An easy way to brighten a room without major effort is to add a couple of pillows you can sew yourself. Although Sew-Easy Designer Pillows, edited by Barbara Weiland and published by House of White Birches, has been in print since 2006, this well-illustrated book contains basic construction tips for many types of pillows, along with suggestions for fabrics and supplies, and step-by-step instructions for various kinds of pillows.


Sew-Easy Designer Pillows is filled with finishing tips that give that special designer flair to pillows you sew yourself. For example, when you cover the cording used in welting—the edging you’ll see on the red-and-white pillow shown below—simply spray a light adhesive on the wrong side of the fabric before wrapping it around cording, then finger-press the layers of fabrics together before sewing them.

Welting Technique

An interesting way to add flair to a pillow is to pleat or ruffle fabric and and edge your pillow with it. Before you pull out your sewing machine’s ruffler attachment, read “Ruffler Success” on page 89. (Note: The book erroneously points you to page 82.) The most important tip I can share with you from personal experience is that you should sew a test strip of differently-spaced ruffles first. The fabric you choose—and whether you decide to press it or not—greatly affect the final appearance of your ruffles/pleats. If you don’t have a ruffler attachment, the book suggests using the Clotilde Perfect Pleater that can be purchased at Annie’s Crafts or Craft Town Hobby Land USA. Like the ruffler attachment, it is an expensive tool that is not always easy to find, but you can make your own following Burda instructions for How to Make a Pleater Board. You can also visit TonyGync on Etsy to purchase a Mr. Pleater Board in widths ranging from 1/2 inch to 1.5 inches. Watch the video, Making Perfect Pleats with the Perfect Pleaterâ„¢, on the site, to learn how a pleater, in general, works.

Pleat Edging

I love the look that piping adds to just about any pillow. In the pillows shown below, perfect for a garden patio setting, the piping is especially striking. It’s easy to make your own piping with cording you can purchase in the upholstery section of any fabric store. You’ll need to cut bias strips of fabric that are one inch wider than your cording. If you don’t know your cording width, simply wrap paper around it, pin it in place, slide the paper off the cord, and measure it. Fold your fabric strip in half lengthwise around the cord, right side out, and machine baste close to the cord using your zipper foot. You may need to adjust either your foot or your needle to sew as closely as possible to the cord without actually sewing the cord itself.

Piped Pillows

For a clean, modern look, consider using a combination of wool fabrics or synthetic suede in solid colors. Add a button, tassel or other decorative element to the center of the pillow, and you’ll have a one-of-a-kind pillow that is simply stunning. I am not sure, but to me it looks like a hair barrette was used for the pillow shown below.

Modern Look in Wool or Suede

The frayed-look denim pillows shown below are perfect for a dorm room, den or study because they are so sturdy. You cut bias strips of denim with a rotary cutter, sew them together right sides out, then re-slice the fabric into strips that run perpendicular to the stitching. Sew the new strips together, right sides out. Repeat these steps for both the front and back sides of the pillow, then sew the pillow together (right sides out), leaving an opening for a pillow form you’ll insert at the end of the process. Wash the pillow cover in the washing machine, then toss it in the dryer so that the raw edges of the fabric will fray. Insert your pillow form, then sew up the opening in the pillow cover.

Frayed Denim Pillows

Another clever look for a pillow is the envelope cover, where you use different inner and outer fabrics, allowing the inner fabric to peak through a slit in the outer fabric. You could give a new look to an old pillow this way.

Envelope Cover

Sew-Easy Designer Pillows is filled with many more pillow projects that will provide you with a jumping-off point for inspiration, especially when you select your fabrics. If you would like to enter a giveaway drawing for this spiral-bound book, just tell me in the comments below what room you’d like to revamp in your house, and what style or theme appeals to you: nautical, country, cottage, boho, modern, or whatever. Next week Wednesday, assuming there are at least five entries, I’ll announce a winner.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

About The Author

9 thoughts on “Book giveaway: Sew-Easy Designer Pillows”

  1. Splendid Little Stars

    That’s a great idea for piping–to spray the fabric with adhesive.
    I have a few pillows to make. At least I want to. In my “library room” I need to make a long pillow for the seat of a pew and 1-3 pillows for the back. I think adding piping to the edges of the seat pillow would make it look good. I’m not exactly sure of myself in accomplishing this. The pillows in the photos above have perfect looking piping.
    I do like the denim pillows. a great use for old jeans. I’m curious as to why the strips have to be cut on the bias. I don’t think any of the mentioned styles describe me. I’m probably mostly traditional with a bit of a modern and sometimes whimsical twist.

    1. The book doesn’t provide an explanation, Margaret, but when I did a search on the Web about denim, fraying, and bias, one sewist wrote, “If you want frayed strips right off the start, cut them and run them through one or two cycles in the washing machine. It’s all the rubbing and soapy water that makes them get frayed. I find also that if you were to cut bias strips (at an angle to the grain of the fabric), you will get more fraying. As time goes on, the more you work with the fabric, or wash them, the more frayed it will become. It may not look quite what you want when you first cut them, but in time, they will be very frayed.”

  2. You know I’d go for a nautical flair! And as much as my fiancé grouses about not wanting anchor items (even though he has an anchor throw pillow!), we have lots of decorative fish, nautical paintings, and, of course, two surfboards on the wall.

  3. Sounds like a fun book. And lots of cute pillow examples.
    I don’t sew, so I’ll leave myself out of the running. Good luck to your entrants 🙂

  4. Looks like a fun book! Personally I like pillows with ruffles on them, but they are more suited to bedrooms I guess. I’ve been wanting to revamp our living area…new curtains, new rug and of course…new pillows! This book would come in handy to figure out a style that works for both me and hubby 🙂
    Thanks for the chance to win!

  5. Paige @ Little Nostalgia

    Oh man! I’d love to win! I only know how to do the most basic pillows (an envelope closure). My style is kind of eclectic so I’m probably a blend of what’s above. I’d make some for our bedroom!

  6. SusanBeth Purifico

    Wow, Judy! Love the pillows illustrated on the cover and in your entry. I am one uses patterned pillows as the decoration in a room. I love to switch them out, switch them around room to room, and use them to draw a room or setting together. With a few artistic and unifying solid fabric pillows, the “feel” and look of the room can change in an instant without changing the upholstery or draperies or rugs ….. or everything! Ha!

    Upcoming project is redecorating the Guest Bedroom. This used to be Alisa’s room as a teenager. Now will become more of an elegant yet cozy guest space. Think 4-poster cherry bed and dresser, warm lavender walls, ivory tone on tone draperies and duvet …….. and a new floral painting on the wall, painted by a friend and former art teacher. Colors? Purples, aquas, cremes. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh … need the bed pillows! 🙂

  7. I´d love to decorate my living room with boho style. It´s quite simple and scandinavian at the moment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

186,078 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Scroll to Top