How to Make Throw Pillows

Making throw pillows is another great sewing project for beginner sewers, like myself. I really love projects that only require straight lines and NO zippers. The winter has been dragging on here in New England and I decided some fun, vibrant throw pillows would brighten up my living room. This fabric was a steal at Joann's - I was able to get it on sale for just $6 a yard. One yard was plenty to make two throw pillow covers that are 18 x 18 or smaller. I ended up purchasing new pillow inserts for these covers (also on sale at Joann's), but if you have existing throw pillows that you can use for your inserts, great! First, decide what size pillows you would like to have (or measure your existing pillow). I did 18 x 18 inches, but you can do any size with this method. Cut a piece of fabric the same size as your measured pillow - in our case, 18 x 18 inches. You want the finished cover to be slightly smaller than your pillow so that your pillow "fluffs" out. Now add 8 inches to your pillow length and cut a second piece of fabric the same width as the previous, and the length plus 8 inches. We cut our second piece of fabric 18 x 26 inches. This method will work with ANY size pillow - cut the first piece the size of your pillow and the second piece the same PLUS 8 inches. Got it?
Now you need to cut 1/3rd off your longer piece of fabric. This doesn't have to "exact." I just folded my piece in thirds and cut off the top third once I knew approximately where that was.
Now you have your three pieces to work with - your original piece (18 x 18), and your second piece, now cut into 1/3rd and 2/3rd of its original length. Mark the "cut" sides with a pin and then set up your ironing board, you are gonna need it for this next step!
Now you need to make a hemmed seam on each of the cut sides of the longer piece of fabric - the 1/3rd and 2/3rds pieces. If you have a seam gauge it will help with this step. I did this right on my ironing board since I ironed the seams as I went. First, measure and iron down 1/4 inch on the first cut side.
Now measure and fold down 1 1/2 inches on the same side.
Press it down well.
Pin the hem in place. Now create the same hem (1/4 and then 1 1/2 inches with the second piece of the cut fabric (remember, the 1/3rd and the 2/3rd pieces you cut from the longer piece of fabric?).
Topstitch the hem in place on both pieces.
This is going to create beautiful pocket openings on the back of your pillow cover. Making the double hem helps to prevent fraying, and really, it just looks much nicer. It doesn't take long and after you do one you will fly through the second.
I used a bright red thread to contrast with my vibrant fabric choice.
Now pin your pieces right sides together. Your hemmed cut pieces will overlap. First lay your 18 x 18 piece of fabric down, right side up. Then lay your shorter (1/3rd) piece first on top, lining up on edge. Then lay your second (2/3rds) piece over it and pin in place. It will be a tad bulky where the hems overlap, that is okay. We will re-enforce those areas when we sew them together.
Sew the right sides together, using a 5/8 inch seam allowance. Do not worry about leaving an opening, because you have the pocket opening on the back that you will use to pull right side out.
Re-enforce the sides where the hemmed areas overlap.
Clip the corners.
I did a zig-zag stitch down all the edges to prevent fraying. If you have a serger, you are lucky. If you don't, this works well. It doesn't have to be perfect.
Turn right side out using the pocket opening and press. I used a chopstick to get the corners all pushed out. Can you see that nice pocket opening? I didn't get a good picture of it up close. It looks very finished and professional. Place your pillow insert inside the cover and make another one, or two, or three. Marvel at your beautiful new pillows.
These just look so much better than the drab beige pillows I had before. And it really wasn't that hard to do, was it? I love easy, quick sewing projects.
Now that I have mastered the pillow cover, I just might make new covers every season. The best part is that these covers cost less than $3 each, they come off and on easily, and you can wash them if they get loved on by little rugrats.

Finished pictures of pillows taken by Travis.


  1. Love that fabric! I just sew right sides together and leave a small hole and close that up after stuffing . . . but I love the opening you did so the cover can be changed without scissors and the cover can be reused or washed.

  2. I'm so impressed! "Learn to Sew" is at the top of my list for 2011 goals and I was just at Joanne's yesterday drooling over fabric. My problem was I loved them all and had no idea what I was shopping for so I didn't buy anything. It's a little overwhelming. Maybe just one little pillow is a good place to start...

  3. I love how you overlapped the back so you can remove the pillow easily! I have made a few pillow covers before and was too lazy to try to figure that part out. But you made it so easy, I'll definitely do that next time! Thanks :)

  4. I found you off of tipjunkie...thank you for such a detailed post! I haven't sewn since I was a teenager, so this was a great refresher. This is one of my goals this spring! I'll be bookmarking this one.

  5. You may want to wash your fabric before cutting into it and make sure it is shrunk, so if you wash it later it doesnt shrink AFTER you do all your work and it doesnt fit.

  6. Where did you get that gorgeous fabric?

  7. The fabric came from JoAnns. It was in the home decor section, and on sale :)

  8. Thank you so much for this!!! I made these and posted about it on my blog!

  9. I'm so excited to make this! We have ugly floral hand-me-down couches and matching pillows; While the couches have been slip-covered, the pillows have been hiding. :) I bought fabric and it is currently in the wash.
    Thank you so much for your easy to understand tutorial!!

  10. Haven't made pillow covers since high school. This was a great refresher course. :) Thanks! I am starting mine today.

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