″ x 15″. I wanted them to be bigger, so I made them 19″ x 19″. For the envelope covers, I measured the pillows I wanted to cover and eyeballed the amount of overlap for the back pieces.
This canvas fabric with a lovely black cat print was once a pair of Ikea curtains. The curtains let some light through, so I saved them as fabric. I used some of it to create covers for my sewing machine, my serger, and my coverstitch. With the leftovers, I was able to sew these four throw pillows.
Construction: Piper’s Pillows
Sewing the Pillows
I cut four 19″ x 19″ squares, two per pillow. To finish the raw edge, I used my serger. The serged edge served as a guide when it was time to add the piping. I bought it ready made at Joann, and I used one pack per pillow. I lined the edge of the piping to the serged edge; that gave me a perfect straight line to guide my sewing.
To help the piping lie flat, I cut a tiny V shape into the piping around the corners. This makes the piping easy to bend into a 90 (or close to) angle to make the corners. Even though I have a piping foot, I find that using the zipper foot works much better for me.
When I reached a corner, instead of pivoting, I simply kept sewing in a straight line for a couple of stitches past the corner. Then, I turned the pillow and started sewing the next side a couple of stitches before the piping started. This worked really well, creating very nice corners.
To make for a nice finish where the ends of the piping meet, I followed these steps:
1. Starting from the midpoint of the bottom or sides of the pillow, sew the piping all around the pillow, leaving about two to three inches on each end unattached.
2. Choose one of the ends (it does not matter which one you pick). With a seam ripper, undo about two inches of stitching on one end.
3. Expose the cording, lay it on top of the other end, and cut it so that when both ends of the cording meet, they match perfectly (or close to).
4. Fold a tiny bit of fabric to allow for a nice finish.
6. The extra fabric on one end will cover the other end.
7. Stitch the piping in place, giving it a continuous look.
The original pattern does not include a zipper. I added one because I wanted to be able to wash the pillows (they are white, so it is not if but when they will get dirty) and add more scraps as I go. I used a 9-12″ invisible zipper. I marked the middle of the top of the pillow and matched it to the middle of the zipper. I was feeling lazy and did not want to switch the zipper foot for the invisible zipper foot. I just made sure to sew very close to the zipper teeth.
I sorted through my scraps looking for anything not suited for stuffing (pleather, pins, anything that bleeds color, etc). Then, I spent a lot of time and energy shredding the scraps to tiny pieces with a rotary cutter. Tiny pieces fit better together, making the stuffing more comfortable. The shredding would have gone faster had I switched the rotary cutter blade, but I could not be bothered.
Construction: Envelope Covers
I have a couple of smaller kitty print pillows that have reached the end of their use. The white has turned a dark shade of dirt, and there is no amount of washing that will bring them back to their glory. Instead of throwing them in the trash, I updated them with larger kitty print covers! These covers are the easiest, fastest project I have ever sewn.
The most time-consuming part was serging the raw edges. Once that was done, I double folded the left side of one back piece and the right side of the other. Then, I overlapped the back pieces and pinned them to the front piece. I chose to put the right side on top of the left, but I really don’t think it makes a difference. Once the cover was finished, all I had to do was get the pillows into the envelopes. What a makeover!
The Kitty Pillows
I have officially run out of this fabric, so no more kitty anything—well, at least, no more Ikea kitty anything. The Piper’s Pillows are quite heavy; I refer to them as weighted pillows. There will be no pillow fights with them! The envelope pillows give the original ones more structure; they look much nicer on the sofa. Pota (the cat) has yet to try these out, but I think she will be pleased with these feline-inspired additions to her chillout spot.