Sewing Tutorial: How to Sew a Simple Pillow

February 19th, 2012 at 11:51 am . Posted in Sewing Projects .

The top reason I wanted to learn to sew was because I love decorating my apartment. So when deciding which project to work on first, I naturally chose sewing a throw pillow. As promised, in this post I’ll show you how it’s done. But first, here’s a sneak peek at the end result:


Sewing a throw pillow is a great first project for sewing newbies like me. It’s simple, straightforward and totally usable right away. So now every time I walk in my living room, I feel a sense of accomplishment and just want to keep learning to sew other things. If you’re just starting out, hopefully this simple pillow tutorial shows you that it is possible to start making things right away…

First things first: I got a 16-inch pillow insert, and just to be safe rather than sorry, I measured it to be sure it really was 16-by-16 inches. (This is a tip my mom suggested as a practiced seamstress, and it seems like sound advice.)


Next up was cutting the fabric. I cut two 18-inch squares to give 1-inch seam allowance all the way around. I believe seam allowance is typically 5/8 of an inch, but I gave myself extra fabric to work with in case anything went wrong.


Once the fabric was cut, I pinned the pieces together inside out — this is key so that your seams don’t show! — on three sides. Note that the pins should be going vertically, not horizontally, because your machine can actually sew over pins. On the final side, I only pinned a couple inches of the fabric on either end, leaving room in the middle for an opening where I could insert the pillow.


Now comes the actual sewing. I started sewing a couple inches in on the open side. Begin with two or three  reverse stitches for reinforcement and then start sewing in the right direction. I stopped once I got to the 1-inch mark — denoting my seam allowance — left the needle down, lifted the presser foot, and turned the fabric so I could start sewing the next side. Sewing tip: Mark your end point for seam allowance with a pin where you should stop sewing to turn the fabric.


Just to be careful, I took the pins out before the needle reached them, but you should be able to leave them in. I sewed all the way around my three sides, and then sewed only a couple of inches in on the open side. End with a couple of reverse stitches, again for reinforcement. Then you’re left with an inside-out pillow shell, like this:


Turn the fabric so the correct side is out.


And now it’s ready for a pillow insert. This is pretty intuitive — put the insert inside the pillow case.


Fold in the seam allowance of the open fabric on either side and pin across horizontally. Note: Make sure the pin heads are on the outside!


Now, bring the two open sides together and pin them together with pins going vertically. Once you have vertical pins spanning across the open edge, remove the horizontal pins.


You have a couple of options for closing the final side. You can hand-sew or sew the sides together on the machine. This seam will be showing, so it’s important to choose a thread color that matches the fabric. Don’t worry, though, because the visible seam will look fine and can always become the bottom side of the pillow.

I chose to sew my pillow closed on the machine, but found that it was nearly impossible without using the long table attachment so the bulk of the pillow had something to rest on. I slowly and carefully guided the very edge of the fabric through the machine, leaving as little seam allowance as possible.


After ending with two reverse stitches, I had myself a pillow!


My living room color scheme is light turquoise, cream and purple. The dark plum pattern on my pillow adds interest and is perfect for winter.


When it gets warmer, I want to find a bright, fun pattern for a spring and summer throw pillow. But that’s another project for another day…

Sewing newbies, I hope this helps!

What was your first sewing project, and what led you to choose it?

8 Comments ( Reply )

  1. Katherine
    Feb 19, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

    Seeing as how we’re both sewing newbies, I love catching these tutorials from you! This pillow gives me hope that my projects will stop being botched piles of awkward seams and start turning into something wonderful!


    • Kelly
      Feb 19, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

      You’re too sweet. Your dog collar looked amazing in the picture. I can’t wait to see it in person!


  2. Andy 1
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

    Your pillow accents your living room perfectly, your colors are beautiful!


    • Kelly
      Feb 22, 2012 @ 9:00 am

      Thank you!


  3. Neeno
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    Hey Kelly! Thanks for commenting on my blog and giving me the link to your blog. I love when other new sewists get in touch, it’s fun to take the new sewing journey together :)
    This post is exactly what I need!!! A good friend of mine recently moved into a new apartment and we went couch shopping together. I promised him I’d make him a cushion. I don’t know why I said that seeing as I have never made a cushion before and have no idea where to begin!! I started checking out the upholstery section of my fabric store but didn’t get around to buying anything because I didn’t know how to begin. Now that I have your tutorial, I’m on my way! Thanks for posting it and thanks for dropping by my blog :)

    Have a great weekend! x


    • Kelly
      Feb 23, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

      Hi Neeno! I’m so glad you found the tutorial helpful :) Good luck on sewing the cushion. I’d love to see how it turns out!


  4. Mike
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    I’d suggest an improvement to prevent raveling at the fabric’s edges: a French seam. (

    They are used extensively in the making of pillowcases, bed sheets and covers, and take multiple washings very well.


    • Kelly
      Feb 26, 2012 @ 11:07 am

      Thanks for the tip. I checked out the tutorial, and it’s quite helpful :)


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