Fridays at Home: Making a decorative pillow

18th October 2013

My friend Brandy recently sold her house and moved into an apartment. She was ready for more flexibility and to be closer to the big city where I live (Ha!). Fortunately, the apartment she rented allows tenants to paint the walls, so she and I picked out paint colors for each room, and the apartment dragged their feet eventually painted it.

She’s done an amazing job downsizing and making her apartment one of the coziest I’ve seen in quite some time, but she still wanted some accents. For her birthday, I decided to whip up a pillow for her bed. I came across some fabric I love and had had for ages in hopes of it matching something in my house. It didn’t, but when I pulled it out, I realized the two colors were exactly the colors of Brandy’s bedroom!

A quick trip to the fabric store for a pillow insert, contrasting fabric, and trim led to this project last Sunday. And for those of you who have never sewn or are afraid to venture away from handsewing, give this a try.

1. Mom and I measured the pillow and allowed an additional quarter inch for the seam allowance (the portion of the fabric that will be sewn together, like a ditch of sorts).

2. I’m lucky that my mom has an amazing embroidery machine. She was so sweet and embroidered Brandy’s initial on the silk contrast fabric for some added oomph. [Side note: I adore the tone-on-tone embroidery. So nice.]

3. I laid out my pillow fabric, measured, and placed my contrast fabric on top in the center. I finger pressed the edges before using a pressing cloth to iron them more accurately. [An iron is one of THE best tools when it comes to sewing. My mom keeps one next to her machine.]


4. I pinned the trim between the pillow fabric and the contrast fabric. The trim has a lip that slid underneath the contrast fabric easily. Use your pins horizontally for ease in removal.



5. Mom helped me change out the presser foot (the part that guides the fabric and holds the needle in place) with a zipper foot to allow for the bulk of the trim. Here she is getting it started. The trim made it really simple to follow a straight line all the way down. [When sewing bulky trim, it is helpful to guide it with your fingers or a pencil to keep it from expanding.]


6. We switched the zipper foot back to the regular presser foot. Then you flip right sides together, and sew up three sides. Since I was using a pillow insert, I needed to leave one of the shorter ends open so the insert could fit it.


7. Once you insert the pillow, you have to sew up that last side. We tucked the fabric in, and I used a slip stitch to close it up. Mom embroidered another project while I did this step, and we talked about the joy of handstitching. I forgot how calming it is to sit and work with fabric, watching something you made come together.


Voila! Ok, so these are really crappy iPhone photos, and it was dark out, but you get the idea. This project was super simple but turned out great, and Brandy loved it. ๐Ÿ™‚


Homemade gifts are so fun and customizable. It’s also nice because if you look for monogrammed pillows or pillows made from decorator fabric online, they are incredibly pricey. Pillows aren’t inexpensive to make, but they certainly shouldn’t cost what some vendors charge. And you guys know I love the DIY life (…mostly).

Happy Friday!


  • Brandy

    Awww…so gonna be sharing this on my page!! Love ya, Jenn – and thanks to you and your sweet mama for such a wonderful keepsake! I absolutely LOVE it!!

    • Yea! Can’t wait for the next project.

  • I’m impressed. In 8th grade Home Economics (I swear I’m in my young 30s and NOT 65 – who does Home Ec. anymore?), we learned to sew – I always snuck my projects to Jason Ko, so he could work the sewing machine for me. I had no idea. I still don’t.

    • Haha! We had Home Ec too, I believe. I didn’t take it, but I’m very grateful to my mom and grandmother who taught me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • It’s gorgeous! Good work!

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    Wow, that’s gorgeous… so professional looking!!

    • Thanks, JoAnn!

  • Very nice!

  • What a great project ๐Ÿ˜€ Super!

    • Thank you! Now I’m eager for the next.

  • iliana

    You are right, decorative pillows can be so expensive! Turned out wonderful – I hope your friend loved it. I love seeing step-by-step pics so thank you for sharing those!

    • She did! And now I want to make more. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Rory O’Connor

    I cannot sew to save my life, I’m lucky if my flat panel curtains come out normally. It’s amazing how much they can charge for a simple pillow cover, this is a nice alternative.

    • Haha! It just takes some patience and someone who knows what they’re doing to show you.

  • Charlie

    That’s a lovely idea. And not only are furnishings expensive, it’s often difficult to find the exact perfect fit. Love the embroidery and the look in general.

    • So true. That’s the great thing about sewing. You can make what you want to your own specifications.

  • Gorgeous! Your so talented and crafty — wish you were my neighbor for that and many other reasons!

    • Aw, thanks, A! And ditto. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • So so so impressed!! Great job on the pillow. And I had to smile about your comments on handstitching. This is how I feel about making the hexies. Yes it’s going to take me FOREVER to handsew this quilt but it’s also oddly relaxing.

    • Exactly! And I love that feeling. I’d actually like to take up some more handwork. Just need a project.

  • Wow! I’m so impressed too! That’s beautiful work, and what a nice gift!