How to Make a Throw Pillow to Change Up Your Space for Winter
Open any style magazine or blog and you’ll see that throw pillows are lauded as the cheap way to change up your space — but they’re not cheap! Having a cozy space can make all the difference when the days are cut short and you’re coming home in the dark, especially if you’re feelin’ the winter blues. But a beautiful homemade throw pillow can cost as much as $135, like these beauties from Citizenry. Even if you’re not going for all handwoven and handmade, you can count on spending between $45 and $100 at a place like Crate and Barrel.
Lucky for you, I have a solution: Old fashioned DIY. Throw pillowcases are one of the easiest things you can sew. Even beginners — like only-used-the-machine-maaaaybe-once beginners — can do it. And while you can close a throw pillow with a zipper, velcro, or buttons, with an envelope throw pillow case you don’t have to add a closure at all.
When it comes to fabric, I like to use secondhand stuff or scraps from other projects, both for ecological and cost reasons, but if you don’t have literal dresserfuls of scrap fabric like I do, head to your local fabric store and pick out something cute. For this demonstration, I’m using a mudcloth fabric from Mali that I bought second hand at a local flea market. The vendors there sell it for $30 for a throw blanket-sized piece, and I can usually get about three pillows out of each one. Notice how similar it is to that $135 pillow from Citizenry? That’s not on accident.
Another quick pro-tip for saving money: You can use a cheaper fabric for the back pieces, because they mostly won’t be seen anyway. With this example pillow, I’m using a stiff muslin fabric for the back pieces. It cost me $4 a yard.
Supplies needed to make an envelope throw pillow:
-Fabric (1.5 yards should be enough, but it could be less depending on the width)
-Scissors or rotary cutter and cutting board
-Pillow insert (your local fabric store should have them, or you can find them online)
1.Cut the front of the fabric
Cut one piece of fabric in the size of your pillow. So if I’m making an 18” x 18” pillow, I’m going to have a square that is 18 inches by 18 inches.
The best way to cut the fabric is with a rotary cutter and a self-healing cutting board. But not everyone — and especially not beginners! — have those. If you don’t, it can be helpful to make a guide in the correct size on a piece of paper. Even easier? Grab some wrapping paper and use the 1” squares on the back to ensure you have a perfect square.
- Cut the back of the fabric
For the “envelope” back, you’ll need to cut two pieces. While the width will be the same as the front piece (in this case, 18”), we’re going to have to do a little math for the back. The length of each piece is equal to half the length of the front, plus five inches to account for the overlap and the seam allowance.
So with my 18” x 18” pillow, we’re going to do half (which is 9) plus 5.
That looks like this:
9 + 5 = 14”
Each of the back pieces will be 18” x 14”.
- Finish the edges of the back pieces
To finish the raw edges of the back pieces, you’re going to fold one of the long sides of your rectangle down 1/2” and press with the iron on the highest temperature your fabric can handle. Then fold it another 1/2”, and press again with the iron. If you’ve ironed it nice and well, you won’t need any pins!
Then, sew those pressed sides down. Put the fabric into your machine and guide it with the seam guide on the plate, which is that metal thing with numbers on it that’s under the needle. If you guide it just under 1/2”, you should get a nice, secure seam.
- Pin the pieces together
Take the front piece — in my case, the one that’s 18” x 18” — and place it on the table so that the side of the fabric that you want to be the outside of the finished pillow (the “right” side) is facing you. Then place one of your back pieces right side down, lining up the bottom corners.
Place the other back piece right side down, lining up with the top corners of your front piece. You’ll see that the two back pieces overlap. That’s good! That’s what makes an envelope pillow.
Now, pin all around the edges so that all three pieces are held together.
And now it’s finally time to sew! Sew around the edges with a 1/2” seam allowance, again using the guide on your sewing machine to make sure it’s even.
Trim the corners so that the pillowcase will lie nicely.
Turn it inside out, put the insert in, and you’ve got yourself a brand new throw pillow!