Mar 252014

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.