Sunday, January 9, 2011

How to make a pillow using discarded fabric

For Christmas this year, like most years, I made everyone's presents. My sister, Rachael, received a set of 4 nautical themed pillowcases. She is in the Navy and loves sailboats. This tutorial is just the makings of one pillowcase, made from an old pillow I bought at the thrift store for $.99.

As you can see, this fabric had seen better days. Just sitting there, you could see through the fabric to the nasty foam filling. I had a couch once that had a ton of pillows with shredded foam filling. While it's very comfortable, the minute a seam opens up you have a huge mess on your hands! I cut it open using a seam ripper and very carefully, discarded the shredded foam. It's a huge mess if you aren't careful.

The fabric was so thin! But a great screen print. I bought it at Catholic Social Services here in Augusta, Georgia. I'm guessing it was printed in the 1960s. In the lower left corner was the manufacturer's name but it was too worn to actually read. Notice how you can see straight through it!

Reinforced the cotton using fusible interfacing, cutting out a piece the exact size of the cotton. (Tip: don't iron over the fusible side of the interfacing with your iron. It will make a mess of your iron if you then use it to iron clothes!)

Now you can't see through it! And see how it's stiffer now. A big improvement from it's previous state.

For the back side of the pillowcase, I found this polka dot polyester fabric that was in my scrap pile of fabric. It reminds me of the dress Julia Roberts wears in Pretty woman. I cut out a piece of interfacing the same height as the sailboat fabric, but a few inches wider!

Next, I ironed the interfacing onto the polyester, the cut around the interfacing.

Next, the zipper. I have a million vintage zippers I've collected over the past year. My friend, Sarah, found me a bag of over 100 vintage zippers at a flea market for $20. I also got lucky at Salvation Army once getting about 125 zippers for $10. This off white 14" zipper is perfect for the job.

Cut the polka dot material down the middle. 

Next, sew both sides of the zipper to each side of the fabric, good side of the zipper to the good side of the fabric. Notice I'm using a zipper foot. Only pressing down on the fabric in the middle, this foot allows you to get closer to the zipper. This foot usually comes with your machine but most people don't ever use it. Be sure to change your needle position or you could break the needle on the foot!

On side of the zipper, fold the fabric so that there is a small flap hiding the teeth of the zipper. Top stitch the other side. This will make it so you do not see any zipper teeth and hides the seam very well on the pillowcase.

Pin both sides of fabric together. Sew all the way around. Be sure to leave the zipper open a few inches or you will have a hard time turning it right side out.

Cut the corners on an angle to reduce the bulk and to make your corners nice and sharp.

Turn right side out and iron if desired. It's that simple! Now just find a pillow to put inside. I prefer to make pillow sleeves so they can be washed. Nothing is more disgusting than a throw pillow you can't wash. 

I have waited to post this tutorial since my sister reads my blog, and I couldn't spoil her Christmas present. Here are the pillows in her apartment. The anchor pillowcase, sailboat one featured here, colored sailboats, and seashells.

I always try to force her to use her sewing machine, so I didn't make pillows to go inside of the cases. I don't know if she bought inserts or made them, but they are fabulous in her apartment. Check out the amazing wall above her couch. It's full of family photos (check out far right, Rachael and I in matching bathing suits as little girls), thrifted finds, and things she creatively framed.

George already loves the pillows, getting in the way of her photo shoot.

A close-up of the other pillows. The other sailboat case was fabric I found at Salvation Army here in Augusta. Ironically, Rachael yelled at me that day that I wasn't allowed to buy more fabric but I sneaked this purchase anyway. The seashells came from a handmade purse made in the 1960s. I cut it up to use the handles to make this purse. The anchors were from a men's cotton polo.

Back to sewing lingerie on this Sunday evening. Georgia is expecting 3 inches of snow and an ice storm tomorrow. While all the silly southerners that don't know anything about cold weather freak out, I'm staying in and sewing all night and until I have to go to work tomorrow afternoon. 

Related Articles


  1. I only made one of the pillows BUT it was only because I made Miranda 4 pillows for her bedroom!
    I've been sewing a lot Sal, you would be proud! Even bought interfacing so I could make myself a purse :) Love the new tabs!!

  2. I have a repurposed dress made from that same khaki polka dot polyester that I fell in love with because it reminded me of that Julia Roberts dress too!

  3. That was a beautiful creation. Polyester fabrics and fibers are incredibly strong, durable and resistant to most chemicals. They also resist wrinkles, shrinking, abrasion and mildew. This material is also hydrophobic in nature, which means it dries quickly. Polyester Industrial Yarn can play a beautiful role in making patterns for home fabrics. Keep sharing and exploring.